Chiefs Insider: Kansas City Faces Uphill Battle

The Carolina Panthers overcame the loss of top receiver Steve Smith and top running back Stephen Davis and still managed to score four touchdowns in a 28-17 upset of Kansas City in the Chiefs' home opener at Arrowhead Stadium.

Now the 0-2 Chiefs will get to see how resilient they are in the face of injuries to key players.

Coach Dick Vermeil confirmed Monday that Pro Bowl running back Priest Holmes, who did not play in the final 8 1/2 minutes of an 11-point game, has a sprained ankle and a sore knee -- the less serious of the two injuries. Vermeil said Holmes, whose ankle was wrapped in an air cast, would be questionable to doubtful for Sunday's home game against Houston.

The Chiefs also lost starting wide receiver Eddie Kennison, one of their few healthy experienced receivers prior to Carolina, to a hamstring injury that could take a couple of weeks to heal.

Vermeil characterized Holmes' injury as "not a serious ankle sprain."

"It's just a question of how quickly he can mend," he added. "It may cost him some work during the week, but hopefully not the ball game."

The Chiefs, however, have been something less than candid when disclosing Holmes injuries in the past.

In 2002 when Holmes sustained the Week 14 season-ending hip injury that later required offseason arthroscopic surgery, the Chiefs held out the prospect that he might play in the final two games he missed.

Even after the Carolina loss, Vermeil said Holmes -- whose leg was bent under him as he was knocked backward from a stack midway through the fourth quarter -- did not play in the final minutes of a still-winnable game because the team wanted to use some plays designed for backup Derrick Blaylock.

Right.

Any Holmes injury would be added devastation to a Kansas City offense that has slipped to the point in two losses that the woeful Chiefs defense -- even after giving up a career-high 174 rushing yards to Carolina backup running back DeShaun Foster -- no longer catches all the heat for Kansas City's winless start, its first since Vermeil's first year with the Chiefs in 2001.

Converting on only 27 percent of third downs, scoring one offensive touchdown, getting only four snaps in the third quarter and being beat 35 to 25 in time of possession en route to an 0-2 start does not instill confidence, even for an offensive unit that led the NFL in scoring each of the past two seasons.

"I don't know what we've done to take the No. 1 offense in football and reduce it to what it is today," Vermeil said of an offense that scored only one touchdown -- the first time that's happened since Week Four last year in Baltimore when a 97-yard Dante Hall kickoff return provided the game-winning points.

Injuries, especially in the receiving corps, are a big reason for the dropoff. And now the Chiefs may have an even bigger one to their biggest playmaker with which to contend.

NOTES & QUOTES;
Defensive End Eric Hicks, one of the team's most media-friendly players who often has served the thankless job of designated spokesman for the Chiefs' embattled defense, reacted angrily to a radio reporter's post-game question asking if he felt the Chiefs should have acquired some new players in offseason personnel moves.

"How can you ask me that question?" Hicks shot back. "These are my friends, my teammates. We're bustin' our ass out here, and you ask me if we should have got more help? We all went through camp together, we all fought hard together. We're not trying to mess this (bleep) up. That's insulting to me to ask me a question about my friends, if we need more help.

"No, I don't think we need more help. This is an internal problem, and we'll fix it and get it right."

Dick Vermeil ripped into Sunday's officiating crew for a holding call on wideout Johnnie Morton, blocking well away from the point of attack, that wiped out a 41-yard Priest Holmes run in the fourth quarter of a still-close game.

"If I showed it to you, you'd puke," Vermeil said on his Monday night radio show. "It's absolutely ridiculous. We've got umpires who are blind, absolutely blind. We shouldn't be paying them. A guy (Morton) was blocking reached around and threw Morton aside. It looked to an official 25 yards away, not to the guy 10 yards away, that Morton threw him. It was the other way around."

Carolina's victory snapped a 13-game streak of Chiefs' regular-season home victories. Actually, of course, the streak of home victories stopped with Kansas City lost to Indianapolis in a playoff game at Arrowhead last January, meaning the Chiefs have now lost two straight at home.

Vermeil second-guessed himself for two first-half decisions to go for field goals on fourth-and-1 from the 10 and 29, respectively. The last decision resulted in a missed 47-yard field goal right before halftime.

"If I had known we were going to lose by 11, I probably would have gone for it in the second quarter," Vermeil said. "We scored only one offensive touchdown; when was the last time that happened? (Week Four in Baltimore last year.) As I look back after the game, it would have been best to take a shot at the first down and see what happened."

QUOTE TO NOTE:
"I hope they do write us off, I like being the underdog. We're still a good football team. I don't think anyone's confidence is shaken, but we do have to question ourselves about what we need to do to get better." -- TE Tony Gonzalez.

CB Eric Warfield, who intercepted two passes and returned one for a 43-yard touchdown against Carolina, was arrested in Overland Park overnight on a charge of driving while intoxicated. It was Warfield's second such arrest since 2001. Two incidents could make Warfield subject to a league suspension under terms of its substance abuse policy.

RB Priest Holmes will be watched carefully this week as he tries to heal from a sprained ankle and a sore knee, injuries he received when his leg was bent beneath him as he was knocked backward from a pile against Carolina. Vermeil said he considers Holmes to be questionable to doubtful for the Houston game, but held out hope that he might be ready to play.

WR Eddie Kennison is looking questionable to doubtful for Houston, Vermeil said Monday, after injuring a hamstring in the first half against Carolina. Kennison was feeling some pain before the game, then tweaked it when trying to run a deep pattern.

REPORT CARD VS. PANTHERS:

PASSING OFFENSE (C) - Trent Green started strong in completing 6 of 7 first-drive passes in a drive to the 10 that ended in a field goal when Vermeil elected not to gamble on fourth-and-1. But Kennison went out of the game on the fourth series, and Green had trouble connecting after that. He hit only 7 of his next 15 passes and finished with a paltry 54.4 rating on 50 percent passing with no TDs (for a second straight game) and one INT. TE Tony Gonzalez caught 3 passes for 49 yards in the opening drive, but only one the rest of the day.

RUSHING OFFENSE (C) - Priest Holmes might have had a better day than his 16-66, 1 TD day had not a 41-yard fourth-quarter run called back by a holding call on a wideout well away from the point of attack.

PASS DEFENSE (C) - Warfield's 43-yard interception return for a third-quarter TD raised the overall performance of the entire defense. Jake Delhomme completed 16 of 29 passes for 180 with 3 TDs and two picks. He got lucky on one TD. Delhomme was being spun around while in the grasp of LB Monty Beisel and somehow managed to slip the ball out to Kris Mangum just yards away in the end zone.

RUSH DEFENSE(D) - Giving up a career-high 174 yards to backup DeShaun Foster should merit an F. But the Panthers were averaging only 2.8 yards on 15 first-half carries before they found another gear in the second half. Foster's 71-yard run late in the game did more than inflate his average; it also set up the insurance touchdown in what was a four-point game.

SPECIAL TEAMS (C) - Dante Hall was an Ex-Factor again, getting only two punt return chances (19 yards) and four kickoff returns that produced only 59 yards. Steve Cheek's punting was solid (44 gross, 40 net, but kicker Lawrence Tynes missed a 47-yarder right at the end of the first half after converting from 33 earlier. Kickoff coverage was down as Rod Smart averaged 30 yards on two returns.

COACHING (F) - Vermeil's decisions to go for field goals on a pair of fourth-and-1 plays in the first half had him second-guessing himself afterward. He showed no faith in what is supposed to be the NFL's best offensive line blocking for what is supposed to be the NFL's best short-yard back (Holmes).


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