With a season-opening victory, Andy Reid has solidified the optimism that surrounded his hire as coach of the Kansas City Chiefs earlier this year.
Now they’ll try to build on it against a team Reid knows well from his days in the NFC East.
Reid makes his home debut in Kansas City on Sunday as the Chiefs look to match their win total from last season against a Dallas Cowboys team that boasts an opportunistic defense and a pair of banged-up stars.
Kansas City’s 28-2 road rout of lowly Jacksonville last Sunday was the franchise’s most-lopsided season-opening victory since it beat Denver 59-7 in 1963, and quickly helped a hungry fan base forget about last season’s 2-14 debacle.
“There’s a lot of emphasis put on the first game within the league,” Reid said. “I keep in perspective that it’s one out of 16 games and hopefully more that you have an opportunity to play, so I understand that.
“On the other hand, I’ll tell you that you work your tail off to win every game, and that’s what you do. So every victory you get, you’re going to cherish and enjoy it.”
Alex Smith was 21 of 34 for 173 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in his Kansas City debut, and Jamaal Charles ran for 77 yards and a TD before leaving with a quad injury. Justin Houston recorded three of the team’s six sacks and Tamba Hali returned an interception for a touchdown as the Chiefs scored more points than in any game last season.
“There are some things we need to work on as a team, but getting this win raises the morale for us,” receiver Junior Hemingway said. “It’ll help tremendously going into next week.”
Reid believes looking forward is all that matters.
“It was neat to see the offense and the defense and the coaches, they were very excited,” Reid said. “We also know that we enjoyed it and now we’re moving on.”
One immediate concern is the uncertain status of Charles, who rushed for a career-high 1,509 yards while playing all 16 games in 2012.
“He does have range of motion,” Reid said. “We’ll just see how he does over this week.”
Including the playoffs, Reid went 17-12 against the Cowboys during his 14 seasons coaching the Eagles. Following Sunday’s game, the Chiefs have a quick turnaround before Reid’s homecoming in Philadelphia on Thursday night.
Kansas City certainly won’t be looking ahead after Dallas forced six turnovers while holding on for a 36-31 win over the New York Giants in Week 1.
Guided by 73-year-old defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and line coach Rod Marinelli, Dallas intercepted Eli Manning three times — taking one back for a TD — and returned one of David Wilson’s two fumbles for a score. The Cowboys also recovered a live ball that glanced off a Giant on a punt.
Dallas forced only 16 turnovers while going 8-8 last season.
“I think six was a lot, but we’ve been thinking about it,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “We’ve been working at it non-stop.”
Dallas, though, yielded 478 total yards — all but 50 in the air — and allowed the Giants to hang around despite all their mistakes.
“We have a lot of room to improve defensively,” Lee added. “We gave up a lot of yards. We have to improve that.”
Offensively, DeMarco Murray had 125 total yards and Jason Witten made eight catches for 70 with two TDs to become the third tight end in NFL history with 9,000 yards receiving.
Tony Romo was 36 of 49 for 263 yards with those two TDs and an interception. He also avoided a serious injury despite taking a shot to the ribs.
Receiver Dez Bryant was targeted eight times but caught just four passes for 22 yards while dealing with a mild foot sprain that is unlikely to keep him out of this contest.
Dallas has won two straight against the Chiefs, most recently 26-20 at Kansas City in 2009.
Romo was 20 of 34 for 351 yards with two TDs in that contest. He completed 10 and both scores to Miles Austin, who posted a career-high 250 receiving yards.