Chiefs' put up beleaguered defense in battle of winless

Saturday, September 25th 2004, 5:49 pm
By: News On 6

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Fantasy league players not making Houston's Domanick Davis this week's primary pick have not been paying attention.

With only 130 yards rushing, Davis would be the third running back in three weeks to drill Kansas City's ``Career Day Defense'' for his most productive game as an NFL back.

And the way the winless Chiefs have been missing tackles and blowing assignments, 130 seems little to ask.

First it was Denver's Quentin Griffin going 156 yards in a 38-24 victory. Last week, DeShaun Foster, subbing for an injured starter no less, breezed for 174 yards to lead Carolina's 28-17 win.

Each total was the player's career high, creating increasing pressure and deepening embarrassment for a defense that added virtually no new players _ only a new coordinator _ after finishing 29th overall last year.

``We're trying so hard to get this first win, to get this monkey off our back,'' said safety Jerome Woods, who went to the Pro Bowl last year in his eighth season. ``We're just going to have to go out and play better than we did the last couple of weeks. Once we figure out how to stop the big plays, I think we'll be all right.''

While preparing for the only game this week between 0-2 teams, the Chiefs have taken careful note of Davis' propensity to cough up the ball.

The Texans have outgained each opponent in their defeats. But they've been scuttled by an unappealing minus-6 turnover differential, thanks largely to Davis' four lost fumbles.

``We want to keep him in that profile, try to get the ball on the ground, make it into a basketball game and try to force (quarterback David) Carr into some interceptions, get some turnovers,'' said defensive end Eric Hicks.

Not lost on Davis and the Texans are Kansas City's problems on defense, particularly the way running backs have been rewriting their career stats.

``From the little bit of film we watched, we can do some things if we protect the ball and do what we have to do,'' Davis said.

But he also knows the Chiefs are certain to bear down on his own nasty habit.

``Everyone's trying to strip it now,'' he said. ``I'm like the main target, so I know they're going to come after me and try to strip it, so I have to try to protect it.''

Despite their turnover troubles, Houston coach Dom Capers said the Texans did not spend undue practice time learning to hold on to the football.

``We spent the normal time that we do,'' he said. ``We try to emphasize with our guys on defense that we want them to strip the ball every time we hand the ball off or our receivers have the ball downfield _ that we want them punching at the football to make our offensive players conscious of locking that thing away and protecting it.''

The Chiefs' biggest problem for three years has been a tendency to get gouged for big gainers, such as the team-record 71-yard sprint Foster broke on Sunday.

``You see their defense play well at times, they've just been struck by the big play,'' said Capers.

The Texans have the NFL's longest losing streak at six, going back to last season. But the Chiefs in their last six games are 2-4.

The Chiefs, 13-3 last year and AFC West champions, have been sputtering on offense as well as defense. Quarterback Trent Green has thrown only one touchdown pass, and against Carolina the offense managed only one TD.

Additionally, there was concern that injuries could sideline All-Pro running back Priest Holmes and wide receiver Eddie Kennison, or at least keep them from going full speed.

``I am hopeful they will be able to play,'' coach Dick Vermeil said.

``What scares me is (the Texans) are a better football team than 0-2. I just told the football team, the reason they're 0-2 is more easily defined than the reason we're 0-2 and their problems are more easily correctable than ours are.''