Kansas City, Mo. Le’Ron McClain posted a bold tweet a little over a week ago after another tough loss to the San Diego Chargers had dropped the Chiefs to 0-3.
The veteran fullback predicted Kansas City would win its next five games.
It doesn’t sound so bold anymore.
After getting off to one of the worst starts in NFL history, including back-to-back losses by scores of 41-7 and 48-3, and sustaining season-ending injuries to several key players, Kansas City showed some moxie two weeks ago in fighting back from a 10-point hole in a 20-17 loss to the Chargers.
Then Sunday, the Chiefs rallied from a second-half deficit for a 22-17 win over Minnesota.
One down, Le’Ron. Four to go.
“You don’t really talk about it, because you never want to think of yourself crossing that line from being 0-4 to being 1-3,” linebacker Derrick Johnson said after he was asked whether beating the winless Vikings constituted a must-win situation. “It’s a little thing, but it’s a big thing, too.”
Instead of trying to dig out from an insurmountable hole, the Chiefs will visit Indianapolis on Sunday with the potential for getting to 2-3 before early bye week.
“That’s kind of how our games will go, so we have to keep getting better, clean up a bunch of little things that could make a difference one way or another,” coach Todd Haley said Monday. “That’s what we’re doing now.”
Kansas City still faces long odds of defending its AFC West title.
Only three teams since 1990 have started 0-3 and reached the postseason: the 1992 Chargers, the ‘95 Lions and ‘98 Bills. Only the Chargers lost their first four and made it.
None of those teams was missing the collective talent that Kansas City has already lost to season-ending injuries, either. All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles, Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry and tight end Tony Moeaki each tore their left ACLs in a cruel coincidence, and linebacker Brandon Siler went down with a torn Achilles tendon shortly after signing in training camp.
But what the Chiefs are missing on the field they’re compensating for with sheer intensity.
Quarterback Matt Cassel got into a screaming match with coach Todd Haley on the sideline Sunday after a promising drive stalled. It was captured on television in all its gory detail, though both parties brushed it off as just “part of the game” once the victory was wrapped up.
Cassel in turn took his intensity to the locker room, where he unleashed a verbal tirade directed at the rest of the Chiefs during an impromptu halftime speech straight out of the movies.
“He was screaming and yelling, ‘We can do this! We can do this! One play at a time.’ And that’s what we did, one play at a time,” wide receiver Dwayne Bowe said. “The quarterback screams and yells, you definitely want to do everything you can to support him.”
“We got a tough, resilient bunch of guys that care, and that’s really important,” Haley said. “They fight and they’re going to fight to win, and to be a good team, and I believe that we will be that.”