KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Little has gone right for the Kansas City Chiefs this season.
There were blowout losses to start the season, injuries to key players and now the fan base has been cast into the mud by comments made by offensive tackle Eric Winston, alleging a small percentage of them cheered when quarterback Matt Cassel was hurt last week.
Sounds like a good time to hit the road.
The Chiefs visit Tampa Bay on Sunday in search of their second win of the season. They get a bye week after that before hosting Oakland, and then have two more games on the road.
That should give a team that’s closed ranks behind Winston and backup quarterback Brady Quinn a chance to focus on itself, away from the suddenly volatile atmosphere of Arrowhead Stadium.
“If we win, you can say, `Yeah, it’s a good thing,'” Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said, when asked whether going on the road amid such turmoil can be a positive thing for the team.
“If we lose, hey, it may not be the best thing,” Crennel added quickly. “This is a bottom-line business. When you win, things seem to be better. When you lose, they seem to be worse.”
Hard to believe things can get a whole lot worse.
The Chiefs are the runaway league leaders in turnovers through the first five weeks of the season. The defense is giving up more points than just about anybody, even after holding the Ravens to nine last week. The rush defense has been weak, the pass offense ineffective.
If not for a franchise-record, 18-point rally to beat New Orleans – another team in turmoil – in overtime, the Chiefs would be winless through the first five games of the season.
Then there’s the trouble away from the field: Fans purchasing banners to fly over the stadium asking for the general manager to be fired, and Winston laying into those who cheered when Cassel was hurt, comments that quickly went viral and cast the organization in a negative light. Even team Chairman Clark Hunt rushed to the defense of the fans this week.
“I feel like we’ve stuck together pretty good,” Winston said. “I don’t feel like this team has ever been fractured, even after we’ve gotten off to this rough start.”
Cassel was officially ruled out against Tampa Bay on Thursday, which means Quinn will make his first NFL start since the 2009 season, when he was still with the Cleveland Browns.
Perhaps having a new set of hands under center will give the team a much-needed lift.
Or perhaps getting out of town will do the trick.
“You could say there’s desperation, but you have to handle it the right way,” Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “At 1-4, you need a win. You need a win, you need one win. You can say desperation, but you can’t panic. We have to handle it the right way.”
Whoever coined the phrase, “Adversity brings out the best in people,” certainly could use the Chiefs this week to tell whether there’s any truth to the statement.
“I think adversity, what it does is pull a unit together,” said Crennel, who is 27-44 as an NFL head coach. “It doesn’t make any difference who’s watching or who’s looking. The fact that there is adversity that can kind of pull a team together.”
Crennel said much of the adversity has been of the Chiefs’ own construction.
They’ve committed 19 turnovers through their first five games, more than any other team at the same point in the season since the 1997 Saints. They’ve also committed 23 penalties over the past three weeks, including eight for 60 yards in last Sunday’s loss to Baltimore.
One of the penalties was a pass interference call against wide receiver Dexter McCluster that wiped out what would have been the go-ahead touchdown pass to Dwayne Bowe in the fourth quarter.
Now, the Chiefs are in danger of being out of the playoff race by the middle of October.
Adversity? The Chiefs have plenty of it.
What they need more of is wins.
“I think a team comes together through all sorts of adversity, regardless of what it is,” Quinn said this week, shortly after practicing for the first time with the starters. “We’re just trying to come together, eliminate turnovers and penalties and try to win a football game.”