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tk13
10-17-2005, 01:15 AM
http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/sports/football/nfl/kansas_city_chiefs/12920868.htm

Holmes’ long TD rejuvenates offense
JOE POSNANSKI
Kansas City Star

There is no getting around it. Sunday, the Chiefs’ offense looked old. And nobody seemed to understand that better than Priest Holmes. He has always had that extra sense. Maybe it comes from his chess background. Maybe it’s just something you pick up when you’ve spent your career beating odds.

Whatever, you could tell from the start of Sunday’s game that Holmes was feeling feisty. He was dancing. He was juking. He was Crazy Legs Holmes, running one way, running back the other way, stopping, twisting, slipping and a-sliding, reeling with the feeling, losing 10 yards on one regrettable Gale Sayers impersonation late in the first half.

At first, it seemed odd. We asked each other, “What’s gotten into Priest?”

After a while, you could see it. He wanted the one big play.

It was so unlike him. Sunday, Holmes was like a fighter throwing haymakers, hoping to land the one knockout punch, and that’s not the Holmes we have come to know at all. No, he’s always been a slasher, a banger, a body-puncher, a player whose greatness has come in a seemingly endless string of violent 7-yard-runs.

But times have changed. The Chiefs’ offense has changed.

Holmes seemed to know he would have to do something special.

In the end, he did something special. In the fourth quarter, he broke an amazing 60-yard catch-and-run, and the Chiefs needed every yard of it for a 28-21 victory over Washington. It was a crucial victory. The crowd was loud, louder than it has been in a couple of years. The defense made big plays. After the game, you could tell that the Chiefs players feel as if they’re very much back in the race.

Still, you cannot overlook that once again the Chiefs’ offense looked old. We all knew this would be an issue someday. But nobody is ever ready for “someday.” For three years, the Chiefs’ offense was fresh and innovative and as unstoppable as Bill O’Reilly. They scored fast. They scored in bunches. They scored more points from 2002 to 2004 than any other team in the NFL, including Martz’s Rams and Peyton’s Colts and Moss’ Vikings.

Before this year even began, though, you could hear the bones creaking. Will Shields at 35 considered retiring. Willie Roaf at 35 got hurt in the first quarter of the first game. The Chiefs decided to blend in the youthful burst of Larry Johnson with what coaches called “Priest Holmes’ experience.”

For a few minutes at a time, the Chiefs’ offense has run up and down the field like old times. But often — much more often than in the last three years — it has struggled. They looked flat in Oakland. They scored 10 in Denver. They managed one second-half touchdown against Philadelphia.

A lot of us thought the Chiefs would be their old selves on Sunday. Roaf was back and almost fully healthy. Offensive coordinator Al Saunders had two weeks to jog and come up with all sorts of fun and different plays. Everybody seemed rested and frisky after getting a full week off.

Instead, it was the same struggle. Yes, Washington has a good defense — nobody thought the Chiefs were going to score 40 Sunday.

But it was more than just a struggle to score points. It was a struggle again for the Chiefs to impose their will. They came into this game clearly trying to make tight end Tony Gonzalez a weapon again. They could not get him the ball. They tried to throw the ball downfield. Trent Green did not complete a single pass to a receiver for more than 20 yards. They wanted to stretch the defense. Their best receiver, Eddie Kennison, didn’t catch a pass.

The Chiefs tried to break out the running game with Holmes and Johnson. The two combined for 71 rushing yards, and you have to wonder what the Chiefs are going to do with this running-back tandem idea. It worked beautifully the first week. It hasn’t worked well at all since. Neither guy looks comfortable. Holmes seems to have lost some of his patience. And Johnson seems frustrated he can’t get more chances.

Anyway, we all hear the clock ticking on this offense. Seven starters are 30 or older, and even Gonzalez, who seems as if he was drafted just a couple of years ago, will turn 30 in February.

This is not to say these guys are past their prime just yet. Fullback Tony Richardson says, “We just need to get everybody together and playing in rhythm, and we’ll look like our old selves.”

Maybe. But it’s a fact of football, a fact of sports, that eventually everybody loses a step. And when that happens, it happens quickly.

Sunday, for a long time, it really looked as if the Chiefs had lost that step. And then, with the score tied 21-21, Green threw a screen to Holmes. He waited for his blockers to make their move and then seamlessly slipped in behind them. When he saw an opening, he cut all the way across the field. He outran the linebackers to the corner. And then he tiptoed the sideline and got into the end zone. Sixty yards. It was a remarkable play.

“I guess if anyone wondered if Priest has anything left,” Richardson says, “they don’t have to wonder now. That was classic Priest.”

It was classic Priest. A couple of times Green put his head down, ran upfield and picked up painful first downs. That was classic Trent. Late in the game, Gonzalez caught a critical 11-yard pass for a first down. That was classic Gonzo. Sunday, with some help from the defense, a few classics were good enough for a hard-fought victory.

The question is: Do the Chiefs have enough of those moments left to make this season a classic? Time, as they say, will tell.