Chiefs Face Must Win Against the Texans

Forget the standings in the AFC West and forget the glaring facts that the Chiefs are 0-2 on the young 2004 season. This game means more than just a win to Kansas City it's time to for the players to step up, rally and turn the season around. The Houston Texans won't lay down and die but the Chiefs need this victory as their Super Bowl hopes hinge on Sunday's game.

Forget the standings in the AFC West and forget the glaring facts that the Chiefs are 0-2 on the young 2004 season. This game means more than just a win to Kansas City it's time to for the players to step up, rally and turn the season around. The Houston Texans won't lay down and die but the Chiefs need this victory as their Super Bowl hopes hinge on Sunday's game.

The Kansas City Chiefs enter this game with questions on offense, defense and special teams. Great playoff teams, which the Chiefs have not shown in recent history, tend to struggle at one time or another in the season. The New England Patriots in both of their Super Bowl runs started slow out of the blocks but turned it around.

The Chiefs have been known in their history to fade down the stretch and start the season strong. It appears that they're going to try and reverse that theory this season. Facing a Houston Texans team that has an average defense and an offense that turns the ball over with ease, Kansas City knows what to expect from their opponents on Sunday and what they have to do to win. They must apply pressure and force the Texans to turn the ball over and give up the big play.

The Texans have the finest trio of offensive weapons in the NFL. Quarterback David Carr, running back Domanick Davis and wide receiver Texas since Troy Aikman, Emmett Smith and Michael Irvin.

Carr now in his third year has shown the ability to put up huge numbers. Davis can stretch the defense better than most NFL receivers and his play-making ability should be a concern to the Gunther Cunningham's defense. If there is a weak link in the three amigos its Davis who fumbled twice last week and has yet to have the long runs that were his signature last year when he came on as a middle-round draft pick.

That means the Chiefs defensive line needs to put forth some of the effort it showed last week against the Panthers. Realistically the front four played better than the week before in Denver. Nose tackle Lional Dalton and rookie Junior Siavii played solidly since John Browning moved out to defensive end. That means Ryan Sims has to be more aggressive. If Dalton and Siavii can get penetration that means the Texans will have to double-team either one of them and that should give Sims space to shoot the gaps.

The knock on Sims has been his inability to fight through double-teams and that's something he has to learn to do if the Chiefs are going to get anything out of their high-priced former #1 draft pick. Sims is one of the young players that clearly have to make a decision to play better. This could be his breakout game.

Veteran defensive end Eric Hicks also is someone who needs to play better. He needs to take the explosion he had in his post game interview after the Panthers loss and parlay that into a great game. The Chiefs also need to keep him on the field in passing situations.

Cornerback Eric Warfield is coming off his best game of his career but his off-the-field incident has left the Chiefs wondering what they'll get out of their top cornerback. Warfield will need to shut down Johnson and Dexter McCleon needs to play better because Corey Bradford can also make plays for the Texans offense. He's underrated as a wide receiver but Carr loves throwing the ball to him. McCleon is coming off his worst game as a Chiefs and since the middle of last season, the former St. Louis Ram has been unable to garner the same success he enjoyed through the first eight games of the 2003 season.

But the key will be the play of the linebackers. Monty Beisel has stepped up admirably as the teams starting middle linebacker. That's not been the problem. Scott Fujita and Shawn Barber have had a hard time adjusting to their new assignments under Cunningham's defense. That is something that has to change if the fortunes of the defense are going to turn around.

On offense the Chiefs face the probability that running back Priest Holmes will sit out this game and that could be a blessing in disguise. I argue that its time to see what Larry Johnson can do in a real game and to a lesser degree Derrick Blaylock. With the past between Johnson and Head Coach Dick Vermeil behind both men, Johnson should be elevated to the starter. He has more skills than Blaylock and the Chiefs need to develop a solid and consistant back-up to Holmes.

I'm not convinced that Blaylock is a true three-down running back. He really has no instincts other than running fast. That's a great for screen passes and running around the ends but he's not a between the tackles runner and he shows little ability to break tackles. On the other hand Johnson has those skills and the justification to draft him a year ago must start to bear fruit for the Chiefs.

Johnson has only wanted an opportunity to show what he can do and the Chiefs as an organization needs to make him their feature back until Holmes is 100% recovered from his high-ankle sprain. But it appears initially that Blaylock will get the start, still Johnson should get plenty of reps.

Quarterback Trent Green who has yet to throw a single touchdown in two games will once again be forced to work with a depleted group of wide receivers. Dante Hall and Johnnie Morton will start with only undrafted free agent Richard Smith healthy enough to be a back up. That means the Chiefs will be forced to use a lot of two-tight end sets. Eddie Kennison who has a sore hamstring and it's doubtful he can play.

Samie Parker the young wide receiver is still shelved because of a pulled hamstring and the only other option is to bring up Chris Horn off the practice squad but that means the Chiefs will have to release another player.

In this game its clear that the veterans need to step up their game but if the season is going to turn around; then one of the young players on either side of the ball is going to need to come to the forefront. The Chiefs need a spark to light the fire on both sides of the ball and its high time one of the young lions steps up and roars.

Chiefs Notes:
The Chiefs agreed to a contract extension with Center Casey Wiegmann that will keep him under contract through the 2007 season. The former Bears starter could have become a free agent after this season. The deal will pay him nearly $2.7 million and this was a strong move by the Chiefs.

Defensive end Vonnie Holliday returned to practice and safety Greg Wesley is expected to return today and that means both should play on Sunday. That's good news for the Chiefs defense.

Chiefs Season Review :
Week 1: Broncos 34- Chiefs 24 (0-1)
Week 2: Panthers 18 – Chiefs 17 (0-2)

Game Prediction: Chiefs 34 – Texans 21


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