Game SnapShot: Cleveland at Kansas City

<b>Game SnapShot</b><br> <b>KICKOFF:</b> Sunday, 1:00 ET<br> <b>GAMEDATE:</b> 11/09/03<br> <b>SURFACE:</b> Grass<br> <b>TV:</b> CBS, Dick Enberg, Dan Dierdorf, Bonnie Bernstein<br> <b>SERIES:</b> 19th meeting, and the Browns and Chiefs have each won eight games with two ties. The last game between the two teams was among the wackiest. In that game, the Browns appeared to win until Dwayne Rudd took off his helmet and threw it to celebrate a sack that he thought had ended the game.

Instead, the Chiefs got a penalty on top of a run by tackle Jon Tait off a lateral, and Morton Andersen kicked the game-winning field goal on an un-timed down with no time on the clock.

2003 RANKINGS: Browns: offense 30th (23rd rush, 27th pass); defense 7th (28th rush, 2nd pass). Chiefs: offense 7th (9th rush, 8th pass); defense 27th (24th rush, 25th pass)

The Browns' offensive line is healthier after the bye week, but LT Barry Stokes is unlikely to play because of a high ankle sprain and the running game with be without suspended RB William Green. That puts extra pressure on QB Kelly Holcomb, who will try to push the ball downfield against an opportunistic Chiefs defense. And the Browns' leading receiver, WR Kevin Johnson, has been benched in favor of Andre Davis. Offensively, Kansas City needs to establish RB Priest Holmes early against a defense allowing almost 130 yards per game on the ground. Cleveland's secondary has played well, but will need help from the defensive line pressuring QB Trent Green.

Browns: The defense has not allowed a 300-yard passer in the past 13 games. ... Holcomb has a 93 passer rating on third downs, including four TD passes and one INT. Chiefs: They are on pace to allow 260 points, which would be 139 less than last season. ... The offense has scored 16 TDs in 21 red-zone possessions (76.2 percent). ... The team is trying to improve to 9-0 for the first time in franchise history.

Chiefs 20, Browns 16


--FB R.J. Bowers was activated from the non-football injury list. Bowers could be used as a bodyguard for Kelly Holcomb against the blitzing Chiefs.

--TE Chad Mustard was waived off the 53-man roster and added to the practice squad. The Browns still have hope Mustard can help in the future.

--LT Barry Stokes is off crutches but will not play against the Chiefs. Joaquin Gonzalez is expected to start.

--WR Andre Davis, starting for Kevin Johnson (coach's decision) plans to play well enough to make the change permanent. "I'm not looking at this as a one-game chance," Davis said.

--RB Lee Suggs is healthy enough to be added to the 53-man roster, but he needs more practice time, coach Butch Davis said. Suggs was on the P.U.P. list with a shoulder injury until Oct. 29.


--CB Eric Warfield did not practice Thursday while resting a foot injury, but indicated afterward that he thought he could work Friday and be available for Sunday's home game against Cleveland. "I'm ready now, but they wanted me to rest it today,'' Warfield said of his injury, which he described as a bruise. The Chiefs worried that he might have injured his Achilles tendon during Wednesday's practice, but an MRI exam showed that was not the case. He remains on the injury list as questionable.

--LB Mike Maslowski, the other Chiefs starter listed as questionable for the Cleveland game, took about 65 to 70 percent of his normal practice repetitions Thursday and continues to express optimism that he can play against Cleveland on the left knee he injured in the pre-bye week rout of Buffalo. Vermeil originally said there was a good chance Maslowski would miss the Browns game, but he did a limited workout Wednesday before taking even more practice snaps Thursday.

--LB Kawika Mitchell is getting his greatest volume of practice snaps this week as the Chiefs' second-round draft pick continues to prepare in the event that MLB Mike Maslowski is unable to play or is limited by a knee injury against Cleveland. Mitchell has been bothered by bad hamstrings since the start of training camp and has been limited to four games of primarily special teams duty. Some in the Chiefs organization think the speedy Mitchell, whose likeness to Junior Seau has earned him the nickname "Junior," will in time overtake Maslowski as the starter in the middle.

--RB Larry Johnson, the Chiefs first-round draft choice who has suited up for only one of the first eight games this year, will be on the game-day active roster against Cleveland as the backup running back to Priest Holmes. Johnson, who was taken with the 27th overall pick, has only six carries for 25 yards in his rookie campaign. Veteran Derrick Blaylock, Holmes' backup, has held him back by Holmes' good health and by the solid special teams contributions made. Johnson has expressed frustration over his limited role. It now seems as though he may get a chance to show what he can do.

--CB William Bartee saw his most extensive duty in regular defense during practice on Wednesday and Thursday when starter Eric Warfield missed time after injuring his foot early in the Wednesday workout. Bartee, a starter in 2002, suffered a sprained ankle before the final preseason game and did not return to action until a Week Seven win over Oakland. By then Bartee had lost his starting job at right corner to Dexter McCleon. Bartee says his ankle feels 100 percent and declared himself ready to play at full speed.

--The Chiefs defense continues to have success rotating as many as eight defensive linemen. Vermeil and defensive coordinator Greg Robinson feels that using a deep rotation keeps the starters fresh for the fourth quarter of games. The rotation should be boosted by a bye-week that allowed pass rush specialist R-Kal Truluck to rest a sore ankle.


Punter Chris Gardocki has the task of keeping Chiefs phenomenal return specialist Dante Hall penned up Sunday when the Browns travel to Kansas City. Hall has returned two punts and two kicks for touchdowns this season, tying an NFL record for returns in a season held by seven others. Hall's kick return average is 26.6, which is not that high above the norm, but it is his ability to return punts - a 21.0-yard average - that has the Browns concerned.

"Hang it up there and try to get him to fair catch it," Gardocki said Thursday. "It depends on the situation and the field position we have. It depends on the weather and temperature, too, but obviously, you want to get good hang time.

"You have to look at how many they have in the box and how wide they rush. It depends on the situation that way."

Halfway through the season, the Browns are allowing an average of 11.3 yards a punt return. Coverage is supposed to be better with a dedication to special teams in the draft, but last year opponents had an average return of 9.7 yards. Gardocki is averaging 42.9 yards a punt, but his net average is only 35.1, and whether the challenge is Hall this week or the Steelers' Randle El on Nov. 23, the Browns are determined to see that improve.

"Those guys do a great job blocking for Hall, but you look at what he did against Denver and he gets a lot on his own," Gardocki said. "It's amazing to watch him. He changes direction four or five times and he is still at top speed when he comes around the corner. You look at him on film and he's tackled, then he gets out of it somehow."


The 1972 Dolphins shouldn't be getting nervous yet, even if the Chiefs made the turn at 8-0 in this latest bid by an NFL team to match the unbeaten season of that storied Miami team.

Still, in a season during which his team has caught plenty of breaks from opening the season with two home games to staying injury free to having the bye week land smack in the middle of the schedule

Dick Vermeil seems to have put together another Super Bowl contender as the second-half begins on another Year Three project of his.

Rather than having to go on the road or even having to play host to a hot team like the Colts or Titans, the Chiefs get back into action Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium against the struggling 3-5 Browns.

Cleveland will be without leading rusher William Green, who was suspended after an off week DUI arrest, and will be working with a re-shuffled receiving group. Leading receiver Kevin Johnson has been benched in favor of Andre Davis.

The Chiefs, however, are rested and loose. Vermeil took a risk by giving his team a full week off following an impressive 38-5 win over Buffalo. Several players made the most of the time off by getting away from Kansas City. Dante Hall appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman and took in a Raptors game in Toronto. Tony Gonzalez appeared on the FOX pre-game show and hit the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. Quarterback Trent Green appeared on the CBS pre-game show.

Cutting players loose for such a long period during the season is unorthodox many former players and coaches said they have never heard of such a thing but Vermeil felt confident that his team would use the week off well and return to work focused on the second half. Kansas City's energetic workouts on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday justified his contention.

"I don't worry about this team," Vermeil said. "We've got a bunch of professionals who know how to handle themselves."

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