KANSAS CITY — Publicly, they held their tongues.
Privately, they seethed last spring when this banana peel of a schedule came out. With a second-year head coach and a team in transition, the Kansas City Chiefs would have to play three of their first four on the road, and then when cold weather set in, take to the road for three of their last four.
It seemed unfair. With two of those initial road games being against 2006 playoff teams, it seemed very unfair. But the Chiefs persevered and pulled off a 30-16 victory in San Diego on Sunday as 12-point underdogs to even their mark at 2-2.
Now they’ve won two in a row, are tied for the lead in the AFC West and have a division road win in the bank as they head into the sweet part of a schedule that suddenly seems much less treacherous.
Starting with Jacksonville this Sunday, they play four of their next five and six of their next eight at Arrowhead Stadium, where their home-field advantage is unmatched by any club in the NFL since 1990. It’s a time to fatten up, to store away wins before that cold-weather road push in December.
Like the little kid who bravely swallows his foul-tasting medicine, the Chiefs came through those hazardous first four games with less pain and suffering than they feared. Now they get to lick the lollipop.
“Obviously, we wish we were in better shape than we are now,” coach Herm Edwards said Monday. “But we are what we are. We’re 2-2. But you’re looking at the games at home, you’ve got two at home, then you go on the road and then you come back for three out of the four at home again.
“If you’re going to make a run at anything, you’re going to have to make your run there.”
After opening with losses at Houston and Chicago, the Chiefs’ rapidly improving defense has held both Minnesota and San Diego scoreless in the second half of their past two games, allowing a slow-starting offense to dig out of double-digit holes and take the lead for good.
“You’d like to be in a situation where you’re kind of getting some momentum,” Edwards said. “All of a sudden, you’ve won two and you feel a lot better about yourself. We’ve still got a long way to go. But hey, we’re playing at home and that always helps. It doesn’t guarantee a victory, but it helps that you’re playing at home.”
With the Chiefs tied with Oakland and Denver for the AFC West lead, a loud and festive sellout crowd of around 79,000 now seems assured for the Jacksonville game.
Just two weeks ago, when they were 0-2 and trailing the Vikings 10-0 at halftime, most fans were probably ready to write them off. Hardly anyone thought they had a prayer against the Chargers, who were 12-point favorites and supposedly snorting mad because they were 1-2 and not getting the respect they were owed for going 14-2 last year.
Now the talk shows are buzzing with happy Chiefs chatter. Many fans are laying out plans for the playoffs.
“Yeah, and that’s what’s great about fans because they wear their emotions on their sleeves,” Edwards said.
“Thats what great about them. They’re so involved in the game and they want their team to win. And it doesn’t matter what city it is, it really doesn’t. You understand that as a player, you understand that as a coach. But you don’t get involved in that. You don’t let that make decisions for you. You never do.”