View Full Version : Whitlock: Victory today would boost the defense

the Talking Can
09-19-2004, 07:26 AM
I used that bugmenot site to log in, pretty cool.

from the KCStar sports page


Victory today would boost the defense


It would be inaccurate to call today's Panthers-Chiefs game at Arrowhead Stadium a must-win for either team. But the Kansas City Chiefs do have significantly more at stake than the visiting Carolina Panthers.

The 0-1 Panthers have plenty of built-in excuses. They'll play today without the services of their top running back, Stephen Davis, and top receiver, Steve Smith. Carolina's offense is far from explosive even with Davis and Smith in the lineup.

Meanwhile, Carolina's injury misfortune just adds to the pressure facing Dick Vermeil's 0-1 squad.

Again, the Chiefs can survive a loss today. As has been stated over and over again since the season-opening loss to the Broncos, the world-champion New England Patriots started out 0-2 last season. But a Kansas City loss would deal a hard blow to the Chiefs' somewhat fragile confidence.

The Chiefs were stunned that the Clinton Portis-less Broncos could roll up 200 rushing yards on a Gunther Cunningham-led defense. Tiny Quentin Griffin's seemingly effortless 156-yard debut caught Kansas City's defensive players by total surprise. Vermeil loathes the idea of having to rehab the confidence of his defensive players if Davis' sub, DeShaun Foster, rips the Chiefs for 100-plus yards on the ground.

Today marks the return of Cunningham to Arrowhead. Cunningham returned to the Chiefs partially because he truly loves the fan base, the atmosphere at Arrowhead, the players and Lamar Hunt. A poor defensive performance today would damage Cunningham emotionally.

If the Chiefs can't stop Carolina's injury-riddled offense, it would become even more difficult to sell the notion that Cunningham alone can turn around Kansas City's defense. The Chiefs Vermeil and Carl Peterson haven't been trying to sell that notion to us, local media and Chiefs fans. They're trying to sell that belief to their players.

It's a tough sell. The players are disappointed that the Chiefs weren't more active during the off-season free-agency period. After going 13-3 and losing in the first round of the playoffs, the Chiefs stood pat. Other teams, other highly successful teams, did not. The Patriots added running back Corey Dillon. The Eagles snagged receiver Terrell Owens. The Broncos sent the best part of their offense, Portis, to Washington for a defensive playmaker, Champ Bailey.

You think you're the only one who noticed the leaguewide activity? You're crazy. The players live this game. They play fantasy football, too. The Chiefs players dreamed of Warren Sapp and Owens and Ted Washington and Jevon Kearse. The Chiefs players are just as immature and passionate as an average Chiefs fan. Priest Holmes, Tony Gonzalez, Trent Green and Casey Wiegmann can spend Lamar Hunt's money as fast as you or I.

Vermeil has to keep his players believing that the Chiefs have the necessary personnel to win it all this season. If there's any doubt, he'll lose his team. This team is teetering a bit. Vermeil asks for a heavy investment. No team in the NFL spends more time on the practice field than the Chiefs. Vermeil's long practices create a steady stream of complaints from his players. They grumble and moan about being tired and leg-weary.

Marty Schottenheimer used to hear the same thing. Vermeil has heard it a million times. What he has to avoid is doubt creeping into the mix. Players don't mind hard work when they believe the coaching staff and the organization are putting everything into a Super Bowl push, too. The players become cynical and difficult to control when they sense they're being asked to invest more than the franchise is willing to invest.

It's no different from what you've probably experienced on your job. Management cuts corners, makes stupid decisions, denies its obvious mistakes and then asks its employees to give maximum effort. It can quickly become a volatile situation. Employees can become disruptive and lackadaisical. It's an ugly cycle, especially if expectations were high.

Are the Chiefs there yet?


Could they get there? Absolutely.

A loss today would be a step in that direction. Kansas City's defense should play very well today. Carolina's offensive line is suspect. The Panthers won't have Steve Smith to stretch the defense. The Panthers will miss Davis in the running game. Jake Delhomme is not the kind of quarterback who will line up and make something out of nothing.

Because of Carolina's shortcomings, Gunther Cunningham won't be able to prove today that he has improved KC's defense. But he will be able to demonstrate that the unit hasn't taken a step back. That's enough for now.

the Talking Can
09-19-2004, 07:58 AM
I bet the offense felt that way...I doubt Priest would have been heart broken to see Holliday replaced.