Previewing Kansas City

The Dallas Cowboys are hoping to ignite their playoff hopes Sunday against the Chiefs.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET

GAMEDATE: 12/11/05


TV: CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Bonnie Bernstein.

SERIES: Eighth meeting. The Cowboys lead 4-3, but the teams haven't met since 1998 when the Chiefs won 20-17 at Arrowhead. The Chiefs have lost on their last two trips to Texas Stadium in 1995 and '92, and have won only once in four trips to owner Lamar Hunt's hometown.

2005 RANKINGS: Chiefs: offense 2nd (4th rush, 9th pass); defense 27th (5th rush, 30th pass). Cowboys: offense 17th (15th rush, 15th pass); defense 6th (10th rush, 8th pass).

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Cowboys' front seven will have to figure out how to match the physical style of the Chiefs' veteran offensive line that has led the way for Kansas City to average 38.7 rushing plays over the past three games. RB Larry Johnson has rushed for at least 100 yards in five consecutive games, and the Chiefs will again rely on him in an attempt to control the clock on the road. And if they can force the Cowboys to bring S Roy Williams closer to the line of scrimmage, QB Trent Green will then look for TE Tony Gonzalez working on a mismatch downfield. Meanwhile, Dallas' offense has been conservative with the offensive line struggling to protect QB Drew Bledsoe. The vertical passing game has suffered with Bledsoe averaging just 173 passing yards over the past six games. Dallas will be in enormous trouble if it loses the battle in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

FAST FACTS: Chiefs: Coach Dick Vermeil is 4-10 in his career against Dallas. ... QB Trent Green is 13-5 with a 97.9 passer rating in December since 2001. Cowboys: Nine of 12 games have been decided by seven points or less. ... Bledsoe needs two touchdown passes to pas Len Dawson (239) for 15th-most all-time.

PERSONNEL NEWS: Chiefs: --T Willie Roaf took a nearly full load of practice reps Thursday after missing the Wednesday workout with an illness. The Chiefs are 5-1 in the six games Roaf has started this year and 3-3 when he has been down with a hamstring injury.

--QB Trent Green, who is 13-5 in December games with the Chiefs, has a 97.9 passer rating in those games with 32 touchdown passes and only 16 interceptions.

--DE Carlos Hall was able to work in the team portion of Thursday's workout and is starting to look more likely to be available for Sunday's Dallas game than he was earlier in the week. The pass rush specialist missed last week's Denver win with a hamstring problem.

--C Casey Wiegmann, who missed Wednesday's practice while resting sore ankle, took a full practice load Thursday and should be ready for the Dallas game.

Cowboys: --CB Anthony Henry will start Sunday against the Chiefs after missing three of the last four games with a groin injury.

--CB Aaron Glenn remains questionable for Sunday's game with a sprained ankle. Glenn has started the last four games in place of the injured Anthony Henry. He would likely return to his role of nickel cornerback against the Chiefs because Henry is healthy again. But Glenn has not practiced and it could be a game-time decision.

--LB Scott Fujita is heading into a reunion game with the Chiefs, for whom he played for the past three years, coming off his best game of the season. Coach Bill Parcells said Fujita struggled initially after taking over at outside linebacker for the injured Al Singleton, but he said Fujita played his best game against the Giants last Sunday. Fujita had seven tackles against the Giants.

"He was a little more aggressive on the run, a little more deliberate on the re-routes and the pass defense," Parcells said. "He's a pretty smart player, I just think he kind of had to get into what's going on here. I think it took awhile, but I was very happy with what he did last week."

--NT LaRoi Glover has no tackles in the past two games. It's partly because the four-time Pro Bowler has had his snaps cut back with the emergence of Jason Ferguson, but coach Bill Parcells said Glover needs to pick it up over the last four weeks.

INSIDE THE CAMPS: Chiefs: The Chiefs like to make a big deal these days out of the impressive record they've amassed in the month of December since Dick Vermeil became their head coach in 2001.

And, when a team is 13-5 in such games, there's reason to take note of the numbers. Especially when the coaching staff is trying to motivate a team that likely will need to win at least three of its four December games to qualify for the playoffs with at least an 11-5 record.

Even so, it must be noted that this month's schedule is like no other December in Vermeil's tenure. Only once previously were the Chiefs truly in playoff contention in December. And even in 2003, when Kansas City had the AFC's best record at 13-3, the 9-0 start that year had the Chiefs in good enough shape that a 2-2 finish in December really didn't set the team back.

Such a finish this month would be a killer, however, to Kansas City's hopes of reaching the playoffs for only the second time since 1997.

"We've put ourselves in a position where all these final four games matter, and that's all you can ask when the season starts," quarterback Trent Green said. "You want to be playing meaningful games in December.

"It's fun, and that's what you want. Every game from here on has to be a playoff type of approach. We have four weeks to prove ourselves."

Cowboys: Cowboys running back Julius Jones has tried, but he admits it's hard not to be frustrated.

He rushed for 819 yards and seven touchdowns in only eight games as a rookie last year.

He hoped to continue that in 2005, coming into the season with a goal of 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns.

So far Jones has just 644 yards and three touchdowns. He has yet to top the 100-yard barrier in a game. His longest run is 25 yards and he is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry.

"I try not to get frustrated, but sometimes you can't help it," Jones said. "But you have to look at the overall picture and keep getting after it."

Though Jones has missed three games this year with an ankle injury, his woes are mostly due to poor blocking. Still, the Cowboys need Jones to be a difference-maker. Coach Bill Parcells told him Thursday that he might have to make his own hole to jump-start himself and the team.
"I said, 'Sometimes you've just got to be your own blocker. And just somehow manage to rip off one of those big runs, or a good run, where ... all your linemen see it and everybody sees it and it just gets everybody excited. That's what the good ones can do. It might take you two or three games to get that done, but that can provide an impetus to us,' " Parcells said.

"And he knows what I'm talking about. It's going to be sticky in there, tough sledding. It's all of the above. But sometimes, as an individual runner, you can make that one guy miss or just run through some tackles somewhere and all of a sudden, the whole landscape changes. I've seen it happen. I've seen it change the whole dynamic of a season for a team."

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