- The Washington Times - Friday, October 1, 2004

If Baltimore, Tampa Bay and New England combining to win the last four Super Bowls didn’t prove the point, there’s more evidence that all the offense in the world doesn’t win championships.

Just look at Kansas City (0-3) and St. Louis (1-2), who, for all their firepower, are already just two losses shy of their combined total from last season, when both won division titles.

Coach Dick Vermeil ended playoff droughts in his third years in Philadelphia (1978), St. Louis (1999 en route to the Super Bowl title) and Kansas City (2003), but while the Eagles kept improving and the Rams remained among the elite the next two years, the Chiefs have become the 12th team since the playoffs were expanded in 1990 to start a season 0-3 a year after making the playoffs. None of the others finished at .500.

Vermeil, always loyal to his players, erred in not shaking up a defense that cost his 13-3 team a true shot at the Super Bowl last year. The coach changed coordinators, replacing Greg Robinson with Gunther Cunningham, but the starters (other than injured linebacker Mike Maslowski) remained the same.

So have the results. After losing to hapless Houston at home Sunday, Kansas City’s season could be over before the trick-or-treaters have hit the streets. The Chiefs’ next four foes (Baltimore, Jacksonville, Atlanta and Indianapolis) are a combined 10-2.

“Every once in awhile, I think dementia is setting in early,” said Vermeil, who turns 68 this month and acknowledged making two crucially poor decisions against the Texans.

It’s not dementia as much as it is a porous defense, which was strafed by young running backs Quentin Griffin of Denver and DeShaun Foster of Carolina the first two weeks of the season and faces Jamal Lewis, Fred Taylor, Michael Vick and Edgerrin James in the next month.

After allowing visiting New Orleans to force overtime with a last-second field goal, St. Louis’ 30th-ranked defense surrendered the winning march in the extra session Sunday as the Rams lost 28-25. Coach Mike Martz, Vermeil’s protege, bristled when he was questioned about his Spurrier-esque 54-15 pass-run ratio against the Saints.

“We’re going to play fast and furious. That’s what we do,” Martz said. “We’re going to run it because we want to run it, not because somebody feels like we’ve got to be balanced. That’s just the way it is. Get used to it.”

Receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt rank 1-2 in the NFC in receptions and quarterback Marc Bulger is playing well, but the Rams not only don’t run, they can’t stop the run. New defensive coordinator Larry Marmie was Martz’s boss at Arizona State from 1988 to 1991. That bond apparently outweighed how bad Marmie’s defenses were from 2000 to 2003 when he was with the Cardinals.

St. Louis is fortunate to play punchless San Francisco, Tampa Bay, Miami and Buffalo over the next two months, but unless Marmie can get his players to tackle, the Rams — oh so close to the NFC Championship game last season — won’t be a serious threat this January.

The mighty Quinn? — What were Bears general manager Jerry Angelo and new coach Lovie Smith thinking when they failed to bring in a veteran quarterback to back up second-year passer Rex Grossman? With Grossman done for the year with a knee injury, Chicago is left with Jonathan Quinn (three career starts, 128 career passes), rookie Craig Krenzel and just-signed Dallas washout Chad Hutchinson at quarterback. Talk about a disaster.

Barbers’ book — Giants running back Tiki Barber and his twin, Buccaneers cornerback Ronde, have written “By My Brother’s Side.” The 29-page children’s book is full of colorful drawings of their childhood days in Roanoke, Va. It tells the story of the summer Tiki broke a leg while riding a bike and was told he might never play sports again.

“The book seems kind of hokey and corny, but that’s the way we are,” Ronde said.

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