Kansas City at Houston Game Preview

Breakdown preview of the Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans battle in week-three of the NFL season.

Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) at Houston Texans (1-1)


KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET


TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Randy Cross

SERIES: First regular season meeting. The Chiefs beat the Texans, 19-9 last Aug. 17 during the preseason at Arrowhead Stadium.


2003 RANKINGS: Chiefs: offense 12th (6th rush, 19th pass); defense 16th (1st rush, 27th pass). Texans: offense 14th (15th rush, 11th pass); defense 14th (17th rush, 15th pass)


KEYS TO THE GAME: The Chiefs want to take some of the load off RB Priest Holmes' shoulders, but running against Houston might be too tempting with the Texans' 3-4 front minus two starters (Seth Payne and Gary Walker). Houston has a strong linebacker corps, but wore down last Sunday. The most important thing for Kansas City is simply avoiding turnovers that keep the Texans in the game. Houston's pass blocking is still the weak link of the offense, so staying close and generating yards on the ground is vital. Without that combination, QB David Carr won't have time to look downfield against Chiefs DE Vonnie Holliday

and Co.


FAST FACTS: Chiefs: Kansas City is 50-9 when leading at halftime since 1995. ... RB Priest Holmes has 914 yards rushing on 156 carries (5.9-yard average) in his past seven games. Texans: The team has had at least 10 penalties in seven of its 18 games since joining the league. ... WR Andre Johnson leads AFC rookies with 11 receptions for 147 yards.




--TE Tony Gonzalez, who has been held to four receptions for 26 yards in the first two games, has been hampered by sore knee and a twisted ankle. Neither San Diego nor Pittsburgh double-teamed Gonzalez heavily but he was not able to create his usual amount of separation

in either game. Gonzalez appeared to aggravate the knee injury in practice Thursday but is expected to start against Houston.

--TE Jason Dunn may see more duty in the passing game against Houston if Tony Gonzalez is not 100 percent for a third consecutive week. Dunn caught a three-yard touchdown pass last week against Pittsburgh.

--CB William Bartee, the incumbent starter at right corner, has not played in the first two games and is listed as doubtful for Sunday. Dexter McCleon, who was signed as a free agent in the offseason, has played well in Bartee's place and may hold onto the starting job even when Bartee returns. Either way, the Chiefs need a healthy Bartee to bolster the nickel defense, something that will be key with upcoming games against Green Bay, Oakland and Buffalo.

--DE Eddie Freeman, who has not practiced or played since early in training camp due to an elbow injury, worked this week and is questionable for Sunday's game. Freeman, the team's second-round pick in the 2002 draft, is a valuable player because he can swing between end and tackle.

--LB Monty Beisel, who saw action primarily on special teams during his first two seasons, saw action in obvious passing situations last week and will continue to get on the field at LB. The coaches like Beisel's speed and tackling ability, to say nothing of his availability this week

with backup middle LB Kawika Mitchell likely sidelined by a hamstring injury.

--LT Willie Roaf has played in eight Pro Bowls and is respected throughout the NFL, but there are signs that he's as good as ever this season. Roaf, who came to Kansas City in a trade with New Orleans prior to the 2002 season, has been destroying the man across from him since training camp. On a Holmes' three-yard touchdown run last week, Roaf actually took out two Steelers and his pass protection on Green's blind side has been excellent.



-- DE Gary Walker, who has been sidelined more than a month with a sprained left shoulder, intensified his participation in practice this week and is not ruling out playing Sunday against the Chiefs. "This Sunday is a lot closer than any other Sunday," Walker said. Walker suffered the injury during an Aug. 15 preseason game against Dallas. Coach Dom Capers said Walker could play on third-down situations.

-- DE Corey Sears is expected to make his third consecutive start at left defensive end with All-Pro DE Gary Walker still slowed by a sprained left shoulder.

-- NT Terrance Martin will make his first career start Sunday against the Chiefs. Martin moved into the starting lineup when Seth Payne tore a ligament in his left knee in last week's loss at New Orleans.

-- RB Tony Hollings, selected by the Texans in the supplemental draft, is expected to see action out of the backfield Sunday for the first time this season. Hollings, who is less than a year removed from ACL surgery, rushed team-high 41 attempts during the preseason.

-- FS Marlon McCree, who was claimed off waivers Wednesday from Jacksonville, is being given a crash course on defense but is not expected to contribute until the Sept. 28 game against his former team.

-- K Kris Brown has been slowed this week by a groin injury but is expected to play Sunday. P Chad Stanley is the emergency kicker.

-- Veteran Todd Washington will start at left guard against the Chiefs in place of Milford Brown, who will miss at least two weeks with a partial tear of the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Washington can play either center or guard.




As usual, most of the buzz around Arrowhead Stadium involved the health of running back Priest Holmes. Holmes rushed for 122 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries in Kansas City's impressive 41-20 win over Pittsburgh last Sunday but came away with bruised ribs and

assorted other wounds.


In a nod to the NFL's injury reporting policy, Holmes was listed as questionable on Wednesday with a calf injury. He did not practice Wednesday but returned to the field Thursday and will start Sunday against the Houston Texans.


Holmes insisted that he'll be ready to go against a Texans' defense that did a good job against Miami's Ricky Williams and New Orleans' Deuce McAllister in the first two games.


"I'm going to keep getting up and get going back at those defenses," Holmes said.


While Holmes has shown no signs of favoring his surgically repaired hip, he did look sluggish at times in last week's game, raising concerns that the Chiefs should dial back on the number of touches he receives. Through two games last season, Holmes had 44 carries and 11 receptions.


Through the first two games this season, Holmes has 44 carries and nine receptions -- two fewer touches, but for seven more yards than last year.



Time could be running out for Texans starting free safety Matt Stevens.


Only Stevens doesn't believe his job is in jeopardy. Whether the writing is on the wall or not, the Texans made a move to shore up one of their weakest links on the team by claiming free

safety Marlon McCree off waivers from Jacksonville this week.


The Texans waived free safety Travares Tillman to make room on the roster for McCree, who spent the past two-plus seasons with Jacksonville and led the Jaguars with six interceptions in 2002. Tillman had been recovering from a broken forearm suffered Aug. 2 in a scrimmage

against Dallas.


"I feel like, other than a couple of missed tackles, I've played fine," Stevens said. "I don't even have the most missed tackles on the team. I don't worry about what people say. I'm used to it from eight years of experience in the league. No one sits in those meeting rooms except the players and the coaches. Most of the people who are (criticizing) don't know what they're talking about. It's ludicrous."

Stevens, acquired by the Texans from New England in the expansion draft, has started all 18 games at free safety during the Texans' brief existence. He was released during the offseason in a move that allowed the Texans to save $2 million on the salary cap but later resigned.


During the offseason, the Texans flirted with free agents Cory Hall, Damien Robinson and Keion Carpenter, but were unable to sign any of them.


McCree started 27 of 31 career games with the Jaguars, including all 16 in 2002, when he finished second in the AFC in interceptions and fifth in the NFL. His six interceptions tied the Jaguars' single-season record. First-year Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio installed a new defensive system, and the team used a second-round pick on free safety Rashean Mathis, bumping McCree to a backup role.


McCree is not expected to play much, if any, this weekend against the Chiefs.


"I'll say a week," he said. "I pride myself on being able to pick things up quickly."

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