It's More Than Just Stopping Vick

After the debacle in Jacksonville on Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs face a host of new challenges this week. None of them have to do with their opponents the Atlanta Falcons. Facing distinction in the AFC race for a fifth or sixth playoff spot, the Chiefs can take solace in the fact that anything remains possible. After all if the Boston Red Sox can win four games in a row after trailing 3-0 against their arch rivals the New York Yankees, Kansas City can still make the playoffs.

Not many people envisioned that the Chiefs would stand 1-4 after five games. Consider the fact that the offense is gaining more yards and the defense is giving up nearly half the points they did just a year ago with virtually the same talent. Consider those facts and Chiefs fans, coaches and players are scratching their heads!

With Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons enter their Sunday contest in Arrowhead; they come in with a 5-1 record and are the class of the NFC behind the Philadelphia Eagles. Still nobody is giving the Falcons much respect and they've been fortunate to win some of their games but they routed the Carolina Panthers two weeks ago on the road.

That win and last weeks come from behind victory at home against the San Diego Chargers; has put the Falcons on the verge of running away with the NFC North. The Chiefs on the other hand are hoping some home-cooking will turn around their season. But it will take more than the recipe of tailgaters in the stands, the players and more importantly the coaches have to play every snap with a plan and purpose.

The Chiefs have no sense of urgency and maybe the hole they've dug will change all of that. With their backs against the wall, Kansas City can't afford to slip up and lose any more games this season.

Sunday Kansas City must go to their bread and butter. They must give the ball to Superman and let him wear down the Falcons defensive line. Priest Holmes didn't touch the ball enough in Jacksonville and that has to change against the Falcons. In the Chiefs sole victory in 2004 against the Ravens, they controlled the line of scrimmage and they must do that again. In fact, they should be doing that every game.

Quarterback Trent Green has to return to the form that made him an All-Pro last season. It's clear that Eddie Kennison and Johnnie Morton on the field at the same time should mean more downfield plays once the Chiefs establish the ability to run the ball.

Unlike Jacksonville the strength of the Falcons defensive line is on the end. Brady Smith and Patrick Kerney have been dominating this season. They've forced the opposing offense to run more up the middle and the Falcons active linebackers led by Keith Brooking have shut down the run. Last week against the Chargers they held LaDainian Tomlinson to less than 70 yards rushing.

If this defense has a weakness its in the secondary. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall has shown flashes of being the player the Falcons had hoped he'd become after drafting him #1 last year. Safety Bryan Scott has also stepped up this season but still the Falcons have shown a propensity for giving up the big play. They have tremendous speed but at times they play too aggressive in the secondary and have been burned this season.

That's something the Chiefs must attack on Sunday. They must use Kennison down the field to open up passing lanes for Tony Gonzalez. The all-pro tight end could have a huge game against the Falcons. Neither Scott nor safety Cory Hall has the ability to cover him one on one and that should be something the Chiefs should exploit.

On offense the world revolves around Michael Vick. The Falcons don't have a great running game but it gets the job done. Backs Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett carry the load as fullbacks Justin Griffith and Stanley Pritchett plow the road. In the passing game, Peerless Price is the teams best receiver while former Chicago Bear Dez White has become a viable option when Price is covered. But Vick's favorite target has become tight end Alge Crumpler. Many were shocked when the Falcons made him their first round choice a couple of years ago but he's paying dividends this season.

The Chiefs defense should be able to control the Falcons running game. And if losses against the like of Jake Plummer and Byron Leftwich didn't teach this team anything, nothing will if they hope to contain Vick. The Chiefs need to do a better job of putting pressure on the quarterback. This team must continue to get more snaps for rookie Jared Allen and Junior Siavvi. The defense is at its best when both are in the lineup together.

It will be a game time decision to see if defensive tackle Ryan Sims gets back in the lineup. If he does play, then John Browning must move back to the outside and veteran Vonnie Holliday needs to ride the bench. The former Packers defensive end has been hobbled by injuries but he also has been ineffective for much of the season when he's been able to get on the field.

But the biggest question is the Chiefs secondary. Dexter McCleon has been torched all season against average wide receivers. His lack of size and play making ability has contributed to at least two of the Chiefs four losses this year. In both the Jaguars and Texans game, McCleon gave up game deciding scores by simply being out of position. But more importantly he does not have the physical skills to play bump and run. The Chiefs might be wise to start back-up cornerback William Bartee instead. He's been suffering from a concussion he sustained against the Denver Broncos in week one and the Chiefs need him on the field.

The Chiefs are waiting for something big to happen and maybe just maybe this is the week that Dante Hall returns to the form that made him an all-pro last season. The difference this year and one of the reason the Chiefs have a losing record after five games is the fact that Hall has been unable to give the allusion that he can break a return for a huge gain let alone a touchdown.

That might be just the spark that could ignite a Chiefs offense that has to be virtually flawless the next 44 quarters of football if it hopes to get into the playoff tournament. Outside of Denver and New England, the AFC is average at best. That means a hot streak could catapult the Chiefs into contention.

That streak should start on Sunday.

Prediction:
Chiefs 31 – Falcons 23


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