Chiefs' Grbac Poised for Leadership

Monday, October 2nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Preparing a defensive plan for Kansas City must have seemed strange to Mike Holmgren's Seattle staff.

Where have all those predictable, ground-hugging Chiefs gone? Who are these guys running for 166 yards the past two weeks and passing for — how much? — 485?

And what about this accurate, confident quarterback they're calling Air Elvis?

Looks a lot like Elvis Grbac, the guy defensive coordinators used to have in mind when they devised schemes to beat the Chiefs by stopping their rushing attack and forcing their quarterback to throw.

``I see a lot of the same things on defense,'' Holmgren said. ``But I see some different things on offense.''

As an assistant in San Francisco, Holmgren became acquainted with Grbac, who was then an apprentice quarterback hungry for a chance to play.

``I've always had respect for Elvis Grbac. Given the opportunity to throw it around, I thought he was capable of doing that,'' Holmgren said. ``Passing the ball can actually be a lot of fun. You can get pretty good at it.''

The Chiefs (2-2) are 4 1/2 -point favorites over the Seahawks (2-2), who took a five-game winning streak on Monday night into the game. Both teams lost their first two games of the year, but rebounded to win their next two.

Grbac, who has 10 touchdown passes and only four interceptions, did not expect the Chiefs' new philosophy to escape the attention of the Seahawks.

``The last couple of games, we've really done a good job of working within our game plan both in the passing and running game,'' he said.

``I think we'll be trying to do what ever it takes to win. Will we run the ball 40 times? If that's what it takes to win.''

One reason for the Chiefs have thrown the ball more often is an improved corps of receivers. Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez caught 10 balls for 127 yards and a touchdown last week at Denver and rookie wide receiver Sylvester Morris caught three of Grbac's five TD passes against San Diego the week before that.

Chiefs coach Gunther Cunningham, a proud graduate of the old school of football strategy that says run first and pass later, has been somewhat defensive about his team's new air attack.

``We have more playmakers than we had a year ago,'' he said. ''(Opponents) are starting to pay for it when they come down with extra men on the line of scrimmage.

``The development of the offense is coming along fine. Not only is Elvis throwing the ball well, the receivers are making some good catches.''

Even more uncharacteristic than the Chiefs' air-oriented offense was Seattle's three-game winning streak in the series. They beat the Chiefs at home in the final of their two meetings in 1998. Then, in Holmgren's first year as Seattle's head coach and general manager, Seattle swept the Chiefs two games in 1999 for the first time since 1977-78. Their 31-19 victory in Kansas City snapped an eight-game losing skid for the Seahawks in Arrowhead.

The Seahawks, 2-16 in Arrowhead, have never beaten the Chiefs four in a row.

``It had been so long since they'd won a game there,'' Holmgren said. ``I think for the players who had been here and gone in there and lost, it really did something for them. For those of us who were new in Seattle, it was just the first game of a new rivalry, so to speak.''