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11-29-2005, 06:29 AM
Home field means everything in Chiefs-Broncos rivalry

The host has the most


The Kansas City Star

The nature of the rivalry between the Chiefs and Broncos is, on the surface, hardly unusual. The home team almost always wins.

But Kansas City and Denver have taken that to an extreme during the Dick Vermeil era. The home team doesn’t just win. It usually exerts its will and renders the visitors helpless.

The Chiefs desperately need form to hold Sunday when the first-place Broncos come to Arrowhead Stadium. Denver can take a big step toward clinching the AFC West championship.

The Broncos with a win would be 10-2, three games ahead of the Chiefs and at least two up on the Chargers. The Chiefs with a victory would climb to 8-4 and within a game of the Broncos, signaling the ignition of what could be a three-team race.

The Chiefs could use some of the Arrowhead magic they used two years ago when Dante Hall’s fourth-quarter punt return gave the Chiefs a win or last season when 5-8 Kansas City hammered the 8-5 and playoff-bound Broncos 45-17.

For whatever reason, the Chiefs and Broncos are like different teams when they play at one venue and then the other.

“Neither team has been good enough to beat the other without all of those things that are encompassed in the home-field advantage,” Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said. “I’ve always said that if you want to win on the road, you’ve got to take your best team with you. Maybe neither of these teams has done that. If you’re a great team, it doesn’t matter where you play. You’re good enough to win anyway. We’ve never been good enough to win up there.”

Vermeil’s rivalries against the Chargers and Raiders follow a more normal pattern. He has won in San Diego and Oakland and lost to both teams at Arrowhead in a mixture of close and one-sided games.

He is 0-5 in Denver and never really been competitive. Vermeil complained bitterly this season and last when the Chiefs were given prime-time road games against the Broncos. He believes night games provide an even greater advantage to the home team.

“They’ve taken a tough division rivalry and made it even tougher for us,” he said.

The Chiefs fared no better in his three daylight games in Denver.

Vermeil’s Chiefs are 3-1 against the Broncos in Kansas City. Denver’s win came in 2002 when the Chiefs blew a big fourth-quarter lead and lost in overtime.

Last year was typical for this rivalry. The Broncos dominated the season-opener in Denver, winning by 10 points in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score would indicate.

The Chiefs responded with their big win. Denver again routed the Chiefs this season 30-10 at the new Mile High Stadium in September.

“We’ve had some tough games both home and away,” Denver coach Mike Shanahan told reporters Monday in Denver. “It’s always been a very physical football game. We’ve won some there, we’ve lost some there.

“Hopefully we’ll play a little bit better than we’ve been playing (at Arrowhead). It’s always tough to win in Kansas City, and it will be a great challenge to our football team.”

Vermeil puts as much emphasis on winning the turnover battle as any coach. He can cite off the top of his head the vast winning percentages of teams that commit fewer turnovers than their opponents.

When the Chiefs play the Broncos, those stats are often turned upside down. The Chiefs were plus two in turnovers in Denver last year, plus three in 2002. They lost each time.

The Chiefs were minus-two against the Broncos at Arrowhead in 2001 and minus-one in 2003 but won each time.

“It’s mattered,” Vermeil said. “It always matters. It wouldn’t have been as close as it was otherwise. When you’re plus in turnovers and you still lose, that means the other team was just that much better than you.”

■ SIMS IN PADS: Vermeil said defensive tackle Ryan Sims would practice in pads this week. The Chiefs will then make a decision whether Sims would play against Denver. Sims hasn’t played since injuring his foot in the season opener against the Jets.

Vermeil’s biggest injury concern from Sunday’s win over New England was defensive end Carlos Hall, who has a strained hamstring. Center Casey Wiegmann, who sprained an ankle, also may be listed on the injury report when it is issued Wednesday.

■ STILL THE CHAMP: Vermeil was ready to bury comments made by Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey during Denver’s September win over the Chiefs. Bailey, wearing a live microphone for the Monday night telecast, suggested at the time the Chiefs weren’t playing hard.

“Champ Bailey is a great player,” Vermeil said Monday. “I don’t pay attention to that stuff. I’m not offended by it in any way.”