First London, then Le’Veon. Should Kansas City Chiefs fans dare to dream?
The AFC West? Toast. Home field? The prime time Denver debacle landed one nail in the coffin; letting Jay Cutler get the last word in your backyard probably dropped another.
But nine wins … nine wins is still out there. Barely, but it’s there.
There’s a more-than-solid chance that 9-7 is enough to punch the final ticket for the last ticket to the AFC side of the playoff bracket. Back-dooring into the Wild-Card game after August’s lofty dreams isn’t anyone’s ideal route from A to B, but compared to 1-5, it’s nectar.
Well, OK, unless you’re in the Please-Blow-It-Up-Now-And-Start-Over camp. And given that Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt just threw everything but tea and crumpets in his endorsement of general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid, the nuclear option frankly isn’t one, realistically, in the short term. You’re stuck with Dorse, you’re stuck with Andy, you’re stuck with Alex, and the ceilings for all three will be justifiably debated. And have been.
At their best, though, the Chiefs (3-5) look an awful lot like they did on Sunday at Wembley Stadium. In fact, for the second week in a row, they looked an awful lot like 2013, sacking Matthew Stafford six times — and it felt like more — in a 45-10 overseas rout of Detroit, an Arrowhead Stadium date sacrificed for the purposes of NFL politicking.
And the location, at least for the locals, was about the only blight of the morning. Smith channeled his inner Bono, rushing for a career-high 78 yards by himself; the Lions rambled for 81 as a team. Four different Chiefs rushed for a touchdown (Smith, Charcandrick West, De’Anthony Thomas and Spencer Ware); Travis Kelce and Jeremy Maclin both caught touchdown passes; Justin Houston and Tamba Hali combined for two sacks between them, and safety Ron Parker chipped in two more off the blitz. For Chiefs faithful, it was like watching their favorite session of Madden football played out in real time, by flesh-and-blood millionaires.
Also, the Lions (1-7) are awful.
But in a win in another hemisphere has just as much juice as a win inside this one, closing the bizarre first half of 2015— Thursday night Monday night, London, long gaps away, two home heartbreaks, Jamaal Charles’ knee — on a two-game winning streak and with a little warm and fuzzy before the November 8bye.
And even a seemingly natural midseason break may not be perfectly timed. The Chiefs have spent the past two weeks finally finding their mojo/identity again, not unlike the sudden injury shock to a leader (in that case, two, in Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito) and eventual recovery that transpired between Weeks 1 and 3 of 2014. This reshuffling this time around has taken longer, but the same lights are going on: Better protection in the pocket for Alex Smith, better trust on the part of Smith toward the receivers/targets he’s got on hand, even at the cost of his ribs; better third-down and red-zone execution; and a more consistent pass rush. When the Chiefs are solid and methodical on offense and electric on defense, it’s a good sign that they’re right.
Week 7 was right. London was, too.
A visit to Denver looms on the 15th, although revenge may or may not be a bridge too far, even given The Andy Gang’s current form. But beyond that, though, all things really and truly are possible.
The Jets and Steelers started the weekend as favorites for the AFC Wild-Card slots, but the latter saw star running back Le’Veon Bell carted off the field Sunday with a right knee injury. And the Chiefs have a head-to-head victory over the Black and Gold sitting in their back pockets. Just in case.
Dreaming big seems a little silly, but dreaming isn’t. Going into Week 8, the Chiefs’ remaining opponents have a combined record of 22-31. Minus the Broncos’ 6-0, it’s 16-31. Hope is a fickle mistress, but for the first time in a long time, she’s at least returning Reid’s calls.