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Chiefs Give Vermeil a Big Send-Off

The players do their part with a 37-3 victory over the Bengals. But the coach's fate, and Kansas City's, is decided by Steelers' win over Lions.

January 02, 2006|From the Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs gave Dick Vermeil a near-perfect goodbye gift.

They couldn't give him what they really wanted, though -- one more game as their head coach.

The Chiefs were unstoppable on offense and stifling on defense in Sunday's 37-3 victory over the playoff-bound Cincinnati Bengals. But Pittsburgh's 35-21 victory over Detroit kept the Chiefs (10-6) from reaching the AFC playoffs, meaning Vermeil's decision to retire at the end of the season takes effect immediately.

"I think they've demonstrated that they are a playoff-caliber football team," Vermeil said. "We just didn't get some things done that we had to get done at the time we needed to get them done."

Cincinnati, its playoff berth already in hand, didn't need to get a lot done -- and it didn't.

Only Shayne Graham's first-quarter field goal kept the Bengals (11-5) from being shut out for the first time since 2001, and the AFC North champions take a two-game losing streak into their first playoff appearance in 15 years.

But at least they get to go, as the third-seeded team playing host to Pittsburgh in the first round Sunday. Cincinnati split the regular-season series with its division rival, each team winning on the road.

"This game is over with, and we've got to move on," Bengal defensive end Justin Smith said. "It really doesn't mean anything. There's no excuses, but we knew we were going to play next week. It's win or go home now."

Kansas City becomes the fourth team to go 10-6 and miss the postseason since the NFL expanded the field to 12 teams after the 1990 season.

"It's difficult. I'll be honest with you," guard Brian Waters said. "I feel like we left a lot of things out on the field as an offense, but all you can do is finish the best you can. The team didn't quit. We gave it a shot and put a lot of pressure on the other teams."

The Chiefs' offensive successes down the stretch -- especially the emergence of Larry Johnson as one of the league's elite running backs -- make missing the playoffs even harder to take.

Johnson ran for 201 yards and a career-high three scores on 21 carries, his ninth straight 100-yard game, and broke Kansas City's single-season rushing record.

Johnson, who scored two touchdowns 40 seconds apart late in the second quarter, finished with 1,750 yards rushing to break Priest Holmes' club record of 1,615 yards -- despite not becoming the regular starter until Nov. 6, after head and neck trauma ended Holmes' season.

"I feel like I could play 10 to 15 more games, because I'm so young," said Johnson, a third-year professional who will play in his first Pro Bowl next month. "People think that because I have a lot of carries, I'm taking a lot of shots, but I'm not."

His streak of nine straight 100-plus rushing games is the third longest in NFL history, tied with Walter Payton, Fred Taylor and Deuce McAllister.

He just missed a fourth touchdown midway through the fourth quarter when he fumbled at Cincinnati's two-yard line.

Rudi Johnson, held to 18 yards on 10 carries, still broke his single-season rushing record for Cincinnati. He finished with 1,457 yards, three more than his previous mark.

But with his struggles, and a relatively quiet day for irrepressible Bengal wide receiver Chad Johnson, there was no question which Johnson was the game's biggest star.

Bengal quarterback Carson Palmer, who injured a groin last week, played only the first quarter.



Dick Vermeil's NFL record

The coaching record of Dick Vermeil, who had a 120-109 career mark:

*--* WITH PHILADELPHIA Year W L Playoffs 1976 4 10 Did not qualify 1977 5 9 Did not qualify 1978 9 7 Lost wild-card game 1979 11 5 Lost in NFC semifinal 1980 12 4 Lost in Super Bowl 1981 10 6 Lost wild-card game 1982 3 6 Did not qualify


*--* WITH ST. LOUIS Year W L Playoffs 1997 5 11 Did not qualify 1998 4 12 Did not qualify 1999 13 3 Won Super Bowl


*--* WITH KANSAS CITY Year W L Playoffs 2001 6 10 Did not qualify 2002 8 8 Did not qualify 2003 13 3 Lost in AFC semifinal 2004 7 9 Did not qualify 2005 10 6 Did not qualify


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