Clinging to a slim AFC West lead, the Kansas City Chiefs would like to start producing better results on the road.
Kansas City tries to snap a four-game road losing streak Sunday afternoon when it faces the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks, who are looking for a better defensive effort as they begin a home-heavy portion of their schedule.
Coming off back-to-back divisional road losses, the Chiefs (6-4) regained sole possession of first place last Sunday with a 31-13 win over Arizona and Oakland's 35-3 loss at Pittsburgh. Four-time defending division champ San Diego won its third straight Monday night, remaining within one game of Kansas City.
While the Chiefs control their playoff fate, they haven't controlled much while going 1-4 away from Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City, which has lost 43 of 57 away games in November or later during the last 13 seasons, plays three of four on the road beginning Sunday.
"This is a tough stretch," coach Todd Haley told the Chiefs' official website. "Like I said (Sunday), this is a marathon and this is the true grind-it-out period of the season where I think teams are going to start to define themselves as good teams, in-between teams and not-so-good teams."
Under first-year coordinator Charlie Weis, the Chiefs have posted some of the league's best offensive numbers, ranking in the top 10 in scoring (24.3) and yards per game (362.4), while committing a NFL-low seven turnovers.
But the Chiefs' offense is averaging 6.6 fewer points on the road, and their league-best rushing attack (164.7 yards per game) has suffered the most outside of Kansas City, going for 75.0 fewer yards per contest.
Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones could help the Chiefs fare better against a Seattle defense allowing 147.3 rushing yards per game while dropping three of four. The Seahawks (5-5) surrendered 99 yards and a touchdown to undrafted rookie Chris Ivory in last Sunday's 34-19 loss at New Orleans.
"Team-wise we didn't do a good job of hitting it all the way we like to, and wrapping up in a real fundamental sense," said first-year coach Pete Carroll, whose team holds a one-game division lead over St. Louis. "It's something that we really have to work on. We can't let that be a factor. It changed kind of the complexion of how we played this game because they were seemingly effective running the football."
Seattle, which is 3-1 at home and plays four of six at Qwest Field to close the regular season, is averaging just 66.0 rushing yards in its last four games.
"We haven't worried about (running), to tell you the truth," Carroll said. "We wanted to make sure we were moving the football against the teams that we were playing. That changes by game plan, but the last two games we had reason to go for it. I wouldn't change any part of that other than the short-yardage situations we weren't effective in."
The Seahawks had four drives end with field goals Sunday and are second-worst in the NFL in red-zone TD efficiency at 32.4 percent.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck may have to carry the pass-first Seahawks, who face a Chiefs defense yielding 28.0 points per game on the road - 14.6 more than at home.
After throwing for 333 yards in a 36-18 win at Arizona on Nov. 14, Hasselbeck went for 366 - his highest total in six seasons - against New Orleans, despite playing with two small cracks in his left wrist. Coming close to those totals could be difficult if leading receiver Mike Williams is unavailable.
Williams, who has posted back-to-back 100-yard games for the first time in his career, suffered an undisclosed left foot injury late in Sunday's loss.
While Carroll will expect Deon Butler, Ben Obomanu and Brandon Stokley to pick up the slack if Williams can't go, Haley's top wide receiver, Dwayne Bowe, is ready. The former first-round pick has caught a TD pass in a franchise-record six straight games and has 10 of his league-best 11 receiving TDs during that stretch.
"When we win it all, I'll look back on this game and say, 'Wow! I did that,'" Bowe, one shy of matching the Chiefs' single-season receiving TD mark, said after catching two scores on Sunday. "But now my head is down and I'm going to keep going."
Going on the road hasn't impacted Bowe, who is averaging 8.0 receptions and 119.0 yards with five TDs in the last three away games.
Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, a former backup to Matt Leinart under Carroll at Southern California, has 18 TDs with just four interceptions. Starting for New England, Cassel threw for 268 yards and a score in a 24-21 victory at Seattle on Dec. 7, 2008.
Carroll and Weis squared off last year as collegiate head coaches, with Carroll's Trojans beating Weis' Notre Dame team 34-27.
Kansas City has won eight straight versus NFC West opponents since a 39-32 loss at Qwest Field on Nov. 24, 2002.
The Chiefs lead the all-time series 31-18. They won 35-28 at home in the teams' last matchup Oct. 29, 2006.