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"Joe told me on the bus to the game that we were going to start with a play fake and then a deep pass," DeBerg said later, "because the Patriots figured to play the run tough on the first series."
Last week it was pointed out to DeBerg that three of the six longest pass plays in the NFL this season were his. "The second coming of Daryle Lamonica," he said. "That's me, the Mad Bomber."
"I think it's time," says Paige, who after eight seasons in the league can still be one of the NFL's premier deep threats. "You saw it happen. Things are going to stretch out now; they're going to open up. It's a sign of a team on the rise, a team that's ready to win."
The one dynamic addition to the Kansas City offense has been Word, a more instinctive runner than Okoye and almost his equal in power. Word has been the second man in. Okoye softens them up, DeBerg loosens them up with the bombs, and Word finishes them off. He got 200 yards against the Detroit Lions on Oct. 14 and 112 against the Pats, who held Okoye to five. He's averaging 5.5 yards per carry to Okoye's 3.3.
Anyone else might complain about not starting, but Word is thankful just to be playing, because his resume has a couple of dead spots on it. Four years ago he spent 4½ months in a Morgantown, W.Va., prison for cocaine distribution. "No excuses," says Word, who went to Virginia. "I was a young, dumb college kid. I thought what I was doing was cool. I learned." Drafted by the Saints before his conviction, Word rejoined New Orleans in '87, only to take a hike two games into the next season.
"It's kind of hard to explain," says Word, an introspective man who spends his Tuesdays working with school kids in the Kansas City area. "I didn't feel like I was putting enough into football at the time. I had to get away from it until I could feel like I was 100 percent."
The Chiefs have talent everywhere you look, but not until this year have they put it together. Nick Lowery, the kicker, has a personal-best streak of 13 straight field goals after nailing three, from 19, 32 and 45 yards, against New England. Maas, who had two sacks on Sunday, is looking like the Pro Bowl player he was at nose-guard. Derrick Thomas, an All-Pro outside linebacker as a rookie last year, got into the record books with seven sacks against Seattle, but he sat out the Patriot game with a sprained knee. Free safety Deron Cherry, coming off a long rehab from knee surgery last December, is just rounding into the form that made him a six-time Pro Bowl player. Finally, Kevin Ross and Albert Lewis are the finest pair of cornerbacks in pro football.
Ross, a compact, 5'9", 182-pound hitter—Little Marvin Hagler, they call him—is the tough guy. He takes pride in knocking the ball loose. Lewis is the thoroughbred, a 6'2", 190-pound glider with uncommon grace and speed. He's a natural cover man. "The finest pure corner-back I've ever seen," says secondary coach Tony Dungy, "and I was with Mel Blount on the Steelers."
Lewis also may be the best punt blocker of all time. We'll never know because individual records haven't been kept, but on Sunday he blocked a Brian Hansen boot to give him four for the season and 10 for his career (including one in a playoff game). That block was the Chiefs' sixth of the season, which is an NFL record.
Kansas City fans, hammered by years of mediocrity, have boosted attendance to an 18-year high, averaging better than 70,000 at Arrowhead Stadium. Two home games are next, against the Denver Broncos and the Houston Oilers, and the season ends with two roadies, against San Diego and the Chicago Bears.