Here's what happened to the Green Bay Packers, everyone's Super
Bowl darlings at midseason, on a nasty, overcast Sunday at
The Kansas City Chiefs beat them 27-20 in a game that wasn't
that close. You could even say that they wrote the textbook on
how to handle the Pack, which is fine if you've got the players.
Kansas City does--plenty of them.
On defense K.C. attacked the Packers' tackles, both of whom have
been struggling, with an exotic assortment of blitzes and stunts
off a brand-new formation. The secondary showed no respect for
Green Bay's banged-up receiving corps, jamming the wideouts
tight and forcing Brett Favre to throw to his running backs.
On offense the Chiefs did the unexpected, opening with a 69-yard
bomb to Sean LaChapelle, their slowest wideout, before settling
into a running game aimed at defensive ends Reggie White and
Sean Jones. Once their ground game was taken seriously, they
burned the Pack with play-action passes.
The Chiefs also got some help from the zebras. Bob McElwee's
officiating crew let the K.C. secondary get away with murder
downfield, jamming and roughing up people. O.K., that's the
Chiefs' style. But then the refs did a number on Doug Evans, a
Green Bay cornerback. Evans had perfect coverage on Tamarick
Vanover, his body positioned so well that Vanover had to climb
his back to knock down a near interception. Line judge Byron
Boston flagged Evans for interference anyway, and Evans got
tossed for making contact with Boston.
Going into the game, Packers coach Mike Holmgren was worried
that rookie left tackle John Michels couldn't handle K.C.'s
speed-rushing sackmaster, Derrick Thomas. Holmgren set up his
offense to minimize the matchup. Thomas normally lines up as a
strongside linebacker, over the tight end, in the base defense.
In the long yardage nickel and dime, when the enemy has three or
four wideouts on the field, he goes to right end as a pass
rusher. Holmgren decided to stick with his base offense, with
one or two tight ends, even in long yardage situations, to keep
Thomas over the tight end.
The Chiefs played along for a while, then switched. They put up
a three-man line against the Packers' base, with Thomas as the
middle linebacker, stunting and looping. They attacked Michels
with Thomas plus a second blitzing linebacker. They blitzed from
all directions. Never had they shown this kind of wildness.
Thomas got two sacks, one on an inside rush against Michels,
another when he rushed wide and guard Aaron Taylor tried to pick
him up, which is like trying to grab a moth with a catcher's mitt.
And while the Packers' offense was struggling, the Chiefs were
piling up points, starting with a field goal generated by Steve
Bono's surprise bomb on their opening play. Bono is a
quarterback who hears two voices. Offensive coordinator Paul
Hackett, who once coached Joe Montana, whispers, "Dare to be
bold." Head coach Marty Schottenheimer has a different credo:
"Don't screw it up." On the opening play Bono obeyed the muse of
"The play was supposed to be a crossing pattern to Chris Penn,"
Hackett said, "but just before Steve went out, I told him, 'Give
Sean a look deep. You just might catch them.'"
After that came the ground game. It was between the tackles at
first, then it moved to the perimeters, attacking Jones, who has
a sore ankle, and White, who, at 34, can no longer go hard on
every snap but refuses to leave the field for a series.
But let's put this into perspective. The Chiefs' schemes worked
well in noisy Arrowhead, where, as Favre said, "They knew the
count before we did." At Lambeau Field it's a different story.
K.C.'s personnel matched up well against Green Bay too--a
terrific secondary against injured receivers, outside speed
rushers against a rookie left tackle, and a fine interior line
threesome (Dave Szott, Will Shields and Tim Grunhard) against a
D-line that was sluggish in getting off the blocks.
"Is this a desperate time for the Packers?" someone asked Jones
afterward, and the big defensive end stared at him.
"We're still 8-2, aren't we?" Jones said.
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS Thomas (58) got to Favre by blitzing from the middle linebacker spot. [Brett Favre and Derrick Thomas in game]