After being the toast of the town for nearly 30 years, the Kansas City Chiefs suddenly find themselves playing second banana to the revitalized Royals.
But a few more games like Sunday’s against San Diego and the teams may have to consider sharing top billing.
Let’s face it, given the sorry state of the Royals since 1985, the Chiefs have owned Kansas City’s affections. Fans in the City of Barbecue generally start thinking about football once the middle of August rolls around because, traditionally, the Royals are out of the pennant race.
Of course, the Royals are the fair-haired boys right now as they prep for their World Series opener on Tuesday across the street at The K. They deserve everything coming to them. They have tortured their suffering fans for so long that they should relish this moment.
But the Chiefs’ road win Sunday would suggest they’re saying to their fans, “Don’t forget about us!”
The victory evened the Chiefs record at 3-3, which is a far cry from their 6-0 ledger at this time last year.
But as Chiefs golden-throat announcer Mitch Holthus pointed out, this .500 start may be every bit as impressive as last year’s beginning that was cobbled together due to a pillowy schedule.
You can throw out the stench of the season opener against Tennessee. The Titans had been marked down in the win column before the season as they were expected to be one of the weakest teams on the schedule. But Kansas City delivered an unmitigated clunker that had many — including me — wondering if it was on its way to a repeat of 2012 when the Chiefs blundered their way to a 2-14 record and the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
Things were more encouraging the next week in a 24-17 loss to Denver. The Chiefs started to develop their M.O. for the season — a ball-control offense to keep a depth-shy and injury-ravaged defense off the field.
The Chiefs then went into Miami where they normally wilt in the Florida humidity to score their first win. There were still a few skeptics, but those doubts were erased the following Monday night when before a national audience, the Chiefs mutilated Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, dealing them their second-worst loss in the Brady-Bill Belichick era.
The brutal schedule continued with a narrow loss to San Francisco, a game the Chiefs actually dominated for 2 1/2 quarters. After a bye week, which coach Andy Reid normally turns to gold as he was 13-2 in 15 previous attempts before Sunday, the Chiefs responded with a brilliant performance against San Diego.
The Chiefs deserved that game and they had to be uplifted they won it on a field goal by shaky rookie kicker Cairo Santos. It was interesting, according to the game announcers, how the Chiefs’ sideline had bad body language before the kick because Santos hasn’t exactly inspired confidence with his various array of knuckleballs.
The Chiefs held the ball for nearly 40 minutes to 20 for the Chargers, a 2-1 ratio. They pounded away as their patchwork offensive line has proven it can run block, though it’s still suspect in pass protection. You can bet the No. 1 priority in the offseason will be to upgrade the unit through the draft and free agency as it’s still a work in progress, though Rodney Hudson is developing into one of the best centers in game.
Alex Smith was Alex Smith. He managed the game, didn't make mistakes and was as flashy as vanilla extract. He was 19 of 28 for 221 yards and a score while running six times for 29 yards, many of them being for first downs. The Chiefs did not have a fumble.
Jamaal Charles had more touches than at anytime this year as he should be fresh given the bye week and seeing minimal touches so far. Smith also made a concerted effort to get Dwayne Bowe involved as he had five catches for 84 yards and just one drop, which has been his bugaboo.
The Chiefs gave up only 251 yards, though it seemed like more as Philip Rivers exposed their secondary at times. There's still some problems at cornerback, but they are correctable.
Kansas City is now set up for a nice little run. It is home the next two weeks against St. Louis and the New York Jets, both beatable teams, and then play at Buffalo, not a good team but one that has handed the Chiefs some brutal losses in recent years. In actuality, the Chiefs play six of their last 10 at home.
Realistically, the Chiefs can only again qualify for the playoffs as a wild-card since Denver is going to win the division. San Diego and Cincinnati are considered the wild-card frontrunners, but the Chiefs, if they can take care of business at home the next two weeks, could be right there.
Not bad for a team that looked so abysmal in Week 1.