The changing fortunes of the Kansas City Chiefs


As time expired on the U.S. Bank Stadium scoreboard in an October 18th matchup with the Minnesota Vikings, the Kansas City Chiefs fell to 1-5 and dead last in the AFC West. Hope was lost. Fans were prepared to turn their attention to the 2016 NFL Draft. Certain members of the Chiefs’ blogosphere were calling for head coach Andy Reid to be fired. It was an abysmal time in and around One Arrowhead Drive. But then it all changed.

Since the Chiefs fell to the Vikings that Sunday afternoon, they’ve haven’t dropped a single game. Kansas City has won nine-consecutive games, tying a franchise record originally set in 2003 (and replicated in 2013). With the win, and a Pittsburgh Steelers loss to the Baltimore Ravens, they’re now assured a spot in the AFC postseason tournament. Based on the final results of teams between the 1990-2013 seasons, the Chiefs had a zero-percent chance of making the playoffs. In fact, since 1970, the Chiefs are only the second team to start 1-5 and later qualify for postseason play.

Mind you, this is a team that lost its most dynamic offensive player in Week 5. The starting lineup’s been fluid throughout the Chiefs’ entire 2015 campaign. In addition to the loss of Charles, the team’s also endured the three-game suspension of Sean Smith, the month long absence of Justin Houston, a five-week De’Anthony Thomas hiatus, and other multi-week injuries to Mike DeVito, Mitch Morse, Jeff Allen, Eric Fisher, and Husain Abdullah. It’s amazing to think about what this team’s overcome on its way to a January football bid.

It’s tough to say what put the Chiefs on the comeback trail. If I’m being honest, it’s been a combination of things. It almost seems counterintuitive, but the loss of Jamaal Charles helped expand Andy Reid’s offense. Charles’ versatility encouraged Reid’s reliance upon him. Since he’s been out of the lineup, Reid’s had to be more creative offensively. Kansas City developed a downfield approach to the passing game. The emergence of running backs Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware helped balance the team’s offensive attack.

Not to be outdone, Bob Sutton tightened things up defensively. His ingenuity with blitz packages and coverage configurations helped mask some of the warts visible in the early part of the season. At times, the defense even carried the team. Over the nine-game stretch, Kansas City’s defense has allowed an average of just 12.3 points per game. Sutton’s group is a top-10 unit in both scoring and total defense. In fact, the defense is ranked 12th or better in the top four defensive categories (scoring defense, total defense, passing defense, and rushing defense).

Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Collectively, both sides of the ball have improved. Though, the Chiefs have also benefited from individual performances. Particularly, those that required the growth and maturation of younger players. Presently, Jaye Howard might be the team’s best defensive lineman overall. Ron Parker’s already paying dividends on his recent contract extension. West and Ware, a more-than-capable backfield, have filled shoes once thought too big for anyone not named Jamaal Charles. Marcus Peters has separated himself from his draft class and earned a trip to Honolulu in his rookie season. Sunday’s interception gives him a split of a franchise record for interceptions by a Chiefs rookie.

The universe has conspired in the favor of this football team. The sky’s the limit for this bunch and January will prove just how far they’ve come. Reid deserves “Coach of the Year” consideration for resurrecting a team once left for dead. Winning nine straight is impressive no matter how strong (or weak) the competition. This team could’ve checked out before Halloween and had only player evaluation to look forward to over the past two months. Instead, they climbed out of the cellar of the AFC and look like one of the best and steadiest teams in the conference.

How far can this Chiefs team go in the postseason? Will 2015 be the year they break the playoff drought? Are you in favor of resting starters or should the Chiefs use the Week 17 contest with Oakland as a tune-up game? Use the comment section to begin the debate. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.

Until next time, Addicts!