KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET / 12:00 CT / 10:00 PT GAMEDATE: 11/14/04 SURFACE: Momentum Sportexe TV: CBS, Gus Johnson, Brent Jones; DirecTV, 711
SERIES: Eighth meeting. Chiefs lead 4-3 with victories in the last two meetings, the last coming in 1997. The Chiefs last played, and won, in the Superdome in 1994.
2004 RANKINGS: Chiefs: offense 3rd (2nd rush, 6th pass); defense 25th (15th rush, 27th pass). Saints: offense 19th (27th rush, 15th pass); defense 32nd (30th rush, 31st pass).
KEYS TO THE GAME: With RB Priest Holmes expected to sit this one out with a knee injury, the burden falls on backup Derrick Blaylock to carry the Chiefs' running game. Kansas City's passing game is set up by the run, but QB Trent Green might not have that luxury Sunday. The Saints will try to sit on TE Tony Gonzalez after getting burned by Chargers TE Antonio Gates last Sunday. Offensively, New Orleans needs to get RB Deuce McAllister going early if they want to establish any rhythm on offense. The Chiefs' weakness is their pass defense, but the Saints still don't want to put QB Aaron Brooks in a position where he's forcing the ball downfield. If Brooks is patient and has time to throw, he should find plenty of open receivers downfield.
Chiefs: QB Trent Green has posted a passer rating of 105.0 or higher in four consecutive games. ... Coach Dick Vermeil is 9-2 against New Orleans.
Have lost 14 of their past 15 games when an opponent scores at least 30 or more points. The Chiefs are averaging 29.6. ... Have just one sack in the past two games.
CHIEFS PERSONNEL NEWS:
RB Priest Holmes didn't make any miracle return to the practice field Thursday or Friday and while the Chiefs haven't officially ruled him out of action Sunday in New Orleans, no one around Arrowhead is holding out much chance that he can play on his strained MCL.
RB Derrick Blaylock, expected to start in Priest Holmes' place Sunday against the Saints, says he feels no more pressure preparing as a starter than he does as a backup. "I always prepare to be ready," he said. "The only difference is now I know I'll be called on."
LB Monty Beisel continues to work at the right outside backer position opened by the season-ending knee injury to Shawn Barber. The Chiefs have said they will start little-used backup Quinton Caver at the position, but it wouldn't surprise anyone if Beisel, who was KC's starting MLB before a calf injury forced him to miss two games, isn't playing a lot at the position against New Orleans.
TE Jason Dunn did not work for a second straight day Thursday while trying to heal a back injury that developed last Saturday. Dunn is truly questionable for New Orleans. The Chiefs need him as part of their blocking contingent that will be opening holes for backs not named Priest Holmes.
DE Vonnie Holliday missed a second day of workouts Thursday with an abdominal strain. He hoped to be able to practice Friday afternoon, but the Chiefs had hoped he could work before that.
CB Dexter McCleon returned to practice Thursday after missing the previous two games with a hamstring injury. The Chiefs need him in their nickel defense, which has been awful the past two weeks.
SAINTS PERSONNEL NEWS:
DL Willie Whitehead, who is regarded as one of the Saints' top run-stoppers, practiced Thursday and could be activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list for Sunday's game with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Saints coach Jim Haslett said Whitehead, who had surgery on his right knee in March and was slow to recover from a bone bruise in the same knee, has a 90 percent chance of being active for the game this week. Haslett said a decision will be made later in the week.
WR/KR Michael Lewis was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday after slightly injuring his left thigh, but Haslett said he should be fine. Lewis, who was not listed on Wednesday's injury report, was added to the list Thursday. He is probable for Sunday's game.
TE Ernie Conwell sprained the AC joint in his right shoulder and clavicle last week and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game with the Chiefs.
TE Boo Williams aggravated a neck injury that he sustained in the preseason and is also listed as questionable for this week's game.
RCB Ashley Ambrose practiced Wednesday and Thursday after having a setback from the partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee late last week. He is questionable for Sunday.
INSIDE THE CHIEFS CAMP:
Bill Kuharich remembers wondering if there wasn't something wrong with Willie Roaf when he first scouted the massive offensive tackle at Louisiana Tech in 1993.
"I had to ask, 'Does he have a back problem?'" said Kuharich, who was the Saints general manager when he drafted Roaf with the eighth pick of the '93 draft. "The coaches there told me, 'Wait until you see him move on the field. He'll be a different guy then.' "To be sure, Willie Roaf -- whose painful-looking walk is that of a guy wearing shoes two sizes too small -- is a different, quicker cat on the football field.
This weekend when he returns to New Orleans -- where he earned the first seven of his nine Pro Bowl designations -- as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, Roaf's one-time fans will see that not a lot has changed about his stellar play since his departure after the 2001 season.
"Other than the obvious factor of his age, I think if you took his two best years at New Orleans and compared them to his two years here, you wouldn't see that much of a difference," said Kuharich, now the Chiefs vice president of pro personnel. "I might be in the minority, but I think in his last year here he's playing as well as he played in his prime in the middle '90s.
"You compare him to (Jonathan) Ogden, (Orlando) Pace, Walter Jones -- he's playing as well as anyone in the game right now." Roaf is looking forward to Sunday's return to the Superdome, where he hasn't played since being traded -- an option the Saints exercised rather than pay him a substantial bonus due.
"This will probably be the last time I get back in there (as a player), so this will give me a chance to say goodbye," Roaf said.
"I always loved the people in the community, and I think they liked me," added Roaf, who still has family in Bayou Country. "I went through what I went through with the organization over the years, but that's what athletes go through. "This will put some closure on that."
INSIDE THE SAINTS CAMP:
The Saints don't have all the answers to all their problems, but embattled coach Jim Haslett has vowed not to stop trying to find them with eight games remaining in the season.
But Haslett said at least one thing was evident in their devastating 43-17 setback to the San Diego Chargers last Sunday. "We're lacking confidence," he said. "We're struggling in that area. When something bad happens, we have a hard time fighting our way out of it. You've got to turn bad things into good things in this league because something bad is going to happen during the course of a game.
"You need to be a psychiatrist sometimes to figure out this league," Haslett added. "I think we've got a good group of guys and a good group of players. If you've got good people you can fight your way out of things like this."
Haslett said his team kept fighting against the Chargers until the end although the result was the most lopsided loss of the season.
"They played dumb, but they played hard," Haslett said. "The effort was good, we just didn't play well."
"We need to do a good job on the field and find a way to tough one out and get a victory," said cornerback Mike McKenzie. "We need a victory badly."
Haslett said the most frustrating part of his team's struggles is that they can't be pinpointed. Different problems arise from week to week. Last week, their run defense was better, but the pass defense was poor and the offense was poor throughout.
"It's something different all the time," Haslett said. "Just when you think you've fixed something, you've got to fix something else.
"We've dug a big ditch for ourselves. We've got to get out of it. There's only one way to do it, you've got to fight and crawl and scratch your way out of it."