Bills brace for run-happy Chiefs

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Associated Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- All the Buffalo Bills need to do to learn what the run-happy Kansas City Chiefs are like without Priest Holmes is look at last weekend.

Time running out. Ball at the Oakland 1. Larry Johnson dives over the pile for a winning touchdown.

No Priest, no problem. And forget Kansas City attempting a potential tying field goal in a 27-23 victory. That's how much confidence the Chiefs possess in their running attack.

''I wasn't surprised,'' said linebacker London Fletcher, whose Bills (3-5) host the Chiefs (5-3) on Sunday.

''They're very confident running the ball in that situation,'' added safety Troy Vincent. ''They know they can get it done.''

So it's no consolation for Bills defenders that the Chiefs placed Holmes on injured reserve this week because of head and neck injuries, ending the three-time Pro Bowl running back's season.

Johnson, Holmes' backup, has the potential of being just as big of a threat, particularly on a team with a strong offensive line.

''My goodness, are you kidding?'' defensive tackle Sam Adams said, referring to Johnson. ''First-round pick, isn't he? He's a good back and he's going to be great for a long time. He's got three All-Pros on the offensive line, so it's difficult to be terrible with that.''

The challenge for Buffalo is putting the skids on a Chiefs team that averages 4.3 yards per carry, runs the ball 10 more times a game than it passes, and has produced 13 touchdowns rushing.

It's a dicey matchup for a suddenly porous and banged-up defense that's given up 1,206 yards rushing, 398 short of what it allowed all last season. And it's a unit that in its last three games has given up eight touchdowns rushing, two more than all last year.

The Bills spent their bye last week attempting to address their troubles, knowing exactly what they're in for against Kansas City.

''They're the type of team that's going to continue to pound and pound and pound,'' Adams said. ''They physically wear you down. We're prepared for that and we're going to have to address that.''

The game is a midseason matchup between two teams still in playoff contention.

The Bills, despite their poor start and coming off two straight losses, are still in the hunt in an AFC East race with division-leading New England (4-4) vulnerable.

The Chiefs, who have won three of four, are a game behind Denver (6-2) in the AFC West, and hoping to carry over the momentum of last week's dramatic win.

''I think you gain confidence from doing the difficult things in this game,'' Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said. ''And you've got to be able to play the next game, or else what you did last week was a waste of time.''

Vermeil has confidence in Johnson, who's gradually earned more playing time in his third NFL season.

Johnson leads the Chiefs with 506 yards rushing and 5.2 yards per carry this season. Kansas City is 5-0 when Johnson has 100 yards rushing and 9-2 when he scores.

''Larry Johnson has accepted it. He knows he's got a lot of responsibility,'' Vermeil said. ''He knows he's already carried the load. He knows he can do it. ... Larry will do fine.''

The test for the Kansas City also comes on defense.

Although they've improved against the run this season, the Chiefs have been poor against the pass, and their secondary is banged up with cornerbacks Patrick Surtain (knee), Dexter McCleon (groin) and Eric Warfield (hip) listed as questionable.

The Bills' strength is their Willis McGahee-led running attack, but they're beginning to discover a passing attack under journeyman Kelly Holcomb, who has started the last four games in place of J.P. Losman.

Holcomb's 263 yards passing in a 21-16 loss at New England on Oct. 30 were the most for Buffalo in 12 games dating to last season.

For Kansas City, the key is stopping McGahee.

''Hit him and wrap him up,'' said defensive end Jared Allen. ''We've been facing good backs all year. It's just another challenge.''

Surtain spent seven seasons with Miami before joining the Chiefs this year and is very familiar with the challenges of playing at Buffalo, where the Bills are 3-1 this year.

''The win last week gave us the confidence we needed,'' Surtain said. ''But in no way, shape or form are we looking at Buffalo as a guaranteed win for us. They've got some talented players on their team, and they play real well at home.''

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