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Improving defense helping Chiefs save season

October 30, 2011

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— Sometimes late at night, when Todd Haley is walking through the Kansas City Chiefs’ complex, he hears what sounds like furtive whispers behind closed doors.

It also happens on the road at the team hotel. Usually he just ignores the earnest, muted conversation and goes on his way. But sometimes he invites himself in and takes part in the two-man team meeting that starting cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers so often hold with each other.

“I can be walking through this building at odd times and they’ll have found some little area,” Haley said. “They’re in there. You hear soft whispers. It can be at the hotel, or here, in their room. It can be upstairs.”

Rookies together in 2008, the two friends have been putting their heads together and studying film, going over different nuances and tendencies of the upcoming opponent — working as hard as they can to be as good as they can.

When the two cornerbacks get together, it’s not to tell jokes or relax at the end of a long day. It’s football talk on the most sophisticated level.

“We spend a lot of time together,” Flowers said. “We started doing it our rookie year.”

A close friendship took root almost immediately when the two arrived in 2008. Flowers, a second-round pick from Virginia Tech, and Carr, a fifth-rounder from Grand Valley State, were both very young and, though they didn’t want to admit it, somewhat intimidated by the NFL.

Giving them even more in common, both were thrown into the starting lineup, asked to battle experienced receivers and savvy quarterbacks probably before they were ready.

“We didn’t want to be the weak part of the defense,” Flowers said.

The Brandons needed each other, and still do. The two are so close they even purchased homes that are practically next door.

“Those guys are like brothers. They’re connected at the hip. They do everything together,” quarterback Matt Cassel said. “They’re constantly watching film, even the night before a game. It’s great to see.”

They’re also a big reason the Chiefs have recovered from three season-opening losses to win three in a row. Their game against San Diego on Monday night will be for a share of first place in the AFC West, something that seemed impossible just three weeks ago for the defending division champions.

The Chargers (4-2) will be facing a defense that hasn’t been scored on in six straight quarters, something no Chiefs team had done since the 2003 team went 13-3 and won the AFC West.

“We’ve played against each other plenty of times and they’re good corners,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “They’re complete players. They press. They can play off. They can play the ball. There are certain corners you don’t worry about catching it or doing things. These guys do it all. Those two corners are a lot of the reason they’ve gotten three in a row and are rolling pretty good.”

Statistically, even during their season-salvaging three-game winning streak, the Kansas City defense has not piled up a lot of impressive statistics.

While it’s true they intercepted six passes last week in a 28-0 victory at Oakland, the Raiders actually outgained the Chiefs 322-300. The week before, Indianapolis had 355 yards. The week before that, Minnesota had 341 yards.

“The six picks happened because everybody was doing their job,” Haley said. “But I think you’re seeing some positive results because they’re playing together. I think our defensive players and our entire team, we all have a much clearer vision of what we are and what we have to be to be successful on a consistent basis.”

Flowers had two interceptions, returning one 58 yards for a touchdown, and was selected the AFC defensive player of the week. Carr added an interception.

It was one of his late-night sessions with his buddy that gets credit for the pick six. He and Carr had taken particular notice of a formation the Raiders like to use.

“I was looking just for that quick game read from the quarterback. I saw it,” Flowers said. “It’s a quick three-step drop by the quarterback. Three quick steps means the ball has to come out quick. I just knew what route he does off that drop.

“When hard work pays off, it is satisfying. I feel the NFL game is 80 percent mental, 20 percent physical.”

Carr has no doubt the 1-on-1 sessions with his pal have made him a much better player.

“I can kind of pick his brain and use that on the field and he can do the same with me,” Carr said. “We see things differently. But together we can make it into a game plan for each other.”

Their consultation never ends.

“We challenge each other,” Flowers said. “He stays right around the corner from me, so he comes to my house and I go to his house.”

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