Chiefs in downward spiral heading into Baltimore

OWINGS MILLS - Gravity, calamity and standing pat after a successful football season have pulled the Kansas City Chiefs into a downward spiral.<br><br> Heading into Monday night's game against the Baltimore Ravens, the Chiefs are 0-3 in a surprisingly poor start for a team once tabbed as a Super Bowl contender. Even with nine returning Pro Bowl players, the Chiefs are last in the AFC West.

The Chiefs still can't stop the run after bringing back the same cast of defensive characters that melted down in the playoffs after last year's 13-3 regular season. Despite the addition of veteran defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, Kansas City is ranked 29th against the run and last in scoring defense.

"They felt like they had a good formula," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Sometimes, you are limited cap-wise on how much you can spend, or maybe there is no one out there. Maybe you are in a situation where you can't extend yourself.

"A 13-3 team playing with a pat hand isn't all bad. They have had some things go against them. I'm sure they will focus on the things that they can change and dismiss those things that they can't."

The Chiefs are being outscored 34-7 in the fourth quarter. And their 24-21 defeat to Houston last Sunday was sealed by Kris Brown's 49-yard field goal with two seconds left for the Texans' first victory this year.

In the third quarter, quarterback Trent Green forced a pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez and Marcus Coleman turned it into a 102-yard interception return for a game-tying touchdown.

"We've dug ourselves a big foxhole," said Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil, who has received supportive calls this week from basketball player Charles Barkley and former 'Hunter' star Fred Dryer.

Former Ravens running back Priest Holmes gained134 yards against the Texans to become the Chiefs' all-time rushing leader. He runs behind an excellent offensive line led by guard Will Shields and tackle Willie Roaf.

In the fourth quarter, though, five of Holmes' nine carries went for two yards or less.

The Chiefs' offense is ranked 17th overall, sixth in rushing and 22nd in passing.

During the off-season, the Chiefs didn't pursue big-name free agents such as defensive end Jevon Kearse or receiver Terrell Owens. Instead, they retained their own players with the exception of right tackle John Tait who signed with the Chicago Bears for $10.5 million.

Several players received lucrative contract extensions and option signing bonuses.

"I am not in any fashion giving up on this season," Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson told The Kansas City Star. "But if we've made a mistake by going the route we've gone, by spending our dollars on our players after going out and spending dollars on free agents last year, and it doesn't work out, then it's my fault. Blame me. The buck stops here."

Only three teams that have begun a season with three losses have reached the playoffs since 1990 when the league expanded the number of postseason entrants to six teams per conference.

Can the Chiefs turn it around this week against a first-place Baltimore team that has won two consecutive games?

"It's going to require sweat, it's going to require blood, it's going to require stamina," Holmes told The Star. "We definitely need a win, and it has to come against Baltimore."

The Chiefs are 2-0 all-time against Baltimore, including a 17-10 win last season won on Dante Hall's 98-yard kickoff return.

"This game is important to them, too," Billick said. "This is going to be a dogfight."

NOTES: Ravens cornerback Gary Baxter will be the subject on Monday Night Football's new, prank-oriented halftime feature, "You've Been Sacked," along with linebacker Ray Lewis. … When retired defensive end Michael McCrary is inducted into the team's Ring of Honor at halftime Monday, New York Giants defensive ends Michael Strahan and Keith Washington, a former Raven, will be in attendance along with several former Baltimore teammates. … Former Ravens safety Gerome Sapp received a game ball for registering four special-teams tackles in his debut with the Indianapolis Colts.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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