Chiefs need to beat Bears

With the grind of River Falls hitting the 10-day mark, in three days the Kansas City Chiefs will head to Chicago to face the Bears. Despite the fact they're dealing with injuries to both of their first-round draft picks, this first preseason game has significant importance to KC's progress.

Exhibition games are not supposed to count. But for this team they most certainly do, especially after a nine-game losing streak to end 2007.

With a new brand of Chiefs football on the horizon that mixes more young than old, this football team needs to learn how to win, and fast.

Losing is tough habit to break, but learning how to win can be even more challenging. There is so much pressure on this football team based on 2007 that finding positives early could loom large for the morale of the Chiefs players. It will also signify that wins in August might lead to more in the four months ahead when it really counts.

In early February, I had a conversation on this topic with Head Coach Herm Edwards. He agreed that his old philosophy – just to get through exhibition games without injury - was the primary focus. He also didn't want to tip his hand to the kind of offense and defense that might loom for opponents come September. But portions of those principles are out the window now.

This Chiefs team must go for the win in all four games this preseason. The Chiefs have to find out if the young guys in the secondary are as good as they've been in practice, if Tamba Hali can effectively replace Jared Allen and if someone on the other side, Alfonso Boone or Turk McBride, can step up and take the place of Hali.

The Chiefs need to know if quarterback Brodie Croyle is the real deal. The offensive line, less Albert, must prove it can hold blocks a bit longer so Croyle can spray the ball to his receivers, backs and tight ends.

The Chiefs have been business like since they arrived in River Falls. It's a completely different feel from last summer, when they were in the midst of the HBO ‘Hard Knocks' cameras. All those distractions are gone and that's a good thing.

This team has plenty of things to worry about without hidden cameras at every turn, in every meeting and microphones catching every syllable.

Now they have no more excuses, and Edwards isn't about to provide any. He finally has this football team on the path he had hoped it would be on when he took over two years ago.

In essence, this team is an expansion team, because for the first time in nearly 20 years the organization from top to bottom is on the same page. Each department understands this team will be built from the ground up, not the top down.

Sacrifices won't be made to shortcut the perils of playing so many young players at key positions. Coaches will be given all the tools they need to develop these future superstars.

That's why Thursday night's game is so important to this entire organization. For it to be a successful evening, this football team must play to win the game. They must bury the vanilla offense and defense that has hallmarked earlier preseasons.

My gut tells me that will happen, because this team has to build confidence from one series to the next, one quarter to the next and one game to the next. It only has four games in which to accomplish that.

That, more than striving to avoid injuries, may indeed give us a sense of what we might see later in the season. But it will require the development of an attacking style this preseason that shows the stench of a nine-game losing streak is a thing of the past.

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