A handshake, and no more hand-wringing for Haley, Chiefs

by | Special to CBSSports.com
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KANSAS CITY -- Like most sequels, this one was a dud. There was no passion, no finger wagging, no epithets exchanged.

Three weeks ago at the end of the first game between the Chiefs and Broncos, K.C. coach Todd Haley refused the hand of Denver’s head coach Josh McDaniels, touching off one of those controversies that fuel the division passions inside the AFC West. The next day Haley said he was sorry for his actions in one of the least heartfelt apologies the NFL has seen in some time.

So when the teams had their rematch on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, no one left their seats before the end of the game. Forget about beating the traffic; they had their popcorn ready and everyone waited for the next move from these second-year head coaches.

Those expecting fireworks were disappointed. After the Chiefs' 10-6 victory, Haley and McDaniels met at midfield and practically sang Kumbaya together. They shook hands. They gave each other a hug. There were whispers in the ears, a pat on the back for Haley and a pat on the head for McDaniels and then they were gone, headed for their locker rooms.

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It was just the normal post-game show that NFL coaches perform every week. Thank goodness their teams played with more passion in a slugfest that allowed the Chiefs to move their record to 8-4 and maintain their spot as the leader in the AFC West. The loss left McDaniels and the Broncos at 3-9 on the season, guaranteeing Denver a losing record and a long December.

When asked about the post-game hug, Haley verbally ran in the other direction.

"I appreciate everyone liking to talk about it, but it's just such a big win for our team," Haley said. "That's what I prefer to keep it about because this was a big win; a division win at home in December."

McDaniels had nothing but platitudes for Haley and his team, saying, "I have to congratulate Kansas City. I thought they did a really nice job. Their staff did make some adjustments from our first game and I think that's why the game totally took a different spin." Haley has never publicly explained what ticked him off at Invesco Field on Nov. 14, when the Broncos handed the Chiefs a 49-29 beat-down. It's whispered that Denver's behavior on and off the field in the last quarter of that game may have been the reason. McDaniels' team played until the final minutes like the game's outcome was in doubt, while visibly and boisterously celebrating on their bench.

In the rematch, the opportunity for any team to celebrate didn't come until after the game's final play. It was a day for the defenses, as the teams combined for only one touchdown and three field goals. The Chiefs offense struggled all day, hurting themselves time after time with penalties and mental mistakes. Dwayne Bowe came into the game as one of the league's hottest receivers, but he did not catch a pass. About the only thing they did well was hold on to the ball, as they finished with an almost 15-minute advantage in time of possession.

McDaniels and Haley meet and greet after the game. No big thing. (AP)  
McDaniels and Haley meet and greet after the game. No big thing. (AP)  
But the Kansas City defense stepped up and did not allow the Broncos a touchdown. They forced a turnover, sacked QB Kyle Orton four times and held one of the league's leading receivers, Brandon Lloyd, to two catches for 31 yards.

"We created some pressure and sacks," Haley said. "We got the ball out a couple times. It was a team win thanks to the defense."

Haley likes to say the Chiefs are a team in transition, trying to rebuild themselves after going 10-38 in the previous three seasons. He's been in charge the past two seasons and the victory lifted his coaching record to 12-16 after last year's 4-12 struggle.

"We've been through some hard times," Haley said. "The Kansas City Chiefs, a team that a lot of people had written off at the start of the year, but we have a group of fighters in there that have come together and are becoming a tight-knit team. When you have a team like that you can do special things."

It's not so special in Denver for McDaniels and his team. His record over the past two seasons is now 11-17, after starting 6-0 in 2009. Quite naturally the rabid citizens of the Rockies are not very happy with the direction of the team and owner Pat Bowlen has issued the dreaded vote of confidence for his beleaguered head coach.

"We could just never finish once we got down there in the red zone," McDaniels said of his team's Sunday effort. "The Chiefs deserve a lot of the credit. That's why they're where they are. They played and coached well today and that's why they are at the top of our division."

The Chiefs face a big challenge this coming weekend when they travel to San Diego to play the Chargers. A victory would leave them on the porch of the AFC playoffs holding the key to unlock the door. It has the potential to be the type of tense AFC West game where coaches get emotional and don't shake hands when it's done.

So maybe a worthy finger wagging sequel is still to come.

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