View Full Version : Priest. Just about the only love we are getting right now.

10-26-2007, 01:15 AM
Herm Edwards is supposed to be a conservative coach, but this was like letting Uncle Louie the Lush carry the newborn out of the hospital.
And Priest Holmes (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/4047/;_ylt=Ap6.r1hCnnKVDCPomhaeGYKr0op4), bless his rusty and resilient soul, made his coach look like a seer. Thrilling everyone on his team not named Larry Johnson (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/6363/;_ylt=AvKYwkeTFNGpcN6QZZushw6r0op4), the 34-year-old halfback ripped around left end and muscled ahead for 8 yards that may go a long, long way toward raising his team from the ranks of the mediocre.
Such is life in a league in which two teams are playing for supremacy and a place in history while the other 30 slog it out for a bronze medal, with seemingly innocuous sequences like the one that played out at McAfee Coliseum late Sunday afternoon destined to determine who subsists into January.
As Chiefs quarterback Damon Huard (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/4180/;_ylt=AqZ93R6BRtfde0LrK3Qqe3ar0op4) said after KC's 12-10 victory over the Raiders, "This whole thing is a fight. Other than the Patriots and the Colts, anybody can beat anybody in this league on any given day. With our defense playing the way it is, if we on offense don't screw it up, we can win a lot of games."
That Kansas City ran a few key plays down the stretch of Sunday's game without Johnson, the former frustrated backup who skyrocketed to stardom once he assumed Holmes' featured role, wasn't so shocking to Edwards' players. While Holmes didn't get the Chiefs all the way home – after the Raiders forced a punt and drove to their 44, safety Jarrad Page (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/7977;_ylt=At66Nnsu1txF_bQTZkGkc3ur0op4)'s interception with 46 seconds remaining clinched the game for the visitors – seeing the franchise's career rushing leader in the huddle with the game on the line carried a multi-layered significance.
This wasn't just about Holmes making an emotional return from the devastating neck injury that was supposed to have ended his career on Oct. 30, 2005. Rather, for the Chiefs, Holmes' presence is viewed as a harbinger of hope. To them, having him back is a tangible indication that this team's offensive struggles, from coordinator Mike Solari's unpopular play-calling to Johnson's seeming aversion to protecting his quarterback, may be at least somewhat surmountable.
"Things are about to get very interesting, because we're looking at a full-fledged running back controversy here," one Chiefs veteran said Sunday. “(Johnson) hasn't been playing all that well, and he's not big on pass-blocking – and Priest has looked good in practice, like the Priest of old. They've got to get him in there, and it'll be interesting to see how (Johnson) responds, because I could definitely see a blowup coming."
As bleak as that assessment sounds, most Kansas City players managed to put a positive spin on the potentially awkward situation. It's not like the two men are on equal ground, anyway: Johnson, who ran for 112 yards on 24 carries against the Raiders, including a 54-yard burst on a deft cutback midway through the third quarter, is obviously the franchise's present and future, having signed a five-year contract extension in August that included a reported $19 million in guaranteed money.
Holmes, who admitted he was nervous before taking his first hit on Sunday, still has to prove he can handle the pounding on a protracted basis. He didn't do much in his first game back, getting nailed for a 6-yard loss on a screen pass and gaining just 9 yards on four carries.
To his teammates, however, Holmes' return went far beyond the stat sheet.
"When Priest first came into the game, the whole defense got up and stood on the sidelines to see what he was gonna do," veteran Kansas City cornerback Ty Law (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/3188/;_ylt=AtitjalfpE0dMpZjMyFmNo6r0op4) said. "He was looking great in practice this week, and we're a little disappointed he didn't get the ball more."
Star tight end Tony Gonzalez (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/3950/;_ylt=Arl_wdEnKrIFonzNGw8eGV2r0op4) went even further, saying Holmes' return could be the key to shaking the team from its offensive slumber. The Chiefs, who at 4-3 hold a surprising lead in a bunched-up division over the Chargers (3-3), Broncos (3-3) and Raiders (2-4), have won four of their last five but have been held under 14 points in all but two games this season.
"I still think we're underachieving, especially on offense," Gonzalez said. "We have the talent to be much better, and now, with Priest back, there's no reason we can’t score 24 points a game. If we could've done that every game, we'd be undefeated, and people would be talking about us along with the Patriots and the Colts.
"Of course, there are reasons we're not undefeated. Our offense isn't playing the way it's supposed to play."
And whose fault is that?
"It's a combination of things," Gonzalez said. "It's guys missing assignments, and it has to do with the positions we're being put in."
That was a clear reference to Solari, the second-year offensive coordinator who has been privately criticized by several players in recent weeks. "I just said something (expressing dissatisfaction) to him a minute ago," Gonzalez said. "But the bottom line is, if a play is called we've got to execute it, myself included. On one play today, I didn't like the call and I didn't block my guy, and we didn't get the first down. That's on me."
By the time Gonzalez finished dressing at his locker he was smiling again, perhaps mindful that his team is in a position most observers didn't believe was realistic a couple of months ago, when the Chargers were supposed to be on par with the Pats and Colts. Though Kansas City made the playoffs as a wild card team in '06, Edwards' first season, the offseason departures of quarterback Trent Green (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/2547/;_ylt=AsPLVlwGfkE_RAXzhv8KiGSr0op4) and Pro Bowl guard Will Shields (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/2445/;_ylt=AlGwrnjfE1C0gNzzpF5tW96r0op4) bolstered a general belief that the team was on the decline.
Featured during the summer on HBO's "Hard Knocks," the title seemed an apt one for the Chiefs as they proceeded to lose all four preseason games and opened the regular season with defeats to Houston and Chicago.
Now, heading into a bye weekend, they're one of many similarly matched contenders trying to transcend their flaws while dreaming of competing with the Big Two.
"People forget we were a playoff team last year," Gonzalez said. "Now Priest is back, and having him there to bust that run at the end of the game is a luxury. Once he gets going, we'll have one of the best one-two punches in the league. We can come at you with two different speeds.
"I hope it stays positive. It'll push Larry a little bit, and it should, but in a positive way. He shouldn't feel threatened, but it should make him better. Competition brings out the best in people."
On this day, in this competitive division, Holmes' presence may have been the difference between first and last.