Inside Slant

The Chiefs are in a battle for their playoff lives, and it comes against the team Herm Edwards would like Kansas City to be.

Baltimore (9-3) is a defensive team, built from the ground up with speed, toughness and instinct. "They probably have as many as four or five Pro Bowlers on their defense," Edwards said. "They're fast; they run to the ball well, and they take the ball away.

"They play with a lot of confidence and try to confuse you and if you fall into the trap and turn the ball over, it becomes a long day for you."

The Chiefs, at 7-5, are close, but not quite there. They play good defense one week, then lose to Cleveland in a shootout nobody could explain. Beginning in the offseason, Edwards committed to improving the defense, to "building a program" as he calls it, just like Baltimore did. "That was their mindset. They were going to build a defense," Edwards said. "That's what they did. They've done that since they brought that team to Baltimore. They felt they were going to build a defense first which is smart. I think it's very, very smart."

Edwards is doing the same thing. Kansas City drafted for defense, picking up a starter on the line (defensive end Tamba Hali) and a key sub in the secondary (safety Jarrad Page) and adding a pair of new starters at defensive tackle.

Something is missing, though. The Chiefs have taken a huge step forward defensively this season, reaching the top 10 in points allowed. But they don't intimidate like Baltimore. More importantly, they're still capable of blowing a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead to one of the NFL's worst offenses.

"We're getting better but we're not where we're supposed to be yet," Edwards said. "But I think these guys have improved and there are basically four new players on this defense that weren't here last year. The others are getting better."

The Chiefs have a chance to prove themselves Sunday. Winning a physical, defensive game over Baltimore would prove the Chiefs are legitimate.

SERIES HISTORY: Fourth meeting. Kansas City leads the all-time series 3-0 with all the games taking place in Baltimore.

NOTES, QUOTES --Chiefs coach Herm Edwards had no explanation for why the Chiefs couldn't get pressure on the Browns quarterbacks last week, though he rejected the idea that Kansas City stopped blitzing.

"We've got to get there on our blitzes. We blitzed them; we blitzed them," Edwards said. "It's not like we sat there and played zone all day. We did exactly what we've been doing for the last 11 games. We didn't get there; they blocked us and if they didn't block us they completed the pass when they threw it."

--There is no need to address playoff scenarios with the Chiefs, Edwards said.

"Oh, it's simple. There's no pressure," Edwards said. "You've just got to go win a game. That's what you have to do. You've got to win a home game and you don't worry about all the rest of that stuff. You don't worry about all those scenarios. Just go and win a game."

BY THE NUMBERS: 95 -- The percentage of home games during the month of December the Chiefs have won since 1995, a 20-1 mark which tops the NFL. Sunday marks the Chiefs' first December home game this season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think that is another story that we are trying to conjure up. 'This is what happened there. That's not what happened there.'" -- Chiefs coach Herm Edwards, when asked about his team's defensive leadership in regard to a loss in Cleveland on Sunday.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Chiefs have no certain roster changes for Sunday's game against Baltimore, though injury changes could have them replacing four players who started last week in Cleveland. OT Kyle Turley might sit with a shoulder injury, which would put John Welbourn in at right tackle. LB Derrick Johnson might return from an ankle injury to replace Keyaron Fox. S Sammy Knight may sit with an ankle problem, which would make rookie Jarrad Page the starter.

PLAYER NOTES

--OT Kyle Turley injured his shoulder in practice Wednesday and had an MRI Wednesday afternoon, leaving his status uncertain for Sunday. If Turley cannot play, the Chiefs will be down to their third right tackle. The Chiefs listed him as probable.

--DE Tamba Hali admitted Wednesday to having hit the rookie wall. Hali, who has five sacks but was a non-factor in Cleveland last week, said he is "mentally drained."

--LB Derrick Johnson practiced Wednesday on his sore ankle and is questionable for Sunday. He has missed most of the last four games.

--OT Kevin Sampson was sent to Injured Reserve Wednesday. Sampson opened the season as the Chiefs' starter at right tackle, but injured his back after six starts.

--DT James Reed is questionable with a groin injury. He did not play in Cleveland on Sunday.

--DT/DE Jimmy Wilkerson is also questionable with a strained hamstring. Wilkerson typically rotates between defensive end and defensive tackle.

--S Sammy Knight is questionable with an ankle injury. Knight has spent much of the season rotating with rookie Jarrad Page.

GAME PLAN: The Chiefs' game plan on offense comes down to protecting Trent Green against a fast, confusing, blitzing Ravens team. Larry Johnson figures to get his, he almost always does no matter how good the defense, but against an improved Ravens offense, a grind-it-out, low-scoring game doesn't favor the Chiefs. A lot of play action -- a Chiefs favorite this season -- should keep Baltimore honest.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Ravens LB Ray Lewis vs. Chiefs FB Kris Wilson -- Wilson, a converted tight end, is playing fullback this season in place of the injured Ronnie Cruz, but more importantly, in place of the departed Tony Richardson, who, to some fanfare, ate Lewis' lunch the last time the teams met, a Kansas City win in 2004 in which the Chiefs rushed for 178 yards. But Wilson is no Tony Richardson and has only been playing fullback for half a season.

--Chiefs front four vs. Ravens offensive line -- This matchup isn't so much about the Ravens as it is the Chiefs, who were utterly helpless to create a pass rush against the woeful Cleveland Browns last Sunday. It's long been obvious that the Chiefs defensive tackles are the defense's weakness, but last week even ends Tamba Hali and Jared Allen, consistent performers all season, played self-described poor games, neither registering a sack or making any noteworthy plays.

INJURY IMPACT: The Chiefs are already without offensive tackles Kevin Sampson and Will Svitek, who are both done for the season. They could be minus Kyle Turley, who has been starting in Sampson's absence. Turley injured his shoulder Wednesday and his status is pending an MRI. If he cannot go, John Welbourn will start at right tackle. Though he was a starter last season, he has played minimally since returning from a drug suspension.

Linebacker Derrick Johnson should return this week from a nagging ankle injury, nudging Keyaron Fox back out of the lineup. Though Fox has played admirably in Johnson's place, leading the Chiefs in tackles in each of his starts, Johnson is certainly the better player, and gives Kansas City a better presence as a pass rusher, which the Chiefs have sorely lacked of late.

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