Chiefs Befuddled By Bucs' Schemes
Ira Kaufman, The Tampa Tribune, published 8 November 2004

Each time Vonnie Holliday thought about the final score, it hurt a little more. An hour after the game, the veteran defensive end was still distraught the Chiefs came up on the short end of a 34-31 shootout at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, dropping Kansas City to 3-5 and undermining any momentum from two impressive home victories.

``Just when you feel like you've got this thing going, the Bucs come out with a good attack plan and give us all sorts of problems with misdirection,'' Holliday said after Tampa Bay rolled up 23 first downs and 418 yards. ``We thought they'd come out running, but [quarterback Brian] Griese picked his spots and played great. If you would have told me we'd get 31 points today, I would have said we'd win in a blowout.''

With an extra week to prepare, Jon Gruden submerged himself in game film and ripped a page out of the Denver playbook. The Broncos confused the Chiefs in winning the season opener 34-24 as Jake Plummer rolled left and right off play action and kept finding targets open downfield. On Sunday, it was Griese's turn to befuddle a defense that thought it had made some strides under new coordinator Gunther Cunningham. ``When you give up 34 points, you are not going forward,'' Coach Dick Vermeil said of a unit that yielded five touchdown drives of at least 67 yards and failed to force a turnover.

The Bucs threw on eight of their first 10 snaps and Kansas City defenders were repeatedly caught out of position. Linebackers bit at run fakes, opening up the middle for crossing routes as Griese posted a quarterback rating of 111.9. ``Tampa Bay played extremely well, especially on offense,'' Chiefs president Carl Peterson said. ``When your offense scores 31 points on the road, you should win that game. I think the week off gave the Bucs more of a opportunity to look at plays that have hurt us in the past.''

Griese threw with poise and precision and Michael Pittman opened the second half with a 78-yard burst, scoring untouched on a simple run off right tackle. ``We didn't fit right on the play,'' Holliday said. ``He came though with a lead blocker and once Pittman gets going, you're not going to catch him.''

Despite yielding 9.0 yards a snap against the Colts last week, the Chiefs came away encouraged about their defensive effort. Tampa Bay averaged 7.6 yards and the Bucs defense made enough second-half plays to provide confidence heading into Sunday's game against NFC South leader Atlanta. ``Unfortunately, they matched us for every score,'' said Chiefs running back Priest Holmes. ``The Bucs seemed like they were definitely ready for us.''

Holmes entered the game as the NFL's No. 1 rusher, but he was limited to 59 yards in 16 carries and suffered a bruise to his right knee late in the third quarter. ``Any time you lose someone of Priest's caliber, it's a huge loss,'' quarterback Trent Green said.

Holmes indicated he wanted to go back in, but Vermeil's postgame remarks suggested the Pro Bowl back said he was too hurt to return in crunch time. Once again, the Chiefs will find themselves trying to defend a suspect defense that appears to lack play-makers. ``We just couldn't stop their bootleg pass ... couldn't stop it all day,'' defensive tackle John Browning said. ``We should be able to win with 31 points. That's just pitiful.''