Chiefs are on pace to become best fourth-quarter team in club history
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs treat the fourth quarter the way John Goodman treats a buffalo wing. At the end of it, the meat’s gone, the bone’s gone, the whole damn thing.
The Andy Gang isn’t just finishing what it starts; it’s stomping it, Godzilla style, into tiny little pieces.
Through five games, the cumulative fourth-period score reads like this: Chiefs 47, Everybody Else 17. That’s a clip of +30 through five weeks, or +6 per tilt.
If that sounds like a lot, like some sort of record-setting pace, well, that’s because it is: At their current tempo, the boys in red would finish with a ratio of a whopping +96.
Which, if you’re curious, would obliterate the old fourth-quarter franchise standard of +72, set by the 1962 Dallas Texans, and the Kansas City-era record of +69, set in 1968. And even if you’re not curious, that’s awfully good company.
More fun with numbers: A 26-17 victory last Sunday at Tennessee — the Chiefs outscored the hosts 13-7 over the final period — included the 13th game-winning drive in quarterback Alex Smith’s career, which ranks fourth among active NFL quarterbacks under 30.
“The guys that I’m looking at, and I mentioned this about Alex,” coach Andy Reid said Monday, “as a group, they’re all-in.”
Mentally. Physically. Completely. Of all the crazy, pinch-yourself Chiefs statistics that have marked the first month and change of the 2013 regular season, this set might be the most impressive: In the fourth quarter of games in which The Andy Gang was either up seven or less or down seven or less — as in, with the balance of the game very much in doubt — the Chiefs have run the ball 32 times for 171 yards, 5.3 a pop, scored two touchdowns and converted 10 first downs.
In fact, 41.6 percent of the team’s entire rushing yardage (251 of 603) and 41.9 percent of its rushing first downs (13 of 31) have come within the final 15 minutes of the game. The passer rating for opposing quarterbacks in the fourth quarter? A stingy 43.8, with zero touchdown throws and three picks.
In other words, the Andy Gang is a total, stinking tease. It lets you hang around, hang around, then, just when you think the goods are finally within reach, it puts the hammer down.
“We keep pushing and pushing and pushing,” guard Geoff Schwartz said recently.
“These last few weeks, we’ve been able to break those long runs at the end of the game, which is a quality we’d like to have. But we also have to start faster. It’s never as good, it’s never as bad as you make it. That’s kind of how it goes around here.”
Reid is quick to credit his strength and conditioning department, especially new guru Barry Rubin, one of several imports from the coach’s old Philadelphia support staff. That’s a major component, of course, one of many. When this many cylinders are firing in that many places, it’s more than an endurance thing. More than a coaching thing. More than an adjustment thing.
It’s a belief thing, too.
“They’re very positive and upbeat throughout the game,” Reid continued. “They’re working to do their best, and you appreciate that. There’s a certain confidence there, and you appreciate that as a coach.”
There’s a certain pattern there, too. Good clubs close the deal, more often than not; the great ones do it consistently, as a force of habit.
Of the top eight fourth-quarter teams in club history, all finished the regular season with winning records. The aforementioned ’62 Texans went 11-3. The ’68 Chiefs wound up 12-2. So even if you don’t give a horse’s backside about history, you have to like the precedent.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at email@example.com.