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Sunday, October 26, 2008
Favre gets the glory, Thigpen opens eyes

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

 
 Al Bello/Getty Images
 Tyler Thigpen's Chiefs may have lost to the Jets Sunday, but the quarterback showed impressive poise in his second start for Kansas City this season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Brett Favre's latest magic show was already complete. Yet another chapter in Favre's storied comeback had already been published.

It was in the books. Favre doesn't play well -- until he has to. Then, his team wins the game. Done deal.

But Tyler Thigpen kept coming. The Kansas City Chiefs' No. 4 was pressing the universe's No. 4. Scrambling. Command of the offense. Laser throws. Last-minute poise. Yes, Thigpen looked familiar out there.

On a day Favre had his most exciting win for the Jets, it was Thigpen who kept coming off his stool and trying to make Favre work harder. In the end, the Chiefs' and Thigpen's counters weren't enough. Thigpen's dreams expired at the Jets' 31-yard line with 21 seconds to go.

Officially, it was Favre's day as the Jets beat the Chiefs 28-24. Favre made up for three grotesque interceptions by hitting Laveranues Coles for a 15-yard touchdown with exactly a minute to go in the game. That's how the football world will remember this one.

But in Kansas City, it could have a greater significance. It could be remembered as the day Thigpen showed he does have what it takes to be an NFL quarterback. It could be remembered as the day the Chiefs stood up and fought, and showed the league they won't take this youth movement lightly, even if they did fall to 1-6.

In spite of the heartbreak, Sunday's game was a lot more tolerable for the Chiefs than their past two games, in which they were beaten by a total of 68-10.

And Thigpen was a big reason why things evened out a bit this week.

"Tyler played outstanding," Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez said. "He played a lot better than I thought he was going to play. I know he surprised everybody. I don't care what anybody said, if they thought he was going to go out there and play the way he did then they're lying."

Thigpen was good for four quarters in his second NFL start. He completed 25 of 36 passes for 280 yards. He threw two touchdown passes and he wasn't intercepted. Favre completed 28 of 40 passes for 290 yards. He threw two touchdown passes but he was intercepted three times.

Thigpen set the tone by completing his first 10 passes. The Chiefs set the tone for Thigpen by operating out of the no-huddle offense, which he ran in college at Coastal Carolina, for much of the game. Thigpen, a seventh-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings last year, was much better than in his previous start when he threw three interceptions.

Chiefs coach Herman Edwards said he thought Thigpen would play better because he displayed excellent confidence this week in practice. Thigpen became the starter this week after season-ending injuries to quarterbacks Brodie Croyle and Damon Huard. Thigpen said knowing the job is his led to his comfort level.

"The job has been handed to me to go and play football," Thigpen said. "I'm going to take advantage of it."

The Chiefs are looking for their quarterback to go with the rest of their youth movement. Croyle is all but out of the team's plans because he simply can't stay healthy. If Thigpen plays well in the final nine games of the season, it could dissuade the Chiefs, who inquired about Brady Quinn this season, from drafting a young quarterback or trading for one.

However, Thigpen could have company the rest of the season. Fox Sports reported Sunday that veteran Daunte Culpepper will visit the team this week. Culpepper and the Chiefs talked earlier last week and he has scuttled his retirement.

Chiefs guard Brian Waters, one of the leaders of the team, said he is thrilled with Thigpen and wants to see him continue to be the quarterback. Still, Waters liked the idea of having Culpepper on the team.

"I like both ideas," Waters said. "I like having Tyler as our quarterback and I like the idea of having a veteran like Culpepper in here. Look at our injuries at that position. You need as many quarterbacks as you can get."

Waters thinks Thigpen can be the answer. In recent weeks, the Chiefs' offense has had a couple of players-only meetings each day. They are to discuss the overall plan and make sure everyone is on the same page.

"Tyler led those this week," Waters said. "He had a great command and then you took it over to the game."

While Thigpen was the big story for Kansas City, here are a couple of other topics that stuck out in today's game:

The Chiefs are growing up: At the end of the team's final meeting Saturday night, Edwards implored his team to get better. He pleaded for them to start making plays.

The rookies all knew who he was talking to.

"Every rookie stayed back in the room and we talked," second-round pick Brandon Flowers said. "He was talking to us. We had a great draft class but we weren't making plays. It was time to make plays. I looked around out there and saw guys make plays."

Flowers answered the call. The cornerback had two interceptions, returning one Favre pass 91 yards for a touchdown to give the Chiefs a 24-21 lead with 7:48 to go.

"We're tired of making excuses because we're rookies," said defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, the No. 5 overall draft pick. "That young stuff is gone. It's out the door. We're halfway through this season. It's time we start helping this team out. I saw improvement."

Chiefs can't run when it counts: The Chiefs missed Larry Johnson late in the game. Edwards didn't want to admit that after the game, but Johnson would have helped.

He was inactive for the second straight game as punis
hment for off-field issues. The NFL Network reported Sunday that Johnson will visit with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday. Often when players are suspended, they meet with Goodell first. Privately, the Chiefs expect Johnson to get a short suspension in addition to their two-game penalty.

If Johnson, who has 417 rushing yards in five games, misses any more time, the Chiefs will need to learn to run the ball better in his absence.

Clinging to a three-point lead, the Chiefs ran the ball three straight times on a series that started from their 20 with 5:20 to go. Kansas City tailback Kolby Smith had gains of three, four and two yards before the Chiefs had to punt. Favre then went on his game-winning, 46-yard scoring drive. Smith had 15 yards on 11 carries. Rookie Jamaal Charles suffered an ankle injury and had only five carries. He could miss some time.

If Johnson is going to miss any more time, the Chiefs will have to figure something out because their run game wasn't effective Sunday.