The Kansas City Chiefs’ reputation of being an offensive juggernaut may be slowly fading away, as injuries and age have taken a toll on an offensive line that has been one of the reasons for the team’s success.
The Chiefs look to shore up their offense against the team with the worst record in the NFL when they visit the Houston Texans.
“The first thing you don’t do is panic,” Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil said Monday after the Chiefs lost 14-3 at Buffalo Sunday, the first time they were held without a touchdown since the 2002 regular-season finale.
“Even as bad as we are, we’re the ninth-ranked (eighth) offense in the NFL. The trouble is, you keep looking at what we were. We’re not that. We’ll get some of that back. You don’t panic but you’d better adjust.”
Larry Johnson had 132 yards rushing in Kansas City’s first game since three-time Pro Bowler Priest Holmes was placed on injured reserve. But only 32 of those yards came after halftime and the Chiefs didn’t come close to the end zone against the Bills.
Quarterback Trent Green was under pressure for much of the game and Kansas City couldn’t find a rhythm, despite playing against the NFL’s second-worst run defense.
“It’s embarrassing,” tight end Tony Gonzalez said. “For us to only go out there and score three points is inexcusable.”
Part of the problem has been the decline of linemen Willie Roaf and Will Shields, 13-year veterans who have each made 10 Pro Bowl appearances. Roaf has been hampered by injuries all season and has missed multiple games while Shields has been slowed by nagging injuries that haven’t allowed him to be the dominant player he once was.
Without Roaf and Shields playing at a high level, the Chiefs have been forced to play inexperienced linemen at different positions and have had to use Gonzalez to provide blocking help. Roaf is listed as questionable, though Vermeil said he is “making progress.”
Kansas City needs a strong effort against Houston, because after this contest, every opponent left on the Chiefs’ schedule has a winning record.
The Texans also have a tough schedule. Houston lost 31-17 to undefeated Indianapolis last Sunday, their second defeat to the Colts this season. Houston has also lost to Pittsburgh (7-2), Seattle (7-2) and Cincinnati (7-2).
The Texans said they need to get back to basics on defense.
“Every day in practice we’re going to do some type of tackling drill, and we’re going to do some type of leverage drill,” said Houston coach Dom Capers, whose team has the league’s worst run defense. “I think that’s where it all starts.”
The Texans are still plagued by an offensive line that doesn’t allow quarterback David Carr time to find open receivers. Carr has been sacked 46 times in nine games and is on pace to break his own record of 76 sacks set in 2002.
Things didn’t get much better for the Texans’ offensive line in the loss to the Colts as tackle Todd Wade likely is done for the season after injuring his knee. He is the third starter on the line to go down with an injury. Center Drew Hodgdon (foot) is out for the season and guard Zach Wiegert has missed several games with a high ankle sprain.
Wiegert is expected to return after missing the last four games with a high ankle sprain. But he’ll play at right tackle as Capers tries for some sort of continuity by keeping Victor Riley at right guard, where he played last week.
Running back Domanick Davis, who has missed the last two games with a knee injury, is also expected to return this week. Davis leads the Texans with 547 yards and is on pace for another 1,000-yard season after accomplishing the feat in each of his first two years in the league.