CLEVELAND -- They have two offensive touchdowns in two weeks, they struggle to convert third downs and their quarterback seems stuck in neutral. But so what? It doesn't matter. What does is that the Kansas City Chiefs are 2-0 and sitting atop the AFC West, and tell me the last time that happened.
I'll spare you the trouble. It was 2005, and the Chiefs finished 10-6. Since then they never, ever, ever began a season without dropping their first two games, which is why Sunday's 16-14 defeat of Cleveland is significant.
Heck, the Chiefs didn't score their second victory last season until Nov. 15. Now they return home to play San Francisco before drawing a bye, and it's not a stretch to think that Kansas City –- a club that, entering this season, had lost 35 of its previous 41 starts –- could be sitting 3-0 at intermission.
Yeah, I know, they're not exactly the 2009 New Orleans Saints, with quarterback Matt Cassel still trying to find himself, but they don't have to be. They beat San Diego last week with a big punt return, a 56-yard touchdown run and a critical fumble recovery, and they overcame Cleveland with another fumble recovery and an interception return that together produced 10 points.
Hey, whatever works, and right now it's a defense that surrendered 28 points in two weeks. Compare that to the outfit that last year was punctured for 30 or more six times -– including a 41-34 setback to the Browns -– and maybe then you'll understand there is something going on with this year's Chiefs that is different from its predecessors.
"I know you guys want some real nice and big numbers," Chiefs coach Todd Haley said, "but it's not going to be pretty. That's about how it's going to be most of the time for a little while.
"Our margin of error is not going to be great. We're a team that hasn't won a lot of games, and that doesn't happen by accident. We've done a lot to lay the foundation last year, and we're continuing to lay the foundation. I know that's something I say, but I believe it, and I mean it. We're in the process of trying to become a good team."
He's right about that. The Chiefs have shortcomings right now on offense, but it's a long season, and they knocked off the division champion before going on the road in a short week to win again. That counts for something, and what it means here is that you better not ignore these guys. They may become a factor as the season wears on.
Yeah, I know, you can argue that Sunday's win was unimpressive, that the underachieving Browns gave away a second victory with costly turnovers and stupid penalties. But good teams take advantage of those mistakes, and the Chiefs did just that. Moreover, they suffocated their opponents in the second half, holding them to 55 yards, three first downs -- one by penalty -- and no points, the second straight week the Browns failed to score in the second half.
That tells you something about both sides, and what it tells me about Kansas City is that we may have to start taking about the Chiefs seriously. I mean, look what's ahead for them: After the Oct. 3 bye, they go on the road to play Indianapolis and Houston, neither of which they'll be expected to win. And then? Well, then they don't play an opponent with a winning record in 2009 until Arizona on Nov. 21. And the Cards are one of only two opponents after Houston that had a winning record last season.
|Kansas City Chiefs|
|The adjustments and performance after a lackluster first half were impressive. The offense mixed up the run and pass quite well after halftime and the defense shut down the Browns. The secondary was particularly effective.|
|The Browns simply can't win with these wide receivers, whose ineffectiveness allows defenses to play seven or eight in the box. The Browns have concluded the only weak part of their schedule. They are wasting strong efforts by the defense.|
|By Marty Gitlin|
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So don't tell me this is a mirage because I'm not buying it. I don't care if the Chiefs are legit or not; I just care that they're unbeaten, with a warm and fuzzy schedule that could make them a winner for the first time since 2006 ... or the last time they went to the playoffs.
"[Being undefeated] feels real good right now," said cornerback Brandon Flowers, who returned an interception for a touchdown. "We're trying to keep our head going straight forward and not getting too cocky or too confident."
"So how do you that," I asked, "when no Chiefs team opened the season with two wins since 2005?"
"We're not the 2005 team or the '06, '07, '08 or '09 teams," Flowers said. "This is the new Kansas City Chiefs. Nobody's thinking about the previous years, and that's what will take us a long way. Deep down in crunch time nobody is looking like, 'Oh, man, now we're messing up; now it's going the wrong way.' It’s a new team, and everybody is looking forward."
Nowhere was that more evident than on the Chiefs' last series. With fourth-and-1 at the Cleveland 36, Haley kept his offense on the field when a punt seemed more logical. Yeah, OK, so he has Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles, and Cleveland had burned all its timeouts. But Kansas City four times before had third-and-2 or third-and-1 and couldn't convert. So Haley's decision was as much an endorsement of his players as it was last call for the Browns.
Result: Jones brought down the curtain with a 1-yard carry.
"I thought it was a great move," Cassel said. "It gave us a lot of confidence as an offense. You should have seen the huddle. When I told the guys, 'We're going for it,' lineman lit up and the running backs light up. It was a pretty special moment to be in that huddle."
It's a pretty special moment to be with the Kansas City Chiefs. It's rare for them to win the first two games. It's more rare still to find Kansas City ahead of San Diego in the AFC West. Appreciate it for what it is, Chiefs' fans. So your club wins ugly. This isn't about style points; it's about success ... and the Chiefs are tapped into it.
"Hey, winning is winning," Cassel said. "It's hard to win ballgames in the NFL. Whatever it takes. If it's sloppy it's sloppy. But as long at the end of the day we have a 'W' on the board that's all that matters to us."