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Chiefs defense is on the rise as offense goes into decline

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ If sports is a metaphor for life, then let Trent Green's unconscious body symbolize the decline of Kansas City's once-mighty offense.

The offense, just like its formerly ironman quarterback, is hurt. Key players like guard Will Shields and center Casey Wiegmann are aging. Others, such as tackle Willie Roaf and fullback Tony Richardson, are gone.

For five years, nobody scored more touchdowns or gained more yards than Kansas City's Green-directed attack.

But now Green is recovering from a severe concussion that left him motionless on the turf on Sept. 10. And the Chiefs are taking stock during an early bye week of an 0-2 record and an offense that in eight quarters has produced exactly one touchdown.

One factor, and new coach Herm Edwards admits this, is someone new is sitting in the offensive coordinator's chair. Mike Solari was promoted from offensive line coach to replace Al Saunders, and like anybody asked to do something difficult that he's never done before, Solari is learning as he goes.

But even when the offense gets back on its feet, it'll never be the same force that broke team and NFL records for five high-performance seasons under Dick Vermeil and Saunders.

Edwards frankly admits he does not want it to be.

Edwards played defense in the NFL and points out, correctly, that a great offense and woeful defense during the Vermeil years scored a lot of touchdowns, but resulted in not one playoff win.

``When a new coach takes over, regardless of what's happened in the past, he inherits players and he has to decide which players to keep and which players are going to fit because things are going to change,'' Edwards said. ``I didn't come here to put a bandage on what was going on.''

Already, he's been accused of being too conservative. That was especially true when the Chiefs attempted only 23 passes with Green's backup, Damon Huard, in a 9-6 overtime loss last week at Denver.

``This thing has changed,'' he said. ``I know people don't like to hear that, but it's the truth. I can't sugarcoat it. I'm not going to do things Coach Vermeil's way.

``He had his way of doing it. I've got to do it my way. If I've got to take a step backward to go two steps forward, I'll do that. I'm a patient guy. People don't want to hear that, but when the program changes, what are you going to do? I wish I could speed it up more and I wish we didn't have any pain with it. There's always pain.''

Ironically, as the offense goes into decline, the defense appears to be moving, for the first time in more than five years, toward respectability and even beyond.

Sure, Denver quarterback Jake Plummer is having problems. But the Chiefs last week became the first defense in 45 years to hold the Broncos scoreless in the first half at home.

``I think this defense can be good. Real good,'' said cornerback Patrick Surtain, joined this year by former Pro Bowl cornerback Ty Law.

``We've just got to believe. Last year we had pretty good games and then we'd come back and stink up the place. If we stay consistent and believe in what we're doing, we have a chance to be one of the top defenses in the league.''

So how come KC can never to be good on both sides of the ball at the same time?

When former linebacker Marty Schottenheimer was head coach, the Chiefs led the NFL in 1995 and '97 in fewest points allowed. But typical was a playoff loss to Indianapolis: The defense gave up only 10 points, but the offense scored only seven.

Then came Vermeil. Up soared the offense. Down plunged the defense.

Typical was a playoff loss to, yes, Indianapolis. The offense scored 31 points. But the defense gave up 38.

``Each team takes on the mentality of its head coach,'' Surtain said. ``Obviously, Marty was a defensive guy. (Vermeil) was an offensive guy. Now we have Herm, who was a defensive guy. Players tend to take on the mentality of their head coach. I'm not saying our offense still isn't a great offense. But we're still just getting back to playing defense.

In the meantime, everybody wonders when Green will return.

``I don't try to anticipate when he's coming back because you emotionally get excited, and all of a sudden it doesn't happen,'' Edwards said. ``I think you just wait and when the doctors decide and he decides he can start moving around and start working out.

``That's one of the phases, and then you go to where he can start practicing a little bit. That's another phase.''

It will not be a case of Green jumping out of bed one fine morning and rejoining the huddle.

``It's going to be steps. And they're his steps and on his time, not on my time,'' Edwards said. ``It's going to be a process and whenever that time slot is, it is.''
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