Chiefs headed to playoffs, still have West hopes

In the span of a year, the Kansas City Chiefs went from being a

franchise in disarray to one with the best record in the AFC and a

shot at winning their division with two regular-season games

left.

It’s hard to believe even for those in the midst of it.

”You can’t really explain it by words,” said linebacker

Derrick Johnson. ”It’s a feeling that not everybody has, and to go

through what we went through last year and to be in this situation

to do some big things – making the playoffs before the season is

over, it’s great.”

The Chiefs punched their ticket to the postseason with a 56-31

victory at Oakland on Sunday, one that pushed their franchise-best

turnaround to nine games. Kansas City (11-3) also moved into a tie

with Denver atop the AFC West, though the Broncos hold the

tiebreaker by virtue of a season sweep.

Still, if the Broncos stumble in one of their two remaining

games – at lowly Houston and Oakland – and the Chiefs beat

Indianapolis and San Diego, it would be Kansas City that’s home for

the playoffs.

The way this season has gone, even the most remote possibility

is still possible.

”This team is wired maybe a little different,” Chiefs coach

Andy Reid said Monday. ”I think they’re going to finish out strong

no matter what the outcome is. I feel as a coach you tell them to

go get them, they’ll go get them. I kind of feel they’re wired that

way.”

That wasn’t the way they were wired before Reid’s arrival.

While the Chiefs have churned through their roster, about half

of which is new this season, most of the key players remain from

that 2-14 team. Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry and Dwayne Bowe were all

part of the most forgettable season in franchise history, one that

resulted in the firing of coach Romeo Crennel and general manager

Scott Pioli and an overhaul of the entire front office.

Shortly after Reid was hired, John Dorsey was brought in as the

GM, and team owner Clark Hunt vowed to take a more hands-on role

with the organization. The results have been nothing short of

spectacular: The Chiefs are heading to the playoffs for just the

second time since 2006, Arrowhead Stadium is packed and there’s a

buzz throughout the city.

”That just shows you how hard work pays off,” Charles said,

”and every guy in that locker room has worked their tail off. …

That’s what I told those guys, `Hard work pays off.”’

The performance by the Chiefs on Sunday may have been the most

impressive yet.

While the defense gave up big chunks of yardage, it also picked

off five passes and forced seven turnovers. Berry had two of those

picks and returned one of them for a touchdown, the 11th time that

Kansas City has gotten a TD from defense or special teams this

season.

The only teams with more? The Cardinals (12) in 2010 and

Seahawks (13) in 1998.

Alex Smith was 17 of 20 for 287 yards and five touchdowns

without an interception, making him just the second Chiefs

quarterback with a perfect quarterback rating. Trent Green did it

on Sept. 29, 2002.

Then there is Charles, who made a mockery of the Raiders

defense. He touched the ball 16 times but still piled up five

touchdowns. He had 195 yards receiving, the fifth-most by a running

back in NFL history, and his TD total was tied for the fourth-most

in league history.

”As you know, that’s a tough position to play,” Reid said,

”and this time of year, you see running backs, their production

goes down a bit, and he’s been able to maintain a high level.”

The Chiefs put up all that offense despite missing starting left

tackle Branden Albert, tight end Anthony Fasano and slot receiver

Dexter McCluster due to injuries. All three of them, along with

pass rusher Justin Houston, could be back for Sunday’s game against

the Colts.

Reid said he wouldn’t hold anybody out who is ready to play,

even though the Chiefs are already in the playoffs. After all,

there’s still a division title to chase.

”If the guys can play, they’re going to play,” he said. ”The

rest of our season is as important to us as the beginning of our

season. We’re not backing off on anything there.”

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