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Old 10-06-2004, 03:10 AM  
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Chiefs feeling the turn

Vermeil says win over Ravens proves team is back on track

By ADAM TEICHER The Kansas City Star

The Chiefs struggled beyond their worst nightmares for the season's first three games before putting together a solid performance Monday night in Baltimore.

Does that mean their problems are solved and they're ready to make themselves a part of the playoff chase? Or was the 27-24 win in Baltimore the fluke?

The answers won't come for almost two weeks. The Chiefs have their open date this weekend and don't play again until Oct. 17 in Jacksonville.

But coach Dick Vermeil thinks he already knows.

“Games like that don't take place by accident,” Vermeil said Tuesday. “Our determination to turn our season around was apparent all through the week and not just Monday night. I could see it, feel it.”

The encouraging signs for the Chiefs were numerous. Quarterback Trent Green was Pro Bowl-worthy for the first time this season with his accuracy and decisions and by making a season's worth of clutch passes.

Their offensive line pushed around one of the league's most physical fronts. The defensive line manhandled Baltimore's massive offensive front in limiting Jamal Lewis to 73 yards.

The Chiefs have plenty of special-teams issues to sort through, but it was still the type of game they envisioned during the off-season.

The Chiefs also played better in the previous week's game against Houston, though still not well enough to win. The Texans turned that game around on one play, an interception they returned 102 yards for a touchdown.

To Vermeil, two games is proof positive of a trend. He said last week he believed the Chiefs had hit bottom, though with the Chiefs at 0-3 he had few willing to listen.

“When I say we're getting better and it will soon manifest itself, I mean it and I'm being sincere,” he said. “I'm basing it on facts and not baloney. The defense demonstrated that last night. I said the defensive line was getting better. They demonstrated that.”

Playing well enough to win is relatively easy for one week, even in the din of Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium against a team that fancies itself a Super Bowl contender.

Sustaining it will be the bigger problem for the Chiefs. The combined record of their next three opponents — home games against Atlanta and Indianapolis follow the road game against the Jaguars — is 10-2.

The schedule then flattens out a bit with games against Tampa Bay and New Orleans. So if Vermeil is correct, the Chiefs may be able to overcome their rotten start particularly if, as he suggested, their best is yet to come.

Momentum won't be a factor for the Chiefs. Because of the open date, Vermeil gave the Chiefs the rest of the week off. They won't reconvene until Monday, when practice resumes.

“We'll just keep working on it,” Vermeil said. “We get a lot done (on the practice field). We keep working on the fundamentals of the game and certain people get better.”

If the Chiefs can get their season turned around, they will have Monday's game in Baltimore to thank.

“We played more like our best football that we played last year,” Vermeil said. “We were more physical than maybe we've been at any time. That's as physical an approach as we've taken into a football game than at any time.

“(Monday) night demonstrated we're better than the 0-3 record that we went in there with and that we can play good football and when we do, we can win.”
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