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Cheifs Chatter


Monday Morning Quarterback:
Saunders growing as offensive coordinator

12/17/2001

by CK Rairden
Landmark columnist

Tears flowed from Dick Vermeil at Arrowhead on Sunday. No, not when Gary Stills was called for a holding penalty to take a game-winning FG by kicker Todd Peterson off the board in overtime and force another attempt.

No, not when Peterson shanked his mulligan like a hacker on a public golf course on the second try.

Not even when Peterson finally hit the game winner later in OT to give the Chiefs a 26-23 victory over the Denver Broncos.

Head coach Dick Vermeil choked up, then teared up in the post game press conference as he was speaking of the growth of his team and how his “kids are buying into (the program)”

Offensively, I think he’s right.

For the second straight week the Chiefs offense piled up over 395 yards. For the second straight week they scored 26 points. With a kicker that can hit a short FG the Chiefs would be on a 2-game winning streak.

The Chiefs “triplets”, RB Priest Holmes, QB Trent Green and TE Tony Gonzalez performed once again. Holmes was as dominant as ever, with 129 total yards. Gonzalez was shut out in the first half, but a big part of the second half game plan grabbing 3 catches for 53 yards. QB Trent Green is finally protecting the ball and delivering. He finished 17-21 for 292 yards and a TD.

His QB rating for the game was 114.8.

On the offensive coaching side, the improvement is glaring. The Broncos threatened newly acquired WR Eddie Kennison with ‘cheap shots’ during last week’s media banter and offensive coordinator Al Saunders got him involved early. It paid off later in the game as Kennison made both a big catch and a big run on an end around. The mixture of pass and run was near perfect.

“Al Saunders has continued to grow,” Dick Vermeil would say.

The adjustments and growth are obvious and welcome. He is using his personnel in a way that is resulting in not only progress, but also results.

There were problems though.

The pick up of the blitzes was non-existent. The offensive line was suspect on many passing plays as Green was under heavy pressure far too much. The false start by OT John Tait late in the 4th quarter was inexcusable. The line missed some assignments and QB Trent Green paid for them. He took some big hits, but to his credit kept getting up.

The decision to allow Priest Holmes to go the sidelines on a third or fourth and short yardage and allow FB Tony Richardson the carry must be re-examined. Holmes is now one of the top 5 backs in the league and demands respect from opposing defenses. Even if he is not to be used on that particular play—he is a good decoy.

It’s too late for this season as far as the playoffs are concerned. The Chiefs have now been relegated to spoilers and played that role very well as they struck a damning blow to the Broncos playoff opportunity for this season.

But, it’s not too late to see growth and as a measuring stick to see what players will be invited to camp for next season. The team has a chance to finish strong, and give the fans something to grasp onto for these last three games and into the off-season.

Before the game head coach Dick Vermeil told anyone who would listen that he believed his team has turned the corner.

There are three “meaningless” games left for his team.

It should be interesting to see if he is correct