Rival Report: Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil likes the idea of being able to rest his star players for a playoff run, but since the Chiefs are still in a fight for playoff positioning Vermeil doesn't have that luxury this year. Read all about the week in Chiefs territory as they prepare for the Vikings.

If he had his druthers, Dick Vermeil would give his playoff-bound Chiefs starters a game off next week to rest them for the post-season run he hopes will last through Feb. 1.

He did just that in 1999 after his St. Louis Rams clinched the home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs in advance of Week 16. Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Orlando Pace and other top players played about a quarter before going to the sideline in the regular-season finale at Philadelphia, where the Rams lost 38-31.

Vermeil had an even better deal working with Bum Phillips when the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Oilers — playoff qualifiers both — met in the 1979 season finale with a gentlemen's agreement to rest some of their starters.

"Bum took out his big guy, Earl Campbell, and it made a big difference," Vermeil recalled of the 26-20 Eagles win. "But that was the old days. You can't do that anymore."

But Vermeil's 2003 Chiefs, the AFC West Division champion for the first time since 1997, won't have that luxury when they go to Minnesota this Saturday before closing at home against Chicago on Dec. 28.

The Chiefs are clinging to the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs and the first-round bye that goes with it. More importantly, they're clinging to the outside hope that they can somehow pass top seed New England — which will happen only if the Chiefs win out and the Patriots stumble against either the Jets or Bills — and win home-field advantage for as long as they're alive in post-season play.

But clinging is the applicable word. For Kansas City (12-2) could slip to a No. 3 seed with one more loss should Indianapolis (11-3) win out at home against Denver and on the road in Houston. And as the No. 3 seed, the Chiefs not only would play in the first round, but they might well draw Denver, currently the No. 6 seed and a team the Chiefs do not want to have to face again this year after the 45-27 kicking the Broncos gave them on Dec. 7.

With that scenario, any talk of resting players flies out the window as Kansas City prepares for an 8-6 Vikings team whose playoff hopes are on the NFC bubble.

"I think we'll be battling up through the final minutes of our 16th game to determine where we'll play," Vermeil said.

Saturday's shootout of potent offenses — the Vikings are No. 1 in total offense, the Chiefs No. 2; Kansas City is No. 1 in points scored and third in passing offense while Minnesota is sixth and four, respectively — looms as more of a must-win for the Vikings than it does for the Chiefs.

"They've lost some games they shouldn't have lost, but they're still a good football team," Vermeil said. "They're desperate and they will play like a desperate football team, just like Denver did a week ago against us."

It would help if the Chiefs developed a sense of desperation, too. The prospect of facing a rubber match with Denver ought to be frightening enough for them to develop one.

SERIES HISTORY: Ninth meeting. Chiefs led 5-3 after winning the last two games, the most recent a 31-28 victory at Arrowhead in 1999.

  • As far as the Chiefs are concerned, the harsh words exchanged Sunday between Kansas City receiver Johnnie Morton and Detroit team president Matt Millen better become an issue of the past, and soon.

    "I've told Johnnie to forget about it, and I told him that this morning," coach Dick Vermeil said Monday afternoon.

    Millen, who released Morton in the spring of 2002 after eight productive seasons with the Lions, was speaking to several Chiefs players and coaches near an elevator outside the Kansas City locker room following Sunday's 45-17 rout of Detroit. Morton, saying he had hoped not to speak to Millen during the weekend, admitted telling Millen to "kiss my (butt)" when Millen attempted to speak to him.

    Angered, Millen loudly called Morton a sexually derogatory slang term twice within hearing range of several witnesses. Millen apologized in a statement issued by the Lions later Sunday evening, and then again on Monday at a regularly scheduled press conference.

    "(Morton) made an inappropriate remark and I reacted inappropriately and said something I shouldn't have, which was wrong," Millen said. "I apologize to anybody I offended with that remark. It won't happen again."

    But Morton called the apology "totally unacceptable."

    "I have gay friends and I don't even joke around with them like that," Morton told the Kansas City Star. "What he said is demeaning and bigoted. Jeremy Shockey got in trouble for saying it about a coach (Bill Parcells) and now we have a president of a team making statements like that."

    Morton briefly addressed the issue one more time Wednesday. Asked to comment about the $30,000 fine assessed to Saints receiver Joe Horn for his cell phone celebratory call, Morton said he thought the fine was excessive "given the incident that happened here last weekend that didn't get fined."

    "I think they've got to find some balance in that," Morton said. "On one hand, you're insulting a culture. On the other hand, you're just having some fun, and that's what the NFL is all about — entertainment. I don't think it's right."

  • Minnesota coach Mike Tice was only joking this week when he said it was a "possibility" that Randy Moss might return punts against Kansas City last week.

    It was not funny. In the last meeting of the two teams (1999), Moss returned a punt 64 yards for a TD in addition to catching five passes for 76 yards. That also was the game in which Robert Tate returned a kickoff 76 yards for a TD. It was the first and last time the Vikings returned a punt and kickoff for scores in the same game.

    If the Vikes were looking for big plays in the kicking game, now would be the time to bring Moss out of return retirement. The Chiefs are banged up on special teams with the season loss of safety Lyle West, the absence of linebacker Monty Beisel for a third straight game and an injury to receiver gunner Marc Boerigter.

    Kansas City's kick cover units began going south when the team's record did. Peter Warrick returned a punt 77 yards for the game-winning touchdown in the Bengals' upset of the unbeaten Chiefs. In San Diego, Leon Johnson had a 60-yard kickoff return as part of his 169 return yards. And last week against Detroit, Reggie Swinton had kickoff returns of 41 yards to set up a 57-yard scoring drive late in the first half, and 36 to set up a 56-yard TD drive in the third.

    "To put our defense on the field in that kind of field position is just not acceptable," a concerned Vermeil said.

  • An angry Vermeil called out a radio reporter Wednesday who told the coach that defensive players he did not identify were saying they were "confused" by their roles in defensive coordinator Greg Robinson's scheme.

    No Chiefs players — identified or otherwise — have publicly made any such comment, and Vermeil knew it.

    "That's bull (bleep)," he snapped before immediately taking another question. But Vermeil's attention hadn't been completely diverted.

    "Get me the player who says he's confused," he said in turning back to challenge the reporter. "When we get (bleeps) like this asking questions like that trying to undermine what we're doing here, that really pisses me off."

  • The Chiefs snapped a four-game losing streak in domes with a 42-14 win in Houston (with the roof closed) in the season opener this year.

  • Mike Tice says Dick Vermeil has been a tremendous help in his two years as an NFL head coach. Tice even has an entire file of Vermeil charts, letters and personal notes.

    But Vermeil may have had the biggest effect on Tice's NFL playing career.

    "I was a quarterback coming out of Maryland (in 1981), but he wanted to sign me as a free-agent tight end," Tice recalled of Vermeil, who was at Philadelphia at the time. "I was a little insulted. I thought, ‘What the hell does he know? I'm a quarterback!' Of course, I went on to play 14 years as a tight end, so I guess he knew something.

    "I've been a big admirer of his since."

    BY THE NUMBERS: 30 — Number of consecutive games in which KC's offensive line of Willie Roaf, Brian Waters, Casey Wiegmann, Will Shields and John Tait have played together.

    173 — Number of consecutive games started by Shields, a Chiefs team record.

    1985-86 — the last time an offensive line (the Giants') had a 30-game starting streak.

    8-4 — Kansas City's record in domes dating back to 1995.

    8-1 — Kansas City's record against teams of the current NFC North dating back to 1996.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I love the challenge of playing the great ones like (Randy) Moss, Marvin Harrison, Rod Smith, Terrell Owens. They make you have to play harder. They get all the time on ESPN, which means you get time on ESPN, too." — Chiefs cornerback Eric Warfield, who doesn't want to get on Sports Center by chasing Randy Moss into the end zone this weekend.


  • RB Priest Holmes has only three 100-yard games this year, but the Chiefs have won all three. Considering that Minnesota is 1-9 in two seasons under Mike Tice when giving up a 100-yard runner, the Chiefs would love to run Holmes often in this one. With 22 rushing TDs this year, he is only three shy of tying Emmitt Smith's single-season rushing record, a mark the Chiefs want Holmes to get.

  • QB Trent Green, who achieved a perfect 158.3 QB rating in the rout of Detroit last week, has had triple-digit quarterback ratings in seven of his last nine starts in which he's completed 65 percent of his passes for 17 TDs and just three interceptions. The Chiefs are 11-3 in games when Green has a QB rating of 100-plus.

  • TE Tony Gonzalez has caught 10 touchdowns in Kansas City's last 12 games. He caught six balls for 63 yards and two TDs in Kansas City's last game against Minnesota (1999).

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