Vermeil Knows His Team Faces a Challenge

Dick Vermeil, who can crunch the numbers as well as any coach in the NFL when needing to make a point to his players, can do the math.

His Kansas City Chiefs, though not mathematically eliminated, are all but out of the 2004 playoff picture with a 3-6 record.

"We've lost too many games to be considered a candidate for the playoffs," he acknowledged this week. "We'd have to win seven straight."

Is that possible, he was asked.

"The best we've done so far this year is two," Vermeil replied with a dejected look. "Right now our track record doesn't indicate we can do that."

That's a huge disappointment for a team that returned virtually intact from a 13-3 season -- the result of a 9-0 start -- last year. You have to wonder what kind of mental approach such a team will take into the final seven games.

On this point, however, Vermeil is far more upbeat.

His Chiefs, he insists, will be fine emotionally. And they'll get a chance to prove against the best team in football Monday night, even if they have to do it without the injured Priest Holmes.

"I keep raving about the quality of the character on this football team," Vermeil said. "I think it will show up again this week, just as it did after losing the first three games of the season. It will take a lot to diminish this team's attitude to the point where they can't compete at their best.

"This Monday I think you'll see them at their best."

There is precedent for a dramatic turnaround, which is what it would take for the Chiefs to transform themselves from a loser in Tampa Bay and New Orleans to a winner at home against New England.

The Chiefs, remember, have played their best this year against the best teams on their schedule. After starting 0-3 against Denver, Carolina and a home loss to Houston, they were a whipping boy prior to a Monday night appearance in Baltimore, where they won 27-24.

They promptly threw away any momentum from that victory by losing a winnable game in Jacksonville with a last-minute collapse. But at 1-4 they crafted an offensive and defensive gem in a 56-10 home rout of Atlanta, a 5-1 team coming in. They then won a classic offensive shootout with the Colts, 45-35, also at Arrowhead.

The back-to-back defeats in games they could have, should have won at Tampa Bay and New Orleans have the Chiefs staggering again. But anyone who doubts that they can turn it back on for a Monday night home game against the best of the best doesn't know the recent history of this team.

Not that such a turnaround will be easy given the current downturn.

"Sometimes it takes a little longer when your high hopes have diminished," Vermeil admitted. "When you start out with big dreams that become less likely to occur you can lose an edge," Vermeil admitted. "When you start out with big dreams that become less likely to occur you can lose an edge. But I kind of doubt this will happen to this football team. We didn't embarrass ourselves the last time on Monday night and we certainly don't plan to do so this time.

"To me, the playoffs are the furthest thing from my mind. There's only one challenge right now and that's the one Monday. There have been a lot of teams that have won the last seven games of the season, but before you can win seven you've got to win the first one to start a win streak. We haven't done that in two weeks."

SERIES HISTORY: 29th regular-season meeting. Chiefs lead 15-10-3 despite losing the last two meetings in Foxboro. But the Chiefs are 3-0 in the last three meetings at Arrowhead, the last one coming in 1999. Top Stories