Scout Inside Slant

The transformation is complete. These are Herm Edwards' Chiefs. The temptation was always there. The Chiefs ran the ball at an almost irrational level during some September games. They played terrific defense in the early going. But you wondered if the conservative offense was just for Damon Huard's sake and if the defense was a product of playing in bad conditions and against bad teams.

Not now. With a game Sunday in Cleveland approaching, the Chiefs have an identity -- a unified, smashmouth, balanced team with no glaring weaknesses and a pair of obvious strengths: running and stopping the run.

"I just want to play good defense," said Edwards.

"I don't want to turn the ball over on offense. I want to be able to run the ball and control the clock."

And that's what the Chiefs have done. Kansas City has a top-half defense and the league's leading rusher. Perhaps most impressive of all is the fact that Huard and Trent Green have combined for two interceptions in 11 games. The next step for "The Fighting Herms" is to improve on former coach Dick Vermeil's woeful 3-9 road record in December.

"That's not very good," said Edwards. "A little bit of it is a mindset and some of the players that were involved are still here. That's a question I'm going to ask the players. Why is it like that? The players probably blame it on the coaches and the coaches blame it on the players. I'm not blaming it on anybody. It's all of ours now, mine - it belongs to me."

The first opportunity to improve it is Sunday in Cleveland, where the Chiefs have historically struggled. But this is not a historic Browns team. On paper, this is the closest thing to a gimme the Chiefs have the rest of the season, and represents an opportunity for Kansas City to improve its tie-breaker-damaging 3-4 AFC record. Last season, the Chiefs were 7-4 sitting in the middle of the playoff race with three home games and two road ones remaining. They lost both road games, went 10-6 and missed the playoffs.

"If we keep up with that we've got a problem, because we only have two at home and three on the road," said Edwards. "The math doesn't add up."

SERIES HISTORY: 20th meeting. Kansas City is 9-8-2 overall, but just 2-6-1 in Cleveland. The series has been marked by comically bad games, particularly in Cleveland. The last meeting (2002) famously ended when Browns linebacker Dwayne Rudd prematurely launched his helmet in celebration, which drew a personal foul that added 15 yards to Chiefs offensive tackle John Tait's run (yes, you read that right) and set up Morten Anderson's game-winning field goal. In 1995, the Browns returned two Steve Bono interceptions for touchdowns and in 1989, the teams combined for 23 punts in a 10-10 tie.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Coach Herman Edwards isn't making much of the sideline confrontation between Browns receiver Braylon Edwards and quarterback Charlie Frye last week. Edwards said such incidents are commonplace in the NFL.

"It happens every week in the National Football League, it just depends if they want to put it on camera or not," said Edwards. "Players always get after each other and that's being competitive. I don't look at that as anything. I think that happens and is one of those deals."

--The Chiefs were self-critical of their red zone play last week after a 19-10 win over the Broncos.

But the criticism, which also came from the public, may have been born of some ignorance. Kansas City led the league in red zone scoring entering the game.

"Last week we didn't put any points on the board and kicked field goals (laughs) -- my favorite deal," said Edwards. "We got down there last week and didn't score but a little bit of that is Denver, too, who is good in the Red Zone defensively. If you score the game is probably not 19-10 and maybe you win with a bigger margin."

BY THE NUMBERS: 19.8 - Yards per carry, over the last two games, for backup running back Michael Bennett. He has 25 carries for 170 yards this season, a 6.8 average, good for No. 3 in the NFL.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's his playbook. He wrote it. He's been here for five years. He knows it better than I do. We were just able to run the ball. Did we want to throw more passes? I don't know. We just wanted to win the game. If it takes us throwing 30 passes we'll throw 30 passes." -- Chiefs coach Herm Edwards on opening up the playbook now that Trent Green has played two games since returning from injury.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

There are no impending roster changes for Kansas City, other than DT Stephen Williams' promotion from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, replacing DE Montez Murphy, who dropped to the practice squad.

PLAYER NOTES

--RB Priest Holmes is officially done for the year. It's no surprise, given Holmes' neck injury that had him on the physically-unable-to-perform list since training camp. Chiefs president-general manager Carl Peterson said Holmes wants to play again next season.

--LB Derrick Johnson, who started but played limited snaps last week on a tender ankle, expects to play again this week at Cleveland, though he didn't know at what strength.

--CB Ty Law leads the Chiefs with three interceptions, though he would be well advised to run toward the opponent's end zone. Law has lost five yards on his three returns.

--DE Tamba Hali, a rookie from Penn State, is in a battle for the Chiefs' sacks lead with DE Jared Allen. After two sacks last week, Hali has 5.5 on the year, closing to within a half sack on Allen.

--QB Trent Green's quarterback rating of 66.0 is No. 22 in the AFC. Green has a career rating of 88.3.

GAME PLAN: Really, all the Chiefs have to do is not turn it over. The Browns don't have the talent that Kansas City does and will probably need turnovers or big special teams plays to stay in the game. That, of course, means a minimal number of Trent Green passes.

It would be good for the Chiefs to get Green, who has been rusty since returning to the lineup, into a rhythm, but that will probably not happen on the Chiefs' terms. A road game in the middle of the playoff hunt isn't the time to experiment with the passing game.

Having LB Derrick Johnson around to cover Kellen Winslow would help. If the Chiefs can contain him, the Browns, a bad offense anyway, have little chance.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson vs. Browns TE Kellen Winslow -- It's Texas vs. Miami, and both players represent their alma maters with tremendous athletic ability, making for a marquee coverage matchup (assuming Johnson is healthy). The Chiefs, of course, will use other players and zone defenses on Winslow, but Johnson gives KC its best one-on-one chance.

--Chiefs QB Trent Green vs. Browns secondary -- Green has a passer rating of 110 in his career vs. Cleveland and, as he works the rust off from a missed half season, could use a big game to find some rhythm. But the Browns' strength is clearly their pass defense, which ranks 13th in the NFL.

--Browns returners Dennis Northcutt and Josh Cribbs vs. Chiefs coverage units -- Northcutt is the NFL's No. 2 regular punt returner and Cribbs is the league's No. 3 kickoff returner. They represent one of the areas in which the Browns can equalize the game against a superior Chiefs team, which is near the bottom of the league in kickoff coverage.

INJURY IMPACT:

The only significant injury is to LB Derrick Johnson, who played -- albeit in a reduced role, on a sore ankle last Thursday. Johnson should play again this week, but won't be 100 percent. He should again split time with Keyaron Fox, who led the team in tackles in both of his starts, at outside linebacker.

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