Last time Kansas City hosted a Christmas Day game, the NFL promised such a thing would never happen again. And for a long time, it didn't. But that was 33 years ago, and times...

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Last time Kansas City hosted a Christmas Day game, the NFL promised such a thing would never happen again.

And for a long time, it didn’t. But that was 33 years ago, and times change. The storm of protest that erupted when the Chiefs and Miami Dolphins stalled Christmas dinner with a game that lasted 82 minutes, 40 seconds on Dec. 25, 1971, has faded into the distant past.

This year, the NFL offered a game on Christmas Eve and two on Christmas Day, including a 2 p.m. kickoff between two old rivals with little defense but aerial attacks that sometimes look unstoppable.

The Chiefs (6-8) have won three in a row with an awakened offense that finally seems to have adjusted to the loss of running back Priest Holmes. Trent Green is tied for the NFL lead with six 300-yard passing games and last week in a 45-17 win over Denver was nearly flawless while throwing three TD passes.

But that was two fewer than Kerry Collins managed last week in Oakland’s wild 40-35 victory over Tennessee. Collins threw for a season-high 371 yards and matched his career high with five TDs for the Raiders (5-9).

Today Collins takes aim at a Kansas City defense that ranks last in the NFL against the pass, allowing 270.4 yards per game.

Then Green takes the field against an Oakland defense that’s next to last, allowing an average of 245.8 yards.

Collins even seems to be heating up. Five of the Raiders’ six pass plays of 50 yards or more have come in the past four games.

“Obviously we’ve gotten a lot better in the passing game and we’ve been able to make some plays,” Collins said. “It’s become probably the thing we’re doing the best right now.”

After Holmes went out with a season-ending knee injury in the eighth game, the Chiefs lost their next three starts. But they’ve won their last three, thanks in large part to the emergence of second-year running back Larry Johnson, who’s gone over 100 yards each of the three games.

Broncos try to stop slump

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Playing an opponent that has given up 171 points in a four-game skid would seem the perfect prescription for a struggling team trying to keep its playoff hopes alive.

Not for the Denver Broncos.

The franchise with a growing reputation for late-season slumps is doing it again. The Broncos (8-6) have lost three of their past four, including two to teams with losing records, and they are tied with three other teams for the AFC’s final wild-card spot.

Now they will be spending Christmas away from their families for a game against the Tennessee Titans (4-10), where the only thing that will seem like home will be temperatures in the low 20s.

“We are worried about ourselves,” Denver quarterback Jake Plummer said. “We know it is a Christmas Day game, and all of the distractions we have to put aside and get ready to play Tennessee and hopefully get a win.”

The Titans say are playing to win even though losing out could bump them up to No. 3 in April’s draft.

“We know it doesn’t have any implications on our season, but you know what? It’s a win, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Titans defensive lineman Kevin Carter said.

This game is the second meeting between Denver coach Mike Shanahan and Tennessee’s Jeff Fisher, two of the three NFL coaches who have been with their teams the past decade.


* Buffalo Bills RB Willis McGahee (hyperextended right knee). practiced for the first time this week, and his status is unclear for tomorrow’s game at San Francisco.

* Miami ML Zach Thomas (strained hamstring) is expected to return to the Dolphins lineup against Cleveland after missing most of the previous four games.

* Jacksonville Jaguars RB Fred Taylor, missed his third straight practice because of a sprained knee and remained questionable for tomorrow’s game with Houston.

* Barret Robbins, former Pro Bowl center, was arrested for hitting a security guard at a night club.

The ex-Oakland Raiders lineman, best remembered for disappearing the night before the 2003 Super Bowl in San Diego, was charged with battery and drunk and disorderly conduct. He was still in jail last night, held on $1,000 bond.