KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: Sunday 10/24/04
TV: FOX, Curt Menefee, Tim Green
SERIES: 6th meeting. Chiefs lead 4-1. The Falcons have never won in Kansas City, although they've only played there twice, most recently in 1991. 2004 RANKINGS: Falcons: offense 22nd (3rd rush, 30th pass); defense 7th (1st rush, 21st pass). Chiefs: offense 13th (6th rush, 19th pass); defense 18th (23rd rush, 10th pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME: - The Falcons have the league's top-ranked run defense, but the Chiefs got themselves in trouble when RB Priest Holmes carried the ball just five times in the first half last Sunday. Their offensive line can overpower most defensive fronts, and establishing that physical presence is important for the Chiefs early on. The Falcons expect CB Jason Webster to return to the starting lineup and rookie CB DeAngelo Hall to get his first action of the season. Falcons RB Warrick Dunn said his hamstring feels better and he will team with T.J. Duckett to attack the Chiefs' all-or-nothing run defense which is ranked 23rd but also has forced 28 negative running plays. The goal is to force QB Michael Vick to beat them through the air, and he will no doubt target struggling CB Dexter McCleon.
FAST FACTS: - Falcons: Are 5-1 for the third time in team history. Have never been 6-1. ... Have equaled their win total from last season. ... Have not scored in the third quarter this season. Chiefs: Lead the series 4-1 and are 2-0 against Atlanta at home. ... Opposing coaches are 5-20 all-time in their first games at Arrowhead Stadium.
PREDICTION: Chiefs 20-17
TE Eric Beverly will miss his second straight game after dislocating his right shoulder Oct. 10 against the Lions.
DT Rod Coleman will miss his second straight game Sunday when the Falcons play at Kansas City. He was injured in a one-car accident near his home at around 4:30 a.m. Oct. 9. He underwent surgery Tuesday to repair torn cartilage in his left knee, and also sustained some damage to his medial and posterior collateral ligaments and a bruised shoulder. His most likely return date might be Nov. 14, against the Bucs, the week after the Falcons' bye, although team officials have not said as much.
CB Aaron Beasley, who strained or tore a muscle under the arch of his right foot, near the big toe, legitimately is doubtful for Atlanta's game Sunday at Kansas City. He did not practice Wednesday or Thursday.
MLB Chris Draft, who returned to practice Wednesday after missing the Falcons' game last Sunday with a sprained left big toe, did not practice Thursday because his back had tightened up. He's listed as questionable. Jamie Duncan will start in his place again if Draft can't go.
WR Brian Finneran was upgraded to probable for the Falcons' game Sunday at Kansas City with a foot injury. It's Finneran could start at flanker if Peerless Price (hamstring) doesn't play.
FS Cory Hall, who has been bothered the past two weeks by a strained muscle in his back, missed practice again Thursday for the Falcons with a fairly seriously sprained right ankle/foot. He's questionable. He would most likely be replaced by special teams standout Kevin McCadam.
DE Travis Hall (shoulder), who missed the Falcons' game last Sunday against the Chargers, did not practice Thursday. He has not practiced in two weeks, and his chances of playing Sunday seem remote.
DT Chad Lavalais, who will start at NT for the Falcons Sunday at Kansas City if his broken left hand allows it, missed practice again Thursday but told team officials the pain has subsided.
WR Peerless Price, who has never missed a game in his career, missed practice for the second straight day Thursday, and is listed as questionable on the injury report for Sunday's game at Kansas City. Don't bet against Price playing. He ran some, and did get in some individual work.
Kansas City Chiefs:
DT Ryan Sims, who pulled a hamstring early in the Oct. 4 win at Baltimore and who consequently missed last week's loss at Jacksonville, participated in Thursday's workout and likely will play at least on a limited basis -- maybe 20 snaps -- against Atlanta.
CB Dexter McCleon remains Kansas City's starting right corner despite being burned continuously in last week's loss at Jacksonville. Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil hinted at lineup changes earlier in the week, but said Thursday that the 31-year-old McCleon would remain in the starting lineup.
CB Benny Sapp, a rookie and the cousin of more-famous defender Warren Sapp, has proven especially impressive against the run during games against Baltimore and Jacksonville. It will be interesting to see if the Chiefs use Sapp or former third-round pick Julian Battle in their dime defense against the scrambling of Michael Vick.
RB Dante Hall, whose only significant kick return this year was a 45-yard kickoff return, spent some time on the scout squad this week in the role of Michael Vick. Though considerably smaller than Vick, Hall offered the kind of speed and elusiveness the Chiefs know they can expect from Vick this week.
INSIDE THE LOCKER ROOM:
For the second game in a row, the Falcons (5-1) will dip into their reserve(s) Sunday at Kansas City (1-4), especially - again - on defense.
Starting under tackle Rod Coleman will miss his second straight game after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair damage sustained in his left knee in a one-car accident Oct. 16.
Again, NT Ed Jasper will slide into his place. After that, it's a little dicey. Although rookie Chad Lavalais did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, he and coach Jim Mora indicated that he thinks he'll be able to make his second NFL start, this time with a broken left hand.
The likely absence of reserve DE Travis Hall (sprained shoulder) won't help, and neither will the likely absence of CB Aaron Beasley (torn tissue in right foot), nor would it be in the Falcons' best interests if starting FS Cory Hall (sprained ankle/foot, strained back) can't go.
But the Falcons survived multiple defensive injuries a week ago, coming from behind to beat the Chargers 21-20.
"Lavalais' got to step up if he can go (at nose tackle). If not, (Antwan) Lake's got to step up. Pink's got to step up (at defensive tackle)," Jasper said. "Just because one guy is not going to play, Kansas City is not going to call and say, 'Hey, we ain't going to run certain plays on you because you don't have your (defensive tackle). ' "
In the Falcons' defensive line rotation, suddenly you have Lavalais, a fifth-round pick, and fellow rookie ends Junior Glymph and Khaleed Vaughn, who was signed this week off the Giants' practice squad.
Reserve DT Antwan Lake was out of football last season after playing in nine games with the Lions in 2002. He, Glymph, Pinkney and Vaughn were undrafted.
Coaches say it doesn't matter.
"If you play with effort, you're going to get a good look from us," defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said. "Part of the culture that (coach) Jimmy Mora has built is that we're always going to keep developing those people. The goal never changes. When you have your eye on winning, you just adjust."
Kansas City Chiefs:
The Chiefs defensive line is prepared to meet the Devil on Sunday when the Atlanta Falcons come to Arrowhead Stadium.
In their mind, that would be Atlanta offensive line coach Alex Gibbs, whose cutback zone blocking scheme gave the Chiefs fits during the second of his two coaching tenures at Denver.
Gibbs' blocking scheme has his linemen stretching a defense horizontally, then having running backs cut back into lanes opened occasionally by cutback blocks on linemen or linebackers. Running behind Gibbs-coached lines have helped turn backs from Terrell Davis to Olandis Gary to Clinton Portis into Pro Bowl runners.
Now the Falcons, the league's third-ranked rushing teams, are reaping the benefits of that scheme with a quarterback in Michael Vick who plays as effectively as a running back.
"Nobody does it any better than Alex," coach Dick Vermeil said of the man whose entire Bronco line was named Offensive Player of the Week during Denver's 1997 Super Bowl season.
"Right now they're in the early stages of an Alex Gibbs running attack rather than the full boat you would see in Denver over the time we've coached against them," Vermeil added of the Falcons. "But you see his influence, no question."
Kansas City's defensive linemen hope they don't have to feel the Gibbs influence, which often results in chop blocks at the knees.
"You can argue whether it's legal or illegal," Chiefs defensive end Eric Hicks said of the blocking techniques often employed by Gibbs' blockers. "We happen to think it's illegal. It's so vicious that people get their knees blown out. My knee doesn't know the rules."