|09-15-2004, 01:15 AM|
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Carter: Chiefs glad to be home
Chiefs to get a dose of home
After road defeat, Arrowhead's a cure
By IVAN CARTER
The Kansas City Star
Eric Warfield limped out of Denver's visiting locker room Sunday night a bruised, frustrated and dog-tired man.
It's going to be good to get home, Warfield said.
Warfield, the veteran Chiefs cornerback, was referring to his place in Lee's Summit but he just as easily could have been talking about Arrowhead Stadium, where the Chiefs have won 13 consecutive regular-season games.
The Chiefs will attempt to extend that streak Sunday against the defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers, who dropped their season opener 24-14 to the Green Bay Packers at home Monday night.
One week later, the Chiefs will play host to the 0-1 Houston Texans and their young quarterback, David Carr.
Recent history suggests that a little home cooking would bode well for the Chiefs right about now. Since kicking off their Arrowhead winning streak by beating Oakland 20-10 in October 2002, the Chiefs have been two completely different teams.
While going 13-0 at home during that stretch, the Chiefs are 5-8 on the road. Their average margin of victory at home during the winning streak is 19.2 points, and the Chiefs enjoyed the NFL's largest home scoring differential (274 to 126) while going undefeated at Arrowhead last season.
But aside from the statistical evidence, there is an unmistakable vibe that the Chiefs feed off at home.
From the sea of red created by about 80,000 die-hard fans, to the smell of barbecue drifting in from the parking lot, to the unique chant that accompanies each Kansas City touchdown, Arrowhead is a place where the Chiefs play like the Super Bowl contender their fans so badly want them to be.
I think it's the combination, Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said. The atmosphere and the enthusiasm and the intensity. It's almost electric especially in that home opener. It's hard to experience that same atmosphere in any other stadium. It really is. They have a way of generating the 12th man at least as good as the best in the National Football League.
Arrowhead also seems to have a Stephen King-like effect on opposing players and coaches.
Whether it was Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe throwing a pass right into the chest of Chiefs defensive tackle Ryan Sims in week eight last season I never saw him, Bledsoe said or the Steelers inexplicably abandoning any semblance of a running game in week two, Arrowhead has a way of making teams beat themselves.
During the streak, the Chiefs are plus-16 in giveaway/takeaway differential, Dante Hall has recorded five of his seven career touchdown returns and the defense has scored two touchdowns.
The Arrowhead effect is especially noticeable when it comes to quarterbacks. Last season, Trent Green completed 66.7 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and five interceptions at home. Green's home quarterback rating was a Joe Montana-like 101.2.
Opposing quarterbacks last season completed 57 percent of their passes with seven touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Their quarterback rating was an ugly 62.6.
On Sunday, Carolina's Jake Delhomme will make his first Arrowhead appearance.
The scrappy Delhomme, who guided the Panthers to a 5-3 regular-season road mark last season and helped spark playoff wins at St. Louis and Philadelphia, will attempt to reverse another nasty Arrowhead trend.
Of the last 17 quarterbacks who were in their first or second year as a starter, 16 walked away from their initial Arrowhead experience with a loss. The lone exception has been the Colts' Peyton Manning, who is 3-0 at Arrowhead and played the best game of his career in leading Indianapolis to a win over the Chiefs in last season's playoffs.
It can be a rough place for a young guy, said Denver's Jake Plummer, who is 0-3 at Arrowhead but 3-0 against the Chiefs in Denver. First of all, it's really loud, so it's hard to audible, and those guys really feed off that energy. The key is not getting behind. If you do that, it's usually going to be a long day.
In addition to Delhomme and Houston's Carr, Atlanta's Michael Vick and New England's Tom Brady will make their regular-season Arrowhead debuts this season.
How those signal callers perform will go a long way toward determining Kansas City's final record.
A glance at the remaining schedule indicates that the Chiefs may need to go 7-1 or 8-0 at Arrowhead if they want to win the AFC West and play host to a playoff game come January.
The Chiefs have road games remaining at Baltimore, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Oakland, Tennessee and San Diego. The remaining home games are against Carolina, Houston, Atlanta, Indianapolis, New England, San Diego, Denver and Oakland.
Vermeil said he hasn't set a specific goal for winning at home this season. He's taking the old one-game-at-a-time approach.
I haven't thought about it, Vermeil said. All I know is what we've done. We're 13-1 over the last 14 (home) games of the regular season, and I expect us to play like that. Now, if we play like that, will it produce another win? Possibly. But it just depends on how good Carolina is. I think they are for real.