Haley's anger lights up Kansas City's locker room like Arrowhead on a Monday Night. Players responsible for first-half mistakes are bombarded by pure, seething fury, expletives dropping like nuclear bombs. Those who escape the blast count their blessings and avoid eye contact with their head coach.
Now deathly afraid of further embarrassing their head coach and energized by the molten hot fear of God pulsating through their veins, the Chiefs emerge from halftime with one focus – domination of the Cleveland Browns, resulting in a 2-0 record and proof they can win rain or shine, home or away. So emboldened, the Chiefs translate Haley's vitriol into victory.
But it's only a fantasy.
We'll never know what happened at halftime Sunday against the Browns. Maybe all that screaming Haley has been saving up finally boiled over in the grand tradition of Bill Parcells, away from the cameras. It could have been something as simple as a nip there or a tuck here in KC's gameplan. It's also possible Clark Hunt phoned in Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, Samuel L. Jackson, Al Pacino, Billy Bob Thornton and Denzel Washington, who combined forces for the most inspiring motivational speech ever.
Something changed. Because through 30 minutes, the Chiefs couldn't move the ball (longest drive: 31 yards), couldn't stop the Browns and looked terrible. They were well on their way to proving their win over San Diego was a weather-assisted fluke, and in danger of taking a giant collective step backwards – how else do you describe losses to the Cleveland Browns, at the hands of two different (but equally inept) quarterbacks, in consecutive years?
Instead, critics were silenced, fans were inspired, and we witnessed the first 2-0 Kansas City team since 2005. Sunday was KC's first road win in September since 2007. The Chiefs have defied almost everyone's expectations and now, it seems like almost anything is possible this year.
The credit goes entirely to Haley.
Seriously. Who made a bigger play than Haley's halftime wizardry? Whatever transpired inside KC's locker room between the second and third quarters, nothing else had a bigger impact on the game. The Chiefs went from duds to studs in a matter of minutes.
After 30 minutes, NFL scrap-heap reclamation project Seneca Wallace was humiliating the fifth-highest paid quarterback in the league. But with just a touch of Haley's magic wand, Matt Cassel was transformed from an overpaid, mistake prone, inaccurate nightmare into a passer who not only protected the football but completed passes down the field, culminating in scores.
Eric Berry, victimized horribly during a first-half, play-action touchdown bomb, turned into a one-man wrecking crew. He burrowed through a fullback and upended Jerome Harrison as if he was some freakish combination of John Lynch, Brian Dawkins and Bob Sanders. On the first play of the second half, Berry chased Harrison out of bounds for a loss of two yards.
Kansas City's top pick played centerfield with absolute precision and discipline, frustrating Wallace into poorly thrown prayers aimed down the sidelines. Berry almost sealed the game with an incredible diving near-interception late in the fourth quarter. The Browns punted anyway.
Romeo Crennel, who led a first-half defense that surrendered a whopping 244 yards to a collection of sad-sack Cleveland misfits, turned his unit into the 2000 Ravens. Wallace totaled only 42 second-half passing yards and the Browns, as an offense, had just 55. By the fourth quarter, Cleveland's offensive line was holding KC's pass rushers in a futile attempt to give their quarterback time to throw, and Crennel's blitzes were timed perfectly. The Chiefs were teeing off on the quarterback – when was the last time that happened?
If you want to heap even more credit on Haley's head, the decision to feed running back Thomas Jones 22 carries may have been a key part of KC's win. It's no secret that Jones isn't as explosive or sexy a player as his backup, Jamaal Charles. Fans and media are already incensed that Haley would deny Charles touches (only 24 in two games) and give them to Jones.
But Charles looked lost Sunday against Cleveland. He was indecisive and frustrated, at one point hanging his head after being stuffed on yet another carry. Aside from a meaningless 20-yard gallop before halftime, Charles averaged 2.9 yards per carry. Jones didn't have a run over 11 yards, but his ability to gain consistent positive yardage kept the Chiefs in short-yardage situations on third down.
It's easy to question the decision to bench Charles and feature Jones, but you won't find too many Chiefs fans who will argue with 2-0.
The Chiefs are perfect today because of Haley's halftime adjustments. Something changed in that locker room. We shouldn't go overboard just yet, but great head coaches have the ability to do what Haley did Sunday. It doesn't matter if it's the regular season, playoffs or Super Bowl.
Trailing the Denver Broncos 13-0 at halftime of a key game late in 1997, Marty Schottenheimer somehow found a way to inspire the Chiefs into a 24-22 victory and the eventual AFC West Divisional Championship.
Marv Levy, losing 28-3 to the Houston Oilers at halftime during the 1992 playoffs and missing Jim Kelly, conjured up a 41-38 win with a backup quarterback (Frank Reich).
Jimmy Johnson, trailing the Buffalo Bills 13-6 at halftime of Super Bowl XXXVIII, produced an eventual 30-13 victory. Yes, the Cowboys were ridiculously talented. But Johnson has a Master's in Psychology. He knew what buttons to push, and changed that game from a nail-biter to a blowout.
The Chiefs didn't blow out the Browns, but they blew up some critics and doubters Sunday. Whatever your locker room fantasy of choice is, the reality is 2-0. Kansas City will win eight games this season if Haley continues to transform water into wine at halftime.
Haley, The Halftime Hero
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