A week ago, we were looking ahead to late-season contests with the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns, hoping the Chiefs would be able to scrape together an additional win or two by the end of the season.
If the Chiefs don't win both those games, it will be disappointing. Heck, if they can't beat the Denver Broncos next week, it'll feel like something of a letdown. That's the kind of boost a victory over the defending Super Bowl champions can provide. In a season where winning four games once seemed like too tall a task, that number no longer seems like enough.
After all, if the Chiefs are capable of beating the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers, why can't they rack up another two or three wins before it's all said and done?
Of course, it's easy to get carried away with those sorts of thoughts in the aftermath of the win. But after Sunday's game with the Chargers, things might not look quite as rosy.
After their usual early-season slumber, San Diego has now won five straight, including last month's 30-point demolishing of the Chiefs inside Arrowhead Stadium. The Chargers have the potential to wipe away the sweetness of last week's victory by putting a sour taste in all our mouths.
We should remember what that feels like. Last year, the Chiefs earned their biggest win of the season – the 33-19 "let's build on this" victory over the then-unbeaten Broncos – and then followed it up with a humiliating 34-0 road loss to Carolina. Any hope that actual progress was being made quickly gave way to the cold sting of reality.
With two straight wins and a victory over the Steelers, there's no question this year's Chiefs have made some degree of progress. How much of it they've made will be clearer after their second game with the Chargers.
For Derrick Johnson, Sunday's game with Pittsburgh was his entire career in a nutshell.
Twelve weeks into the NFL season, there are Chiefs fans who still believe Johnson's demotion is some kind of head game by Todd Haley. They simply can't fathom that the former first-round pick isn't one of the two best inside linebackers on the team. His performance Sunday should have cleared all that up.
Though it was ultimately erased by a penalty, Johnson made one of the game's more spectacular plays with his leaping sack of Ben Roethlisberger. However, he spent most of the afternoon whiffing on tackles, including one particularly bad miss during overtime.
With the Steelers facing 2nd and 10 on the Chiefs' 43-yard line, they called an outside run with Rashard Mendenhall that the Chiefs' defense appeared to have bottled up. Unfortunately, Johnson over-pursued the play and provided Mendenhall with a cut-back lane.
As Johnson extended his arm in a fruitless attempt at making the tackle, Mendenhall charged past him and picked up eight yards, moving the Steelers into field-goal range.
Thanks to a great play by Jovan Belcher, Pittsburgh moved backwards on the next play and opted to punt the ball away. But had that negative play not occurred, the eight-yard run Johnson single-handedly allowed might have cost the Chiefs the game.
A vast collection of errors and forgettable performances peppered by a handful of dynamic, highly-athletic plays summarizes Johnson's pro career. He's never managed to put things together for an entire season, but always manages to make two or three plays that are flashy enough to make us ignore the games where he disappears while we hope that he's finally getting it all figured out.
The Chiefs could do worse than having Johnson around as a backup. But even if they attempted to re-sign him, he'd be crazy to take a modest contract extension in Kansas City when there are surely a few teams willing to throw starter money at him.
With as much playing time as Johnson saw Sunday, he might have had the opportunity to force himself into the team's future plans. Instead, he only showed why he's likely to be gone next season.
Looking for things to be thankful for this year?
Be thankful for Tony Gonzalez's misery.
That's harsh, but as we all know, the worse Atlanta does this year, the higher the Chiefs will pick with the draft choice they obtained for Gonzalez. The Falcons are currently on the outside of the NFC playoff picture at 5-5. That translates to the Chiefs having the 16th pick of the second round, giving them three of the draft's first 48 picks.
Atlanta still has three or four more winnable games on their schedule, so it's unlikely the Chiefs will actually be picking that early. Still, since Atlanta was thought to be a serious contender this season, it's going to end up being a higher pick than anyone expected when the Gonzalez trade was announced.
Be thankful that Scott Pioli didn't trade for Richard Seymour or Braylon Edwards.
Do you remember all the complaining and hand-wringing amongst Chiefs fans when the Seymour-to-Oakland and Edwards-to-New York deals were announced? How are those trades looking at the moment?
Seymour, who cost the Raiders a future first-round pick, has four sacks this season as a starter. Meanwhile, the Chiefs' Wallace Gilberry – who, prior to the season, no one envisioned would play a significant role – has 3.5 sacks as a backup to Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey.
Then we have Edwards, who not only cost the Jets two draft picks, but two players. In six games with his new team, he has 281 yards and two touchdowns. Bobby Wade, who the Chiefs signed off the street, has 243 yards and two touchdowns in seven games with the Chiefs. Better yet, Chris Chambers – who also cost the Chiefs nothing – has 249 yards and three touchdowns in only three games with Kansas City.
None of this is to suggest that Seymour and Edwards aren't talented players, of course. But to this point, the Chiefs have managed to match their production without losing a single draft pick.
Issues Surrounding The Chiefs: Week 11
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