Prior to the season starting, pundits had the Kansas City Chiefs as a sleeper team that would possibly go 10-6 on the season and sneak in the playoffs with a wildcard berth. And that was the best case scenario for the Chiefs coming off an atrocious 2-14 season.
With a new quarterback in Alex Smith, new head coach in Andy Reid and plenty of offseason acquisitions, the Chiefs were primed for the ever-dreaded “rebuilding” year. At 7-0, it’s time for everyone to adjust their mindset from playoff hopeful to Super Bowl contender. And no, pigs aren’t flying and hell hasn’t frozen over. This is real.
One of the biggest catalysts for the Chiefs’ success has been their suffocating defense. Sack masters Tamba Hali and Justin Houston anchor a defense that is first in the NFL with 35 sacks.
Through seven games, the Chiefs rank first in points allowed (11.6) and fifth in yards per game allowed. The Chiefs have 19 takeaways on the season and have only turned it over eight times to opposing defenses. They have earned the right to be called the league’s best defense.
Kansas City does not play flashy or put up gaudy numbers, but they grind out the ugly games and truly define what a team win is all about. Their AFC West division rival Denver Broncos have been in the headlines for weeks because of their high-octane offense that has seemingly assaulted the record books through seven games. The Chiefs don’t play that way, and that’s OK. New defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has taken it back to the hard-hitting, physical days of football that opposing teams feared. With Eric Berry, Brandon Flowers, Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith patrolling the back end in press man coverage, Derrick Johnson, Hali, and Houston are able to rush the quarterback and create havoc. It is a sort of “organized chaos” that forces offenses to react on the fly which usually results in a turnover.
On the season, the Chiefs have allowed eight touchdowns and eight field goals on the season while scoring four defensive touchdowns and have a plus 11 turnover ratio. In simpler terms, opposing offenses are more likely to turn the ball over against the Chiefs than get into field goal territory.
The Chiefs defensive statistics are eerily similar to the 2000 Baltimore Ravens in terms of points allowed and turnovers created. Oh, and did I mention that those same Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV that year?
Spare the arguments about their weak schedule, close wins and lack of offensive prowess to compete with the likes of San Francisco or Seattle. Yes, their schedule has been favorable, including games against the Jaguars, Raiders, Giants and Eagles who combine for a total of six wins between them. The Chiefs also dominated those teams like they should and grinded out tough wins against playoff hopefuls like the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans.
One could make the argument that the Achilles’ heel of the Chiefs is their offense with quarterback/game manager Alex Smith at the helm. Statistically, they are tied for 12th in the league at 24.1 points per game. However, the Chiefs have a completely new offense implemented by a new head coach and a new quarterback. Their offense has room for improvement but they have not approached their peak and once star wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and Smith get on the same page, look out. Kansas City also has the third leading rusher in the league in Jamaal Charles, who has run for 561 yards on 135 carries. Charles’ explosiveness and shiftiness in the backfield is a huge weapon for the Chiefs and he continues to be the focal point of their dynamic offense.
The Chiefs have yet to be tested by an elite offense but those explosive offenses have not faced a defensive monster like the Chiefs. Kansas City will most likely enter their week 10 bye with a 9-0 record with games against the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills on the horizon. The Chiefs will be battle tested following the bye with two games against the 6-1 Broncos in three weeks. With Arrowhead Stadium recently being named the new world record holder for loudest stadium at 137.5 decibels, the Chiefs will put themselves in prime position in the playoffs if they are able to outlast the Broncos in the AFC West and gain home field advantage.
The Chiefs haven’t been in this position for a long time. The last time they made the playoffs it was in 2010 where they got thoroughly manhandled by the Baltimore Ravens 30-7 at Arrowhead Stadium. What’s the difference between that team and this year’s team? To sum it up in one word, it would be attitude.
There is an energy in the air that proclaims their greatness and puts aside just being “good enough.” Coach Reid has injected a new sense of life and purpose into a roster full of talent. No longer are these Chiefs content with being the joke of the league and at the bottom of the pile. They were the sleeping giants at the beginning of the season and now they have awoken and put the league on notice.