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Still looking for a win and a starting QB, Chiefs host Saints

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If he eliminates "the stupid stuff" in a key test Thursday night, Brodie Croyle could be the Kansas City Chiefs' starting quarterback.

The second-year pro knows his opportunity is ripe on the vine, ready to pluck. Damon Huard, the veteran career backup he's battled all summer, seemed to be losing ground to a rifle-armed rival 10 years his junior even before a calf injury hobbled him this week. Now Huard might not play at all in the 8:30 p.m. kickoff against the New Orleans Saints.

It's the third preseason game for the Chiefs, the time important personnel decisions are frequently made. Will Croyle meet the challenge? Can he avoid the senseless interceptions that marred his appearances in the first two preseason games - both Chiefs losses - and take control the way coaches hope?

"I'm just going out there and am doing the same thing since we started this whole thing back during (the spring). I'm still going with that mind-set, just going out there to have the best day that I can and have a better day than everyone else," Croyle said. "It's all leading up to where the coaches are going to have to make a decision."

It's probably not make-or-break for Croyle. The Chiefs will have one more preseason game next week at St. Louis. But the hour of decision is approaching.

"If I go out there, have a good game and we put some points up on the board, then it will be interesting. If I don't, I'm not ready to go," Croyle said. "It's a big game, it's the next game and it's going to be my first really extensive playing time."

Croyle looked sharp, at first, during an 11-10 loss to Miami last week. He hit 4-of-5 passes in a first-half drive and connected with Chris Hannon on a 21-yard touchdown pass for the Chiefs' first offensive touchdown of the preseason.

But on the next possession, he did what he's done so often in the past and threw a needless, easy interception in the end zone.

"I just have to cut out the stupid stuff," he said. "If the big play isn't there, I'll take the check down. I need to go from first-and-10 to second-and-5 as opposed to first-and-10 to 'Wait for your next series.'"

With quarterback Drew Brees and the rest of the Saints' top-notch offensive regulars expected to play extensively, this figures to be the Chiefs' best test of the preseason.

"This team we're playing is the No. 1 offense in the league, and the more I watch them, they're very good moving the ball," said coach Herm Edwards. "They have a great rhythm running and throwing and do a great job of sustaining some long drives and getting some momentum."

Momentum and long drives have been almost nonexistent for the Chiefs, and not only because Huard and Croyle have struggled. Larry Johnson, their Pro Bowl running back, didn't end his contract holdout until Tuesday, which has left the running game in tatters. Johnson won't play against the Saints.

"We're running out of time before the opener. This will be a good test for us. They've got a good defense, ranked 11th last year," Edwards said.

Any roster decisions the Saints are mulling over this week have nothing to do with quarterback. Brees was 6-for-6 for 55 yards on his only offensive drive in a 27-19 victory last Saturday night at Cincinnati. The Saints also scored on a 6-yard run by Reggie Bush and a 1-yard run by rookie Antonio Pittman.

Coach Sean Payton hoped to have linebacker Scott Fujita and center Jeff Faine back for the first time in two weeks. Like his Kansas City counterpart, Payton planned to give his regulars extensive time.

"We'll probably get through the half and then with some of these guys make some substitutions and with others continue into the beginning of the third quarter for maybe one series and then make the rotation," he said. "As you're looking at the whole group, I'd like to get them a drive in the third quarter where they're in the locker room and then they come back out. Within that whole group, there will be some substitutions that will take place."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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