Another Step Awaits … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs

The script was put in place early in the week. It came from the head coach, and it was repeated over and over again in the locker room. No matter how questions were phrased or structured about the Buffalo Bills, the reply was always the same.

According to the 4-2 Chiefs, who host the 0-6 Bills Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium (noon kickoff, on CBS-TV) they are in for a real tussle.

“This is a talented team … they have explosive offensive talent … they are much better than the 0-6 record they carry … they can score points … their quarterback is the best blocking quarterback.”

That last one isn’t a joke. Todd Haley said that this week, speaking of Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.

“As you watch the tape of Fitzpatrick out there in front of these runs, it’s really, really impressive and it’s not just a one or two-time thing, it happens all the time, so they essentially gain an extra blocker,” Haley said. “You can’t do that with many quarterbacks in the league, so he is a dangerous player – he can hurt you with his feet, he can hurt you blocking and he can obviously hurt you throwing as he showed the last couple weeks.”

Here’s the deal – the Chiefs should win their fifth game of the season. They are the better team. They have proven that in the first part of this 2010 season. The Bills are struggling, especially on defense where they have the league’s worst unit against the run. The Chiefs have the best running game in the league.

It seems like it should be pretty simple formula: No. 32 run defense against No. 1 run offense, plus 4-2 vs. 0-6 = 5-2 and on to Oakland.

Not so fast say the Chiefs.

“Record in this league mean nothing,” said OLB Mike Vrabel.

 ”I was on a Patriots team that was 12-2 and playing a 2-12 Dolphins team and we didn’t have much of a chance in the second half down there. You look at the film and you look at the scores and you see how these guys are fighting. You see how the O-Line was battling those guys in Baltimore. We understand how physical they are.”

There’s a reason for the saying “on any given Sunday” and it has nothing to do with an Oliver Stone movie. The football highway is littered with burning hulks of better teams who got torched by less talented teams in crashes that caused a lot of injuries.

Make no mistake, that’s a possible outcome in this encounter. Let’s be real here – the Chiefs have no standing to overlook or think they are better than any opponent they face. It wasn’t that long ago that they were in the same position – the team on the tape that played so well for most of the game but couldn’t find a way to actually win the game.

Last year the Chiefs went to Washington with a 0-5 record. The Redskins were 2-3 on the season. That’s where Haley got his first head coaching victory, as the Chiefs won 14-6.

“I talked a little bit about us going on the road and going to Washington and one of the good things we did that week as a team was not getting too caught up in the past,” said Haley. “One of the signs of getting better and the reward to hard work and sacrifice would be coming out of there with a win, which we were able to do.

“I talked about some of those things but most importantly I think it is about understanding who your opponent is and what their strengths are and it doesn’t take much time in the film room to understand that this team has a lot of weapons across the field offensively, defensively and on special teams.”

OK, so if the Bills are so good, why are they the NFL’s only winless team? Why are they minus-77 in point differential? Why are they minus-4 in turnover ratio, minus-7 in sacks and minus 6 minutes, 2 seconds in average time of possession? They have allowed eight rushing TDs, while scoring only one TD on the ground themselves.

It’s been a very tough start to his second chance at being an NFL head coach for Chan Gailey.

“We had to make a lot of changes,” Gailey said of what the last 10 months have been like around the Bills. “We’ve made some adjustments and things. So, we’re still kind of feeling our way through this thing to get it where it needs to be. We’ve got some good football players, but we’re just not able to get a ‘W’. Our guys are playing hard. They just can’t get a ‘W’ right now.”

The Chiefs know that feeling.

“They are no different than we were a couple years ago, trying to figure out the right plan and get the right kind of people,” said LB Brian Waters. “I understand the struggle. They have a lot of talent in a lot of different places on that team. I know a lot of those guys and they are a hard working group. I hate to see the way they’ve lost some games, but I don’t want to be the team where they regain their confidence.”

The Chiefs should be able to run the football. They should be able to stop the run, as the Bills average 110.7 rushing yards per game. The big edge they have is on defense. Buffalo is doing an in-season transition from the 3-4 as its base scheme to a 4-3 base. Rookie DT Torell Troup now starts and journeyman LB Reggie Torbor leaves the starting lineup.

Gailey said this week that there’s nothing hard to understand about the Chiefs defense that’s been implemented by Romeo Crennel.

“They are a vanilla 3-4 team,” said the Bills head coach. “They’ll sit right there and hit you in the mouth. There are no frills to this crew. They don’t blitz a lot. They’ll stunt some but they’re not a big blitz team. They say, ‘Come on, let’s play tight end to tight end and we’re going to whip you. We’re tougher than you are’.”

In the NFL pretenders become contenders after taking many steps on rungs of the developmental ladder. This game today against the Bills is another chance for the Chiefs to take a step up. It’s an important one as well. Three of their next four games are on the road, with trips to Oakland, Denver and Seattle. If they win all five of their remaining home games, the worst they would finish is 9-7, and the way the AFC West is going, that has a good chance to be the division winning record.

On Sunday, the Chiefs will have to back up their kind words about the Bills with the appropriate actions on the field.

PRE-GAME NOTES: expect WR/RB Dexter McCluster to sit this game out with his ankle injury and assorted other problems … not so sure on the status of RG Ryan Lilja who was limited in practice all week until Friday, when suddenly the Chiefs reported that he was a full participant in practice. If he can’t go Jon Asamoah will take his spot … with McCluster out, that should put WR Chris Chambers back on the field after being inactive for the past two games … the Bills have had trouble in recent games covering the tight end, giving up six TD passes to that position in the last three games. It could be a big day for Chiefs TE Tony Moeaki.

NFL PERSONNEL FILE FOR SATURDAY, OCTOBER 30

  • CARDINALS – activated ILB Gerald Hayes and OLB O’Brien Schofield from the reserve/PUP list; released WR Onrea Jones and LB Alex Hall.
  • CHARGERS – released OT Adam Terry; signed WR Gary Banks off their practice squad.
  • DOLPHINS – placed FB Deon Anderson on the injured-reserve list (triceps) ending his season; signed S Jonathon Amaya off their practice squad.
  • RAIDERS – named QB Jason Campbell as the starter for Sunday’s game against the Seahawks.
  • STEELERS – released OLB Thaddeus Gibson, a fourth-round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft; signed DT Steve McClendon off their practice squad.
  • VIKINGS – QB Brett Favre said he expects to start Sunday’s game against the Patriots.

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