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    Rams, Chiefs in Cup Battle

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    It’s unlike any other preseason game, but like most at the same time. When St. Louis and Kansas City meet in the annual Governor’s Cup game, there are bragging rights, a trophy and jobs on the line. There is not much else at stake, though, when the cross-state rivals get together. Kickoff is at 7:08 p.m. Monday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

    The Governor’s Cup goes to the winner of the game each year. In 2003, the Chiefs claimed a 22-6 win, one of the few preseason matchups that Kansas City has taken. Both teams enter the game with an 0-1 record in the preseason.

    Dick Vermeil, who coached the Rams to a win in the 1999 Super Bowl, leads the Chiefs into his fourth season as head coach. A year ago, Kansas City had one of the league’s best teams, finishing the regular season 13-3 before an AFC Divisional Playoff loss to Indianapolis.

    Vermeil’s success in St. Louis makes him a favorite on both sides of the state. He retired after the Super Bowl win, but his passion for the game brought him back two years later, this time on the western side of Missouri.

    Since taking over the team, he has transformed the Chiefs into a Super Bowl contender within three years, much as he did in St. Louis. His first year resulted in a 6-10 finish, followed by an 8-8 before last season’s magnificent turnaround.

    The affection his former players have for Vermeil is a mutual feeling. Known for wearing his emotions on his sleeve, Vermeil said he will always have a place for the players that took him to football’s highest peak and is excited about seeing the 10 remaining Rams from his time in St. Louis. “I always look forward to seeing them,” Vermeil said. “They were part of a great experience, and will always remain a part of a great experience, you can’t change that, you can’t lose it, and you’ll never forget it. I’m looking forward to seeing those guys and I’m proud of how well they’ve done.”

    When Vermeil retired, his offensive coordinator, Mike Martz, took the reins. Martz continued building on what Vermeil started and has made the Rams into one of the league’s premiere franchises.

    The game against Vermeil’s Chiefs marks the second reunion with a former Rams coach. The first preseason game had former Rams’ defensive coordinator Lovie Smith back in St. Louis as head coach of the Bears. This time, it is Martz going against one of his former mentors.

    Martz said he isn’t worried about any of the commotion surrounding the game. The trophy means little and, while he is always happy to see Vermeil, whenever the game starts, he has on thing on his mind, winning. “I don’t care where it is, or what cup it is,” Martz said. “The tea cup, the Governor’s cup, the coffee cup, I could care less. We want to play as good as we can. I’m not trying to diminish anybody’s thoughts about anything, but if you’re a competitor and you are playing this game, when you walk on the field and the lights go on, you better be prepared to bring your best. That’s all I care about.”

    It probably doesn’t hurt Martz’s competitive side that the Chiefs have gotten the better of the Rams since Vermeil took over. Including preseason and regular season games since Vermeil took over, Kansas City is 3-1 against St. Louis.
    The Chiefs are about the only team that has had that kind of success against the Rams under Martz. St. Louis has been a consistent contender and won an NFC Championship, and two NFC West Division title since Martz replaced Vermeil.

    Vermeil said he isn’t surprised by Martz’s success in the leading role. “I can only see it through visiting with him,” Vermeil said. “I think he’s learning to keep things in proper perspective, and to prioritize what to get upset about, what not to get upset about, all these kind of things, because he’s a very intense guy, and a great football coach. “But you can wear yourself out, like I’ve done in the past. I get the feeling from talking with him, the experience has been good, there has been some problems like for all head coaches, but he’s handling them better and keeping them in better perspective, and going on and keep doing a great job.”

    One problem for Vermeil last season was the performance of the defense. The sting of the loss to the Colts led to a coaching change at defensive coordinator. Greg Robinson resigned and former Chiefs’ head coach Gunther Cunningham returned to Kansas City to rectify the problems of the porous defense.

    The defensive personnel remains the same in Kansas City, but Cunningham’s influence has been noticeable for Vermeil. “It’s intense,” Vermeil said. “I think they are responding, but we have a long ways to go I think we will see an improvement. I’d like to believe so.”

    Any improvement wasn’t exactly evident in the Chiefs’ 34-24 loss to the Giants on Aug. 13. New York racked up 331 yards on the way to the win. The Rams, however, had success on both sides of the ball before losing the lead late. Most of the starters played only one series, though. It is likely that many of the first-team offense will play more against Kansas City, but probably not much more than in the game against Chicago. In that game, quarterback Marc Bulger and receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce played one series before calling it a night.

    Although Martz’s competitive side always comes out regardless if the game is preseason or not, he said the team still has to watch itself in the preseason in terms of who plays, how much they play and the gameplan. “We have to be real careful, because we are still trying to evaluate and trying to get guys ready,” Martz said. “You have to keep it somewhat simple, offensively, defensively and special teams. We want guys to have a clear idea of what to do, and go do it. With a full football team like this, with all these players, it’s a little rough.”

  2. #2
    DJRamFan Guest

    Re: Rams, Chiefs in Cup Battle

    OOOOOHHH THE Governor's Cup!!! WOW!!!

    It's not college football, we can dump the trophies for preseason games.

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