When the Kansas City Chiefs were 0-2, the sky was falling. The city devolved into a dystopia, a fanbase became a lynch mob and parents were one loss away from selling newborns for batteries and 24-packs of Dasani.
At least, that’s what it felt like.
Seven weeks later, the Chiefs are clasping the fifth seed in the playoff picture.
Once again, winning proves to be the cure-all.
Andy Reid, Bob Sutton, and Dave Toub have overcome a biblical swarm of injury bugs. However, they’ll be the first to deflect praise.
The following 10 players served as pillars for Kansas City’s current 5-1 stretch.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Sherman
October 5, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid (left) instructs fullback Anthony Sherman (42) against the San Francisco 49ers during the fourth quarter at Levi
The Chiefs own a rich history of first-class fullbacks, from Kimble Anders and Tony Richardson to Christian Okoye.
Anthony Sherman, who agreed to an extension on Wednesday, is well on his way to cementing his name among the franchise’s elite.
Unlike Anders and Okoye, he’ll never see an abundance of handoffs. Sherman fits the mold of Richardson (throughout the latter portion of his career); a backfield battering ram who occasionally showcases a broader skill set.
Kansas City’s steamroller is currently Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) No. 1 overall fullback and ranks first in blocking.
10. Sean Smith
Sep 21, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA;Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith (21) cant make the interception off the Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) (not pictured) pass at Sun Life Stadium. The Chiefs defeated the Dolphins 34-15. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
I can’t think of a player who has force-fed me more crow than Sean Smith.
Last year, Smith periodically whiffed on jams and/or stumbled during the releases of quicker wideouts. And considering he totes average straight-line speed, said errors proved costly.
Furthermore, this offseason’s arrest didn’t help his public profile, which snowballed into him taking reps with second-stringers.
Heading into Week 10, he ranks as PFF’s No. 13 cornerback (of 199).
The higher-ups have patched up the back end of the secondary, and Smith’s technique looks as polished as ever. Even crazier, he has yet to be flagged for a penalty.
Elon Musk is the founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX. He’s currently conceptualizing the “Hyperloop,” a tube-based transportation system that would commute travelers at an average speed of roughly 700 mph.
If he spent one season analyzing football, he would end up coloring giraffes in a padded cell.
9. Dwayne Bowe
When Dwayne Bowe’s name breaches a conversation, a line is drawn in the sand. For whatever reason(s), he’s the most polarizing player on the Chiefs roster.
Love or hate him, Bowe’s Week 1 absence resulted in Alex Smith’s worst performance as a member of the Chiefs.
The club’s No. 2 receiver, Donnie Avery, would be the No. 3 option on most teams. When he was promoted to the primary role in the season opener, Smith was 19-of-35 for 202 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
It was painful to watch.
When Bowe returned, the aerial attack (by Kansas City’s standards) started clicking again—probably not a coincidence.
Over the past three games, the long-time starter has amassed 203 yards (11.9 average) on 17 receptions.
8. Rodney Hudson
October 5, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs center Rodney Hudson (61) blocks San Francisco 49ers nose tackle Ian Williams (93) during the third quarter at Levi
When I think of the standout moments of Rodney Hudson’s 2014 season, two plays come to mind.
First, De’Anthony Thomas’ touchdown versus San Francisco, in which Hudson prevented Chris Culliver and Patrick Willis from touching No. 13.
The second effort dates back to Jamaal Charles’ record-breaking run at San Diego.
Hudson chipped two defenders (who would’ve otherwise been in position to make the tackle) and then bulldozed Marcus Gilchrist, creating a freshly paved path for his ankle-breaking halfback.
The veteran has allowed the fewest sacks (zero), hits (one, tied) and hurries (four) among Kansas City’s starters.
7. Husain Abdullah
Oct 20, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah (39) celebrates against the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Husain Abdullah was the team’s most pivotal re-signing.
With Sanders Commings returning to the IR and Eric Berry missing five of the first eight games, safety had all the makings of a liability.
However, Abdullah, who ranks as PFF’s No. 16 (of 154) player at the position, gradually became a vocal leader, flipping a team weakness into a strength.
He has limited opposing passers to a cumulative rating of 72.1 when throwing in his vicinity.
His four quarterback hits also lead the team, while his 32 tackles and four pass defenses rank third.
6. Tamba Hali
Hali has lagged behind the pace that he set last year, and Justin Houston has all but eclipsed his production.
For what it’s worth, though, Hali spends the majority of his snaps clashing with the opponent’s best tackle.
Plus, four sacks, 16 hurries and three forced fumbles are nothing to sneeze at.
5. Dontari Poe
Oct 26, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs nose tackle Dontari Poe (92) congratulates defensive end Allen Bailey (97) after Bailey
Among defensive tackles (4-3 and 3-4), Poe ranks No. 4 in solo tackles (20) and No. 2 in stops (19).
Obviously, the losses of Mike DeVito, Derrick Johnson and Joe Mays weakened Kansas City’s run defense. However, Poe’s dominance has served as the springboard for Josh Mauga’s team-leading 51 tackles.
He also moonlights as a 346-pound fullback, which tiptoes a fine line between blocking and assault.
4. Travis Kelce
Nov 2, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half against the New York Jets at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Travis Kelce is compared to Rob Gronkowski on a daily basis.
They’re both hulking, carefree, deceptively athletic tight ends who could crush 90 percent of us into fine powders.
Gronkowski owns the edge in a number of statistics, but he has also participated in 172 more snaps. Kelce bests the veteran in percentage (78) of targets caught and missed tackles (11). His 278 yards after the catch also leads the league, averaging 3.4 more than the Patriots’ playmaker.
While Bowe has never had the luxury of a consistent No. 2 receiver, he and Kelce are evolving into a crowd-pleasing tag team.
3. Jamaal Charles
Look, if someone asks me who the Chiefs’ best player is, I’ll say “Jamaal Charles” before the question is finished.
However, that doesn’t mean he’s been the most impactful throughout Kansas City’s current stretch. Charles has yet to notch a 100-yard rushing game, and his season-high in receiving yards is 44.
That being said, he missed the Miami game and cradled just seven handoffs in the season opener. Furthermore, he regularly makes a semi-shoddy offensive line look infinitely better than it otherwise would.
Charles is the league’s best decoy and leads the team with seven touchdowns. Also, in 2013, three of his four 100-plus-yard efforts occurred in the latter half of the season.
From the All-Pro’s perspective, two things have decreased throughout 2014: his workload and quality of blocking. At the end of the day, though, No. 25 is still the Chiefs’ weapon of mass destruction.
2. Alex Smith
Sep 21, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) points at the line of scrimmage during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Chiefs won 34-15. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
If you consider yourself an Alex Smith critic, think twice about skipping this slide.
Here a handful of post-Week 3 stats:
Now, the obvious rebuttal is “He never throws deep,” which is, for all intents and purposes, true. However, if he resides in the middle of the pack in yards per attempt and touts a 10-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, how dire is the need to stretch the field?
Furthermore, while Smith isn’t responsible for every conversion, the Chiefs currently rank No. 2 in third-down efficiency (51.9) this season.
Some fans adore him; others don’t. But if you’re making a case against him, numbers won’t be your friend.
1. Justin Houston
Your eye-opening stat of the day, per Sporting Charts: The Chiefs defense accounts for the second-fewest snaps (476) in the NFL and the third-most sacks (27).
To put that into perspective, the team with the most takedowns (Minnesota Vikings, 30) has partaken in the ninth-most snaps (557).
Justin Houston’s 13 sacks lay claim to 48 percent of Kansas City’s total. He alone has corralled the quarterback more often than five teams.
However, he’s currently PFF’s top 3-4 outside linebacker for more reasons than one. Houston also grades out at No. 6 in coverage, No. 2 in run defense and No.1 in (fewest) penalties.
Simply put, he’s a monster.
He taught the Hulk how to make a fist, and his highlights should be the finale of American Horror Story.
Grab the checkbook.