Kansas City, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs rarely win, so it’s easy to remember what happens after they do.
The last time the youthful Chiefs beat somebody besides the Raiders, they fell to pieces. A 33-19 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sept. 28 was immediately followed by embarrassing blowout losses to Carolina and Tennessee, setting in motion a seven-game losing streak that did not end until Sunday’s hard-fought 20-13 win at Oakland.
Coach Herm Edwards ascribed the ruinous rush of arrogance that followed the victory over Denver to the folly of youth. Since September, his young players have learned some valuable lessons the hard way, he hopes.
“The one thing this league teaches you, it’s not who you play. It’s how you play the day you play,” he said. “You look at some of the scores this weekend and think, ‘How did that happen?’ A guy throws for 400 yards one game, then the next game he throws four picks.”
Now it’s on to Denver for a rematch Sunday with the only other team Kansas City has beaten in more than a year. With a win under the belt, will the Chiefs once again walk around as if they own the NFL?
Or have they matured?
“I think, hopefully, they learned their lesson in the Carolina experience,” Edwards said Monday. “I think they’ll respond.
“But a lot of these guys have never been to Denver,” he added. “We’re going to take 19 rookies or whatever it is.”
Edwards and his staff kept their fingers crossed for almost two months hoping their young players could gain the much-needed confidence boost that comes only with winning. Now that their second win in 20 games is in the book, the worry is that perhaps everyone might relax too much.
“How are you going to handle this?” Edwards said. “We’ll find out.”
Edwards gave the Chiefs Monday off to celebrate their win, and to celebrate the way they hung together the week after committing five turnovers in a 54-31 rout by Buffalo.
“How were we going to handle the Buffalo game, going on the road against the Raiders?” said Edwards. “That was the big question. We fought our way out of it and won a football game.”
Perhaps most encouraging was the way first-year starting quarterback Tyler Thigpen handled himself. Against the Bills, he’d thrown two picks and lost a fumble in his worst game since throwing three interceptions against Carolina.
But after throwing an interception Sunday that led immediately to an easy Oakland touchdown and a 10-10 tie, Thigpen engineered a 91-yard drive for the winning touchdown.
He started with a pass for 23 yards to tight end Tony Gonzalez, hit Gonzalez for another 16 yards, and ran for 11 himself to set up Larry Johnson’s short TD burst.
In a similar situation four games earlier against the Jets, Thigpen failed to deliver. In a similar situation on Nov. 16 against New Orleans, Thigpen failed to deliver.
But this time he came through for his first victory in six starts, lending a bit more weight to the argument that Kansas City may have stumbled upon its quarterback of the future.
Edwards is still not ready to make that declaration about Thigpen. But he readily agrees the second-year pro from Coastal Carolina is showing growth.
“I thought he made some good throws,” Edwards said. “He threw one to Tony on the sideline, that was a heck of a throw. On the interception, he booted the other way and threw too high to Tony. He made a couple of bad decisions. But he came back after the game was tied and he got us the lead, against a pretty good defense.
“It was something he hadn’t done. I thought he grew up a little bit right there. He’s learning. They’re all learning.”