KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -How starved are the Kansas City Chiefs for good news?
When John Carney's 43-year-old leg sent a couple of meaningless field goals flying through the uprights in practice this week, all the players applauded.
``He kicked about four or five and the whole team started clapping,'' said coach Herm Edwards. ``They wanted to know where his distance was.''
As they get ready for their annual trek to Arrowhead Stadium this week, the San Diego Chargers would also like to know how much leg the Chiefs' old kicker's got left.
Edwards won't say, of course. But he does admit the third kicker he's employed in this tortured season for Kansas City is not as strong as he used to be during a highly productive 20-year career.
Nevertheless, a strong leg didn't work out for the Chiefs anyway. Dave Rayner was hitting less than 70 percent when the Chiefs let him go this week and signed Carney. His kicks may not fly as far as Rayner's. But they'll probably fly straighter. And to a team that's lost four in a row and struggled to score more than two touchdowns a game, short-but-true looks better than long-and-hold-your-breath.
``When we make points around here it's a big deal,'' said Edwards.
A reliable field goal kicker might be even more valuable if quarterback Brodie Croyle can't play. At midweek, a sore back was still holding him out of practice. It sounded as though Damon Huard, who started the first nine games but proved turnover-prone, might get the nod against the Chargers.
Nevertheless, Carney's arrival did seem to boost everyone's spirits. After rookie Justin Medlock washed out in September and Rayner was too inconsistent, the Chiefs at least know they have someone who's been around long enough to handle the pressure of a game-winning kick.
``This guy is a pro. If you play this long and kick this long, you've got this thing pretty much figured out,'' Edwards said. ``He came in like he's been here all year. Can you imagine how many kicks this guy has made over this career? He's kicked in all kinds of weather.''
Kansas City's most impressive victory all year has been a 30-16 upset at San Diego on Sept. 30. Since then, the Chiefs (4-7) have lost five of seven while the Chargers (6-5) have won five of seven, including a 32-14 victory last week over Baltimore that put a big smile on coach Norv Turner's face.
``We probably played our most complete game against Baltimore,'' Turner said. ``That's encouraging.''
What's discouraging for the Chargers is Turner's 0-6 record against the Chiefs. What would seem to make their task even more daunting is the fact the Chiefs have won nine of their last 10 meetings with San Diego in Arrowhead. Their 30-27 victory here last Oct. 22, when Lawrence Tynes kicked a 53-yarder with 6 seconds left, was one of only two regular-season losses for the Chargers.
But saddled with too many young players on their way up and too many old players on their way out, the Chiefs have not been nearly as unconquerable at home as in the past. The team that prides itself on having the best home record in the league since 1990 is only 1-4 at home this year, including last week's 20-17 loss to Oakland.
It's hard for Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson to imagine the Chiefs not winning at home.
``There's no question that's always been a very tough place to play,'' he said. ``They always pride themselves on playing well at home. It's been a strange year for them at home. But it doesn't matter what their record has been at home. It's always tough when we play each other. The crowd is going to be ready.''
While the Chiefs have won only twice in KC, the Chargers have been even worse on the road, going 1-4, with their only victory a 41-3 blowout at Denver.
Something else working in Kansas City's favor could be the temperature. A front was forecast to move into the area, plunging temperatures into the 20s. Rain is also a possibility, which could be a problem for new turf being laid down all week.
It will be the Chargers' first cold-weather game all year.
``It shouldn't be a factor,'' said Turner. ``The thing about it is nowadays we have guys from everywhere. We have guys who played their whole college careers in that type of weather. We play in it every year. Wet balls, cold balls. The footing is the same for each team. You've just got to make sure you have the right equipment, the right cleats.''

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