Chiefs Notes: Defense Steps Up Against Denver

Kansas City's next-to-worst defense restored some of its tarnished pride by holding Denver to only 10 points in the game's first 55 minutes. Three turnovers -- two on interceptions by often torched corner Dexter McCleon -- and some killer Denver penalties helped keep the Broncos out of the end zone.

"Today was about earning respect," said defensive tackle Lional Dalton, who had one of the six sacks against his former teammates.

"People say our defense is horrible, but we're getting better every game," Dalton continued. "We're letting teams know that even though we're not going to make the playoffs this year, watch out for us next year."

Joining running back Larry Johnson and replacement right tackle Jordan Black as young players making the most of opportunities created by injury were rookie receiver Samie Parker and first-year corner Willie Pile.

Parker, the team's fourth-round draft pick who'd taken snaps in only one game prior to Denver; caught three passes for 84 yards, the biggest chunk coming when he beat Bronco CB Kelly Herndon on a deep fade for a 48-yard TD. Parker got his chance when veteran Johnnie Morton missed the game with a sore knee.

"That's the only benefit to having injuries -- that some of your young players are called upon sooner than they might be," said quarterback Trent Green. "It's better to learn under fire -- to get in and learn how fast this game is, how much different it is from college.

"I've never get to work much with some of those guys in practice, and you never really know how they've going to respond. Samie Parker got an opportunity today, but until he got that, you never really know if he'll be able to hold onto the ball or convert yards after the catch."

Pile made his fourth straight start at strong safety because of an injury to starter Greg Wesley, who played as a reserve against Denver after missing the previous three games. In earning a future role for himself in the rebuilding that surely will encompass the Chiefs defense this offseason, Pile said he was reminded of his days at Virginia Tech in 2002.

"It's almost like a college atmosphere; you never know when a red-shirt freshman might step up," he said. "(Parker) was going against one of the best defenses in the league and showed what he could do. You saw Larry Johnson; you saw some of the young guys making plays on defense.

"This is a big-time confidence boost. Now we've got to use that as a springboard, keep getting better from game to game."

The Chiefs drove 90-plus yards twice for two touchdowns. They drove 90 yards on nine plays for a third-quarter TD, then followed that with a 99-yard, 10-play drive from inside their own 1.

QUOTE TO NOTE:
"I almost didn't make it at the end. The monkey jumped on my back and Jack Frost jumped on my hamstring." Dante Hall on his 97-yard kickoff return that opened the game amid 15-degree temperatures with a wind chill of minus-1.

PLAYER NEWS:
RB Larry Johnson, with a 30-carry, 151-yard, 2-touchdown effort that was the best of his limited NFL career, has now run for 373 yards on 57 carries -- a 6.5-yard average -- with five touchdowns in his last three games, all Kansas City victories.

SS Greg Wesley, in playing for the first time in a month, wasn't thinking about his healing hamstring when he raced across the icy field and stripped Denver's Tatum Bell when he was a scant four yards finishing a potential 58-yard touchdown run. Wesley's strip sent the ball flying out of the end zone and the Chiefs got a touchback when protecting a comfortable 42-10 lead.

WR Samie Parker, making his most extensive appearance of his rookie season, beat press coverage by Denver's Kelly Herndon in running a fade for a 48-yard TD bomb from Trent Green. Parker is one of the Chiefs' fastest players, but Sunday was the first time he had a chance to demonstrate those wheels after being slowed by a hamstring injury in camp.

RB Derrick Blaylock, who missed the Denver game with a mild sprain of the MCL, is questionable for the Christmas Day home game with Oakland. Larry Johnson will start a second straight game even if Blaylock is able to play.


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