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Chiefs sink to 28th in defense, break-even in standings


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ After losing two straight games and sinking to 28th in the NFL in total defense, the Kansas City Chiefs could be in for a tough week of practice.

Coach Gunther Cunningham even seemed to be making thinly veiled threats to his young defensive players in the wake of Sunday's 21-7 loss to a San Francisco team that had lost five in a row.

Asked if the defensive players were ready to ``shake off'' the reasons for their lack of effectiveness, Cunningham snapped, ``They'd better be.''

``If they don't shake it off, then I'm going to start shaking some guys around here,'' he said. ``The way I'm going, the intensity I live with personally day-to-day, we've got to get something done. It's wearing me out having to adjust my life very two seconds to make sure they're OK. I think somewhere along the line they've got to take it on themselves to take care of the old coach, too.''

For the second week in a row the Chiefs (5-5) failed to get any sort of running game going and got beat badly in time of possession. The 49ers, who came into the game ranked last in six defensive categories, held the ball for 36 minutes 10 seconds to Kansas City's 23 minutes and 50 seconds.

``When the defense gets out there they have to convert the third downs,'' Cunningham said. ``This week (the 49ers) were 6-for-12 on first downs and 5-for-7 in the first half, when they scored three touchdowns. We can't let that happen.''

William Bartee, a second-round pick from Oklahoma, may be about to unseat Patrick Dennis, another rookie, as starting cornerback. Other changes could be pending at linebacker, where Mike Maslowski played well Sunday in place of Lew Bush. In addition, defensive end Eric Hicks may return this weekend against Buffalo after sitting out three weeks with a knee injury.

Cunningham said he had a clear-the-air talk with his slumping team before practice Monday.

``The meeting centered around the defense, playing with emotion and excitement and tackling people,'' he said. ``We're giving up five-minute drives left and right and when the offense gets on the field, we're not able to execute. We don't get the ball enough. Yesterday, we had the ball 10 drives and you don't win in the NFL with just 10 drives.''

With Elvis Grbac's passing game not in sync, the Chiefs were again hamstrung by lack of a running game. Against the 49ers, they ran just 15 times for 50 yards.

``I believe we can run the ball,'' said center Tim Grunhard. ``Obviously there are a lot of people who believe we can't because we haven't shown it. You run the ball 21 times in two games, how do you know? We used to run the ball 21 times in one half.''

The Chiefs are home Sunday against Buffalo after three consecutive trips to the West Coast, where they beat Seattle and lost to Oakland and San Francisco.

``It's about time,'' said Grunhard. ``Especially when you're traveling 3,000 miles.''

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