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It's Joe Cool and His Chiefs Against the Red-Hot Oilers : AFC: Montana will be under pressure from Ryan's defense in showdown of clashing styles.

January 16, 1994|BILL PLASCHKE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

HOUSTON — It will be not so much a game as a 100-m.p.h. collision of values.

The Kansas City Chiefs are as plain and solid as Joe Montana's smile.

The Houston Oilers are as wild and unpredictable as Buddy Ryan's right fist.

The winner of today's AFC semifinal here between these teams should be favored to advance to the Super Bowl, simply because it will have shown an uncommon ability to survive.

The Chiefs can win only if Montana is still walking after three hours against a furious rush by the league's most aggressive defense.

The Oilers can win only if this defense can avoid getting burned by the pinpoint passing of the coolest quarterback in postseason history.

"Yeah, but I think we can be the best team in NFL history," said injured Oiler safety Marcus Robertson. "I mean, when you consider all the controversy we have had to overcome. Nobody has done what we have done."

While that may be an overstatement even in the league's loudest locker room, the Oilers are certainly one of the hottest teams ever.

They are only the fifth team to have ended a regular season with 11 consecutive victories, the first since the perfect 1972 Miami Dolphins.

And they are certainly the first to win so much despite:

Controversy over a birth.

Tackle David Williams became the center of national debate when his salary was docked after he missed a game against the New England Patriots to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.

Controversy over a death.

Defensive lineman Jeff Alm was legally drunk when he shot himself after his best friend had been killed in a one-car accident while Alm was driving.

Fights between players.

Too numerous to mention.

Fights between coaches.

Sick of seeing the replays of Ryan punching offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride on the sidelines yet?

Just when the team thought that things had finally settled, owner Bud Adams picked Friday to announce that the Oilers might leave town in four years if city officials don't build him a new stadium.

Not that their players are listening anymore. Not to their owner, not much to Coach Jack Pardee, not to anyone but themselves.

They have made the playoffs in each of the last seven years, but have yet to advance past this second round.

"An atomic bomb could drop in this room and it wouldn't divide the team," cornerback Cris Dishman said. "None of us is getting any younger. This is the year we have to do it."

The Chiefs, meanwhile, are as controversial as a wheat field.

Last spring, General Manager Carl Peterson signed two of football's model citizens to lead them to this point, which is exactly what Montana and running back Marcus Allen have done.

"Marcus and Joe were signed for playoff games like these--to bring us to that next level," Peterson said. "We're not pleased just being at this point, we've been here before. The Super Bowl is our only goal."

Montana, in his first postseason play in four years, proved he still knows what month it is by rallying the Chiefs from a 10-point deficit to a 27-24 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round last week.

But he missed the Chiefs' first touchdown after suffering bruised ribs from a vicious shot after a pass. And the Steelers' defense had 10 fewer sacks than the Oilers'.

The presence of Montana today renders meaningless any lessons that can be taken from the Oilers' 30-0 victory over the Chiefs in the second game of this season.

Montana didn't play in that game, partly because of an injured wrist and partly because Chief Coach Marty Schottenheimer did not want to expose him to Ryan's defense so soon in the season.

In Montana's place, rattled Dave Krieg was guilty of five turnovers.

Surprisingly lost in this circus is the Oilers' offense, still explosive despite struggles by aging quarterback Warren Moon, who has five touchdowns and five interceptions in his last five games.

Moon sat out the season finale because of sore ribs but will return today to complement the Oilers' new force, running back Gary Brown. He replaced injured star Lorenzo White at midseason and quickly equaled rushing records set by Earl Campbell.

But things should really heat up when the Chiefs have the ball.

"Joe Montana is an accomplished player, but it's one thing to be respected," Oiler linebacker Lamar Lathon said. "It's another thing to be in our way."

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