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Packers-Chiefs Preview


Coming off one of their most efficient and explosive performances in recent seasons, fashioned in toppling the Seattle Seahawks from the unbeaten ranks, the Green Bay Packers (3-2) will have little time to luxuriate in the memory.

Having disposed of the Seahawks (35-13), they must quickly focus on another unbeaten opponent, Kansas City's 5-0 Chiefs, who invade Lambeau Field next Sunday (Oct. 12).

Kickoff for the contest, a customary season-ticket sellout (72,515) is set for 12 noon, CDT (Wisconsin time).

The Chiefs come to Titletown after preserving their spotless record with a cliff-hanging, 24-23 win over Denver and taking full possession of the AFC West Division lead in dealing the Broncos their first loss over the weekend.

The Packers, winning back-to-back games for the first time this season, meanwhile remained within two games of the NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings, who parlayed their record to 5-0 with a 39-26 road win over the Atlanta Falcons.

In the process, the Green and Gold squared accounts with their former coach, Mike Holmgren, evening the score for a 27-7 loss his Seahawks dealt the Green and Gold upon his first return visit to Lambeau Field in 1999 - three years after leading the Packers to victory in Super Bowl XXXI.

The win also gave Packers GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman a leg up on his former boss, whom he opposed for the first time as a head coach. Sherman, ironically, had been the offensive coordinator on Holmgren's staff on the latter's successful, 1999 return to Lambeau Field.

With respect to the Chiefs, the Packers will be in search of their first victory over Kansas City since 1987, when they defeated the Missourians, 23-3, in KC's Arrowhead Stadium.

Next Sunday's principals have met four times since and the Chiefs have won them all - the first two in Green Bay in 1989 (21-3) and 1990 (17-3) and the last two in Kansas City, in 1993 (23-16) and in 1996 (27-20).

THE TV-RADIO COVERAGE: Dick Enberg will call the play-by-play and Dan Dierdorf will handle the analysis for the CBS telecast of Sunday's game, with Bonnie Bernstein reporting from the field. Lance Barrow is the producer and Mike Arnold directs.

The game also will be broadcast over the 62-station Packers Radio Network, with Wayne Larrivee delivering the play-by-play and Larry McCarren offering the commentary and analysis. The radio broadcast also will be available on for NFL Field Pass subscribers.

Additionally, the game will be aired nationally by the Sports USA Radio Network, with John Rooney handling the play-by-play, Stan Brock the analysis and Tina Cervasio reporting from the sideline. Brian Neil is the producer.

THE SERIES: The Packers' relationship with the Kansas City Chiefs is unique. They met for the first time in the "The Big Dance" - the very first Super Bowl - and, although they did meet in this year's storm-shortened Hall of Fame Game, their paths have seldom crossed since.

Their matchup in Lambeau Field next Sunday thus will mark only the eighth time they have met in a regular-season series that began 30 years ago - with a 10-10 tie at Milwaukee County Stadium on Oct. 14, 1973.

Since their 35-10 conquest of Kansas City in Super Bowl I (it was retroactively so-named), the Packers have had a conspicuous lack of success against the Chiefs, who have won five of their six meetings since that '73 standoff and, along the way, even temporarily "interrupted" the Green and Gold's most recent drive to Super Bowl success, posting a 27-20 victory in KC's Arrowhead Stadium and thus dealing the Packers the second of only three defeats en route to a 13-3 record and their subsequent triumph over the New England Patriots in SB XXXI.

In the wake of their weather-"tailored" encounter at Canton, Ohio, Aug. 4, the Packers and Chiefs are 5-and-5 in 11 preseason meetings, including one tie, a 21-21 standoff played at Milwaukee in 1988.

The Chiefs prevailed in the HOF contest, 9-0, by way two field goals off the venerable left foot of 43-year-old Morten Andersen, plus and a final, 27-yarder by Jose Cortez, registered before the game was initially delayed with 5:49 remaining in the third quarter when lightning streaked across the Canton sky, accompanied by rumbling thunder and a veritable deluge from above.

As it turned out, play was not to resume. With water standing in large puddles across the stadium turf, and rain still pouring down - assuring treacherous footing for the players and continuing risk for the fans - NFL Executive Vice President Roger Goodell called the contest.

THE COACHES: Mike Sherman, invariably positive, highly organized and remarkably consistent, has entrenched himself among the elite head coaches in the National Football League and the premier field leaders in the Packers' distinguished history with impressive dispatch.

In his first three seasons (2000-2002), the tireless New Englander presided over more victories (33) than any other head coach in the Packers' 84-year annals, thus heading a prestigious list which includes team founder Curly Lambeau, Vince Lombardi and Mike Holmgren.

Sherman also has matched another Lombardi achievement by leading the Packers into the playoffs in only his second year as head coach. He likewise has gone one up on Lombardi by escorting the Packers to victory in his first postseason game. The latter is an accomplishment that eluded Lombardi, who lost his initial playoff game as Green Bay's field leader.

En route, he has established himself in a substantially expanded role (he added the titles s of executive vice president and general manager to his résumé after one season as head coach, following Ron Wolf's retirement as general manager) while leading Green Bay to three consecutive winning seasons and, in 2002, to its first division championship since 1997 on the way to a second consecutive playoff appearance, earning Sherman Staples 'Coach of the Year' honors.

Assuming the additional duties with typically total commitment and literally without missing a step, he led the Packers to back-to-back 12-and-4 records in 2001 and 2002, the Green and Gold thus becoming the winningest team in the NFL over that two-year span (24-8).

Moreover, the 12-4 marks have been exceeded by only four teams in the club's 82-year NFL history and the 12-12 parlay was only the second coupling in team annals (12 or more victories in back-to-back seasons).

Along the way, the 48-year-old Northborough, Mass., native has surpassed the regular-season achievements of the storied Lombardi over a comparable span, forging a 33-15-0 mark in his first three seasons compared to Lombardi's 26-12-0 while the latter served as the Packers' head coach and general manager (1959-61). Sherman's current regular-season coaching record stands at 36-17.

In the process, Sherman has made Lambeau and uncomfortable venue to visit for NFL rivals. Since he checked in at 1265 Lombardi Avenue in 2000, the Green and Gold have compiled an imposing 23-4 home record, the best regular-season mark in the NFL during that span - including the NFL's only perfect home record (8-0) in 2002.

The first man in a half-century to shoulder his tri-cornered role - since Lambeau served as vice president, general manager and head coach in 1949 - Sherman brings multiple credentials to his substantial responsibilities. They include a Super Bowl following the 1997 season, during which he was a member of the Holmgren coaching staff that led the Packers into SB XXXII against the Denver Broncos at San Diego.

It was the first of three consecutive years in the playoffs for Sherman, who returned to the postseason as tight ends coach with the Packers in 1998 and as the offensive coordinator on Holmgren's staff at Seattle in 1999.

Sherman, now in his 26th year in the coaching profession, began his coaching career at Stamford, Conn., High School in 1978. The Central Connecticut State University alumnus went on to coach in the college ranks for 16 years, his résumé including one year as offensive coordinator at Holy Cross and terms as offensive line coach at such highly respected programs as UCLA and Texas A&M. He launched his NFL coaching career with the Packers in 1997, when he signed on as tight ends/assistant offensive line coach under Holmgren.

Personable Dick Vermeil, who became the ninth head coach in Chiefs franchise history in January of 2001, is a member of an exclusive coaching fraternity. He has joined Bill Parcells, Dan Reeves and Don Shula as the only coaches in National Football League history to lead two different teams to the Super Bowl.

Vermeil, who appears bent upon making another trip to ultimate game, based on the Chiefs' rapid getaway, guided the St. Louis Rams to a victory in Super Bowl XXXIV, nearly two decades after escorting the Philadelphia Eagles to Super Bowl XV following the 1980 season.

The 66-year-old Calistoga, Calif., native also made history in another capacity, having entered the league as the first special teams coach in NFL annals with the then-Los Angeles Rams.

Vermeil owns another singular distinction - he has been named 'Coach of the Year' on four levels: high school, junior college, NCAA Division I (as head coach at UCLA) and the NFL.

He played quarterback at San Jose State as a collegian (1956-57) after transferring from Napa, Calif., Junior College.

Vermeil and his wife, Carol, have three children and 11 grandchildren.

THE LAST TIME: The Packers might have pulled out a victory in their most recent regular-season encounter with the Chiefs - if they could just have eliminated the second quarter...or the first half of the period. It was during that nightmarish span that the Missourians - the hosts on that Nov. 10 occasion in 1996 - essentially carried the day.

With the score tied 3-3 at the end of the first quarter, the Chiefs suddenly and inexplicably seized control, running up 17 points via three consecutive and unanswered scoring drives to mount a 20-3 lead...a lead they never lost.

Kansas City's takeover began innocently enough with a 22-yard Pete Stoyanovich field goal, capping a 75-yard drive.

Then, after the Packers went three-and-out following the kickoff, the Chiefs struck again. Put in position this time by a 24-yard Tamarick Vanover punt return, they scored on 14-yard run by Greg Hill, finishing off a 5-play, 57-yard drive.

When the Packers again went three-and-out on their next possession, Kansas City was back at it, reaching the end zone with a 4-play, 61-yard drive. The score came on a 34-yard Steve Bono pass to Hill at the 7:15 mark, meaning the Chiefs had completed the 17-point operation in a span of just 6 minutes and 19 seconds.

The Packers were able to interrupt with a 49-yard Chris Jacke field goal on the final play of the first half, leaving them down 20-6 at the intermission but still in a position to be reasonably hopeful of a second half turnaround.

Before that could happen, however, the football fates again proved unkind at the start of the third quarter. Hit from behind by the Chiefs' Neil Smith, quarterback Brett Favre fumbled and KC's Derrick Smith recovered at the Green Bay 24-yard line. Hill threaded his way to the end zone on the next play. Stoyanovich then added the Chiefs' 27th and final point.

Favre was intercepted on the Packers' following possession, Brian Washington waylaying a pass intended for tight end Keith Jackson. But the resilient Packers re-gathered themselves to mount a promising comeback. On their next possession, Favre climaxed an impressive, 8-play, 83-yard drive with a 25-yard scoring pass to flanker Don Beebe up the middle. With Jacke's conversion, the Packers were only 14 points down with 3:50 remaining in the third quarter - ample time, with the defense now holding the Chiefs at bay, to pull out a victory.

The moment of truth came midway through the fourth quarter when, with the Packers in a fourth down-and-2 situation at the Kansas City 33-yard line, running back Edgar Bennett was halted less than a yard short at right end, the Chiefs taking over on downs.

The Packers were not finished, however. Two possessions later, Favre found rookie Derrick Mayes in the left corner of the end zone with a 6-yard strike, capping a 7-play, 74-yard drive with 1:02 to play. Jacke's PAT closed it to 27-20 but the Chiefs' Bono, on the Chiefs' final possession, was able to take a knee twice and run out the clock.

Favre made history in the overall process, completing 27 of 49 passes for 310 yards and 2 touchdowns. He thus broke a tie with Lynn Dickey and moved into second place on the Packers' career list with 135 touchdown passes, two more than Dickey posted during his 9-year Packers career.

THE INJURY REPORT: "Na'il Diggs had an MRI this morning and his right knee has a sprained MCL, " GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman reported Monday. "More than likely, he will practice later this week, but we're prepared that he'll play in this ball game.

"Joe Johnson strained his right triceps - it is the opposite triceps that he hurt last year...We'll just have to see how he goes the rest of the week - on his strength development.

"Paris Lenon also has a sprained MCL...We don't have an MRI done on him just yet.

"Chukie Nwokorie has a shoulder (injury) and we just have to wait and see on him...see what he can do this week in practice.

"Other than that, everybody else should be good to go, and not a significant problem. Gilbert Brown has a slight MCL sprain of his knee and he should be OK by Wednesday."

THE (NFL) STATISTICAL UPDATE: Running back Ahman Green continues to lead the National Football Conference in total yards from scrimmage, non-kicker scoring and in the production of first downs, according to the latest statistics released by the Elias Sports Bureau.

Green has registered 676 yards from scrimmage, including 560 rushing (second in the NFC) and 116 receiving, he paces the conference in non-kicker scoring with 42 points on 7 touchdowns and has produced a league-leading 40 first downs (34 rushing and 6 receiving).

The sixth-year pro also is tied for the NFC lead in third-and-1 rushing with a 100.0 conversion rate, based on 5 conversions in as many attempts.

Quarterback Brett Favre, ninth a week ago, ascended to fourth place among NFC passers in the wake of a 19-for-25 performance against Seattle which saw his rating soar to 84.1 from 76.6. He is tied for the conference lead in pass completions (103) and leads in touchdown passes (9).

Favre also ranks seventh in fourth-quarter passing with an 89.8 rating, based on 28 completions in 43 attempts for 305 yards and 3 touchdowns, with 2 interceptions, and eighth in third-down passing with a 71.7 rating, based on 21 completions in 38 attempts for 195 yards and 4 touchdowns, with 3 interceptions.

Antonio Chatman stands fifth among NFC kickoff returners with a 23.6-yard average for 19 runbacks and is tied for fifth in punt returns with a 9.4-yard average for 9 returns.

Linebackers Nick Barnett and Na'il Diggs are tied for sixth among NFC interceptors with 2 apiece and punter Josh Bidwell ranks sixth in net average with a 36.5 mark for 18 punts.

As a team, the Packers rank 12th on offense (8th in rushing and 23rd in passing) and 23rd on defense (21st against the run and 18th against the pass).

The Packers lead the NFC on team offense inside-the-20, having scored touchdowns on 76.5 percent of their 'red zone' possessions (13 TDs in 17 such possessions). They rank fifth on team defense inside-the-20, having held opponents to touchdowns on 46.7 percent of their 'red zone' possessions (7 TDs on 15 possessions).

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