2014 Chiefs: Tougher Than Leather
Over the past decade, the Kansas City Chiefs have started the regular season 0-2 eight times. They only managed to post a winning record in one of those eight seasons. Herm Edwards’ 2006 team rebounded from two season-opening losses and went on to finish 9-7 and the AFC’s sixth seed in the playoffs. Every other year, not including this one, ended this way: 7-9 (2004), 4-12 (2007), 2-14 (2008), 4-12 (2009), 7-9 (2011), and 2-14 (2012). In the recent past, this team folded the tent after dropping its first two games. Although, the 2014 team may be the most talented member of the aforementioned octet and wind up having the most success.
I’d venture to guess no Chiefs team since the Dick Vermeil era has had this level of mental toughness. Kansas City got embarrassed by a Tennessee team that now has six losses through the first nine weeks of the year. Reid’s squad had every conceivable reason in the world to go swirling down the drain after such a lethargic performance. One week following a two-score loss to the Titans, the Chiefs were headed to Denver for a matchup with the defending division champion Broncos. The bell tolled for Kansas City, but Andy Reid and company weren’t interested in keeling over.
Fifteen days after falling to the Broncos, Kansas City managed to win two tough games against the Dolphins and Patriots. At 2-2, there was new life, but the Chiefs would soon be faced with yet another must-win game in San Diego (a game they won 23-20). That began a three-game winning streak that leaves the Chiefs two games above .500 at the midpoint of the season. The toughest part of the schedule has passed. If the playoffs began today, Kansas City would be the AFC’s sixth seed.
The Chiefs are in a position to control their own destiny. They’ve won five of their last six and are just one game behind the division-leading Broncos. Only one team’s currently ahead of the Chiefs in the race for the final two spots in the AFC playoff picture (the Pittsburgh Steelers). They hold the tie-breaker over every other team in the conference (save the one they’re set to play on Sunday). Kansas City has a future date with Pittsburgh where they can gain yet another advantage in the wildcard race.
Securing a return trip to the postseason will require more of the steel the Chiefs have shown through the first half of the season. Kansas City is tough because its head coach has a level of expectation that had long been absent at One Arrowhead Drive. When you’re expected to weather the storms of the NFL, you develop the mentality necessary for doing so. There’s no quit in these Kansas City Chiefs and much of that can be attributed to the presence of Andy Reid and Alex Smith. Those two men have become adept at handling adversity in this league.
Remember the 2011 season that I previously cited? By Week 3, Kansas City had lost a trio of players to season-ending injuries. They had a momentary resurgence, winning their next four games, but ultimately wilted during the toughest part of their schedule. The current team’s already navigated its way through that part of the schedule. There are tough games remaining, but most of them will be played in the cozy confines of Arrowhead Stadium.
Sunday’s game with the Buffalo Bills is the latest test of this football team’s mettle and a key opportunity for the Chiefs to take another step towards a return to the postseason. I believe the Bills will be in the hunt down the stretch. The last thing the Chiefs want is to both fall a game behind them and lose their shot at holding a head-to-head advantage over them. Buffalo has been a regular thorn in Kansas City’s side. The contest this weekend will mark the seventh meeting between the two teams in as many years. The Chiefs have won only two of the prior six games.
Reid and company have twice proven they can beat a good football on the road this year. Can they make a habit of it and get to 6-3 before the defending Super Bowl champions come to town? Is this football team tough enough to match its 5-3 record, over the back half of the schedule, and make a strong case for another wildcard berth? Use the comment section below to let me know what you think. Commenters are always welcome and encouraged to participate in the discussions my columns produce. As always, I appreciate your readership and support.
Until next time, Addicts!