Tomorrow afternoon's game is only the sixth meeting between the two teams, and the first time since Christmas Eve 2000. That game was also the first win for the Falcons in the series as they defeated the Chiefs 29-13.
The last time these two teams played at Arrowhead was back in 1991, when the ‘Nigerian Nightmare' ran over opposing players. Christian Okoye had 143 yards in the 14-3 victory.
Now it is Atlanta's Michael Vick running over and around opposing defenses. Kansas City is twenty-second in the league in rushing defense, allowing 126 yards per game. The Falcons are averaging 147-yards per contest, which is third best in the NFL. Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil knows it will be difficult to stop Vick who he considers more than a just a quarterback.
"I can't say that, but because he's (Vick) the guy who touches the ball all the time he has the opportunity to be more exciting more consistently through a game and through a season." Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil said. "But he's exciting, no question. Not exciting to me; he's scary to me. He's a talent."
In most games this season the Chiefs have been on the short end of some disappointing finishes where the defense has faltered. But they aren't the only culprit as the offensive line has been anything but stellar. The five horsemen on the offensive line have been flagged for 14 penalties. In the last six times, they've been called for an uncharacteristic six holding calls and five false starts.
On Sunday the offensive line will have to play much better, if they are going to help sustain longer drives against a much-improved Falcons defense. Atlanta is first in the league against the run and seventh in total defense so Kansas City will have to be sharp as nails on offense.
"That's as good a group as we've seen this year," said Falcons defensive end Patrick Kerney, who doesn't see the Chiefs o-line as bad. "Big and agile. They're just sort of like a wave moving guys off the line. It's definitely the biggest challenge for our defensive line that we've had this year."
The Chiefs offensive line was suspect against the Jaguars defense allowing a season high six sacks, which happened to be the most they've given up since Vermeil became head coach. Quarterback Trent Green has been sacked 14 times this season; he was only sacked all of 21 times last year.
"Sometimes the sacks aren't the offensive line's fault," Vermeil said to the KC Star. "Sometimes it's a coverage sack where they cover everybody and the quarterback holds on to the ball and you go to do this and it's not there and you go to do that and it's not there. Sometimes a guy accidentally falls down and some guy comes rushing in there.
Another time the quarterback tries to make a play. We pass-protected everybody, and he's standing there."
There is some good news heading to the game tomorrow. Former Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas is one of 89 preliminary nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Thomas is on a list with Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, 49ers quarterback Steve Young, and Dallas wide receiver Michael Irvin. Among the 89 nominees announced by the NFL were former Chiefs defensive lineman Curley Culp, cornerback Albert Lewis and kicker Nick Lowery.
"Well, I don't know him (Thomas) like everybody here knows him." Vermeil said. "I knew him as a broadcaster in the pre-season games and coached against him and watched him play. A great football player and if you took his numbers and matched them with people in the NFL Hall of Fame for doing the same thing his numbers probably exceed those numbers. When you talk about Hall of Fame caliber football players you have to include him in the conversation."
On February 5th the day before Super Bowl XXXVIV, six nominees from that list will be announced by the NFL. The fortunate souls who are chosen will be enshrined in Canton in late July. Last year Hank Stram and Marcus Allen were among the six men who were honored for Pro Football's elite club.