Chiefs gather strength, stay away from letdown

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Week after week they roll up win after win. Instead of leveling off, the Kansas City Chiefs appear to be gathering strength.

So where is this letdown people say the NFL's last unbeaten team is prime to have?

"We expect to play well," coach Dick Vermeil said icily. "I know there are a lot of people who think ... that you're bound for a letdown, or a letup, or whatever you want to call it. We don't approach it that way."

Nevertheless, it does seem logical to think that any collection of imperfect human beings will, at some point, have a bad day at the office.

It seems especially predictable in such a demanding and high-performance business as the NFL. Vermeil himself keeps saying there are no bad teams in the National Football League.

The perfect place and time for the Chiefs to be a bit off their game would seem to be this Sunday at Cincinnati.

At 9-0, they own an almost insurmountable four-game lead in the AFC West, and they're two games ahead of their nearest pursuers in the drive for home field advantage.

The Bengals, although apparently on the ascent, are still with more losses than wins. And wide receiver Chad Johnson obligingly supplied some welcome bulletin board material by guaranteeing a Cincinnati win.

So wouldn't it be OK for the Chiefs to relax just a bit on this quick trip to Ohio?

Here's where the experience of their 67-year-old coach may come to the aid of the unbeatens.

"I've had some negative experiences in Cincinnati," Vermeil said.

"I think a couple of my (Philadelphia) Eagles teams played about as close to the top week in and week out, except one time we went to Cincinnati and got beat 31-17 or something like that to a team that had only won one or two games. And we had won 10 or 11 at the time. I remember that."

If their last two games are any indication, the Chiefs are only getting better.

The game before their bye week, they crushed Buffalo 38-5, getting seven turnovers. Then last Sunday they were sharper still. Trent Green threw three touchdown passes, Priest Holmes ran for two touchdowns in a 41-20 rout of Cleveland.

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