Monday Morning QB: Rumble In The Dome

Kansas City headed into St. Louis with a two-game winning streak. During the Rams game they would lose All-Pro guard Brian Waters, starting left defensive end Tamba Hali, starting safety Greg Wesley and starting linebacker Derrick Johnson. They still managed to keep the heat on the Rams by creating turnovers and putting the ball into the endzone early, pulling out a 31-17 win.

This was one of those games where you knew the Chiefs had more talent on the field than the opponent. But that doesn't always equate to wins, especially on the road. What is almost impossible to do on the road is lose four of your key players and get enough out of your backups to get the job done.

That's why Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards is on pace to get my vote for coach of the year. What he has done in eight weeks losing one player after another is truly amazing. He's getting the most out of his players, even though the Chiefs haven't put together a game where they've dominated for 60 minutes.

Edwards has done it because he believes in guys like Chris Bober, Keyaron Fox, Jimmy Wilkerson, Kris Wilson and Jarrad Page. Each player brought untested skills into the game when they were needed, and for the most part each got the job done. Yes the defense gave up some yardage in the middle of the field, but they put enough pressure on Rams' quarterback Marc Bulger to throw his timing off so he couldn't complete the comeback.

Of course he had to feel a little shell-shocked early in the game when Jared Allen was in his helmet. Still, the Rams showed some heart in the third quarter as they began to get yards in chunks. KC's defense got tired. When the Rams closed the gap to 24-17 early in the final quarter, the Chiefs' offense needed to respond.

They did just that as Damon Huard threw his third touchdown of the game, hitting fullback/tight end Kris Wilson for an 11-yard strike that gave Kansas City a 14-point cushion with 6:20 remaining.

It was a huge blow to the Rams, who until that touchdown pass, had scored ten unanswered points. The home crowd was giving them momentum and they felt a huge comeback was possible. But great players make big plays, and Huard is becoming a great football player for this team. He would not allow his team to lose on Sunday.

He threw three touchdowns on the day, including two that found the open arms of tight end Tony Gonzalez. Once again he made good decisions with the ball. Only one errant throw came close to a defensive player, and that was it. He came up big when the Chiefs were on their heels. The Rams game marked the third game in a row he's made big plays in the fourth quarter. That's something that comes with confidence and Huard is quickly becoming KC's MVP at the midway point of the season.

I've not been one to get into the quarterback debate, but it's getting harder to ignore the rhythm of this team on offense with Huard at the helm.

He's making a case to remain the starter, and if he wins at Miami next week, this team is going to be on the same roll that Rich Gannon had the Chiefs on back in 1997. We all know what happened that year and the Chiefs lost out on a chance to make a run at the Super Bowl.

There is no denying Huard has become the leader of this football team, and he's running KC's offense as well as Trent Green. Sooner or later someone might have to step on the table and rethink the company line.

That can't be said for the defense. Despite the fact they had an unusual amount of injuries, you can't rush Bulger with only four players. I know defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham was limited with his personnel, but you can't lose your aggressiveness. They were fortunate to be in the game in the third quarter. To their credit, late in the fourth quarter they prevented the Rams from pulling within seven points at the two-minute warning.

I'll give them a pass, because they did what they had to do with some inexperienced players. But if the injuries keep mounting for this defense, Edwards and Cunningham will have to rely more heavily on the talent of the backups and put the same amount of pressure on them as the starters.

That might be easier said than done, but with Miami blowing up the Bears on Sunday in Chicago, the next game looks tougher. The Dolphins have some confidence and the switch to Joey Harrington at quarterback has produced results.

Chiefs fans know what can happen when a backup quarterback has lots of confidence.

Five to the Bench:
1. OT John Welbourn - He really struggled with his footwork, and that was to be expected, but the Chiefs should not have been in a position to rely on Welbourn. He looked slow and rusty, and the coaches had to do some mad scrambling when Brian Waters went down. For the time being Welbourn is the back at left tackle and clearly Kyle Turley is the back at right tackle. He played an amazing game, so if Welbourn can regain his sea legs, he'll be a viable player for this team down the stretch.

2. KR Dante Hall - I'm getting really tired of this. Since I've been so critical, I have a solution. Actually, my compadre Mike Nugent gave it to me. Hall was so successful in 2003 because he would start one way before gliding to the other side of the field, only to cut back and take advantage of the over pursuit. He hasn't lost any speed. He has lost some confidence. That can be overcome but he needs to spend this week looking back at the way he used to return punts and kicks. He's a solid guy who can help this team, but he's only helpful if he can create better field position.

3. TE Tony Gonzalez - Yes, he scored two touchdowns that helped the Chiefs win the game, but what concerns me a bit is his passion for blocking has subsided over the last three games. He's on this football team to catch the ball and drag defenders, but that value and success is predicated by the run. There were several instances where he didn't finish a block on the outside and Larry Johnson was unable to shed the oncoming tackler. It didn't cost the Chiefs the game, and I'm nitpicking, but it could be a problem late in a future game in a short yardage situation.

4. DE Eric Hicks - This one is difficult. Hicks has made a lot of plays for this defense in the past, but he is not a guy who can fill in for Tamba Hali on a consistent basis much longer. He's lost more than a step and he can't contain the outside when a rusher is headed his direction. It's not his fault. It's simply a case of age and it's too bad, because he might be in the twilight of his career.

5. St. Louis Rams Fans - I know I try to limit this to players, but if I'm in the Rams' management, I'm completely embarrassed by the showing of the home town crowd. The Edwards Jones Dome was a Sea of Red, and the echoes of Chiefs fans at the end of the National Anthem gave notice that the Kansas City contingent was in charge of the crowd. The loudest the stadium cheered during the entire game was when the Rams ran a video clip of the St. Louis Cardinals recent World Series championship. The fact they did it after the Rams pulled to within seven points early in the fourth quarter tells me that this city doesn't have a passion for the Rams. It's a baseball town, and football games are just something to do on Sundays to pass the time until everyone goes back to work on Monday.

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