Kansas City, Mo. The Kansas City Chiefs scored more points in their season opener than they did in any game last season. They piled up six sacks, returned an interception for a touchdown and didn’t allow the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars to score on offense.
The result? New coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith have the Chiefs already halfway toward their win total from last season.
“There’s a lot of emphasis put on the first game within the league,” Reid said Monday. “I keep in perspective that it’s one out of 16 games and hopefully more that you have an opportunity to play, so I understand that. On the other hand, I’ll tell you that you work your tail off to win every game, and that’s what you do. So every victory you get, you’re going to cherish and enjoy it.”
Especially in a city that has been starved for victories.
The emphatic 28-2 result Sunday was the Chiefs’ most lopsided season-opening win since beating Denver 59-7 in 1963. It also made Reid their first coach to win his opener since Frank Gansz in 1987.
More than anything, though, it helped folks in Kansas City forget last season ever happened.
It helped them forget about a team that finished 2-14, and didn’t hold a lead in regulation until Week 10. It helped them forget about the paper bags that fans wore to games, and the banners that they paid for to fly over Arrowhead Stadium begging for CEO Clark Hunt to make changes.
It helped them forget about the dysfunction that existed under former GM Scott Pioli.
“There are some things we need to work on as a team, but getting this win raises the morale for us,” said wide receiver Junior Hemingway, who spent last season shuffling between the practice squad and the active roster. “It’ll help tremendously going into next week.”
Rarely in the NFL do teams have an opportunity to cherish a victory. It’s always on to the next game, in this case the Dallas Cowboys in the Chiefs’ home opener next Sunday
But in this case, Reid wanted his guys to enjoy a comprehensive win.
Smith managed the game admirably in his first start since getting benched after recovering from a concussion last year in San Francisco. He threw for 173 yards and two touchdowns without committing a turnover and was a big reason Kansas City built a 14-2 lead by the end of the first quarter.
After allowing a blocked punt for a safety early in the game, special teams were just as special as they’d been all preseason. Dexter McCluster’s long punt return set up the Chiefs’ first touchdown, and kicker Ryan Succop and punter Dustin Colquitt put the Jags in poor field position all game.
Then there was the defense, which has swapped out a “read and react” style endorsed by former coach Romeo Crennel for a “seek and attack” style under new coordinator Bob Sutton.
The result was three sacks for linebacker Justin Houston. Tamba Hali picked off a pass and returned it for his first career touchdown. Brandon Flowers nearly had another pick 6. And the defensive line bottled up Jacksonville star Maurice Jones-Drew all afternoon.
“We could see this coming with our defense,” linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “We wanted to put something on film and let everyone see that the Chiefs’ defense is for real.”
Just about the only negative came when Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles bruised his quad. He briefly went to the locker room, returned to the field for a play, and then left the game for good after 77 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries.
“He does have range of motion,” Reid said at the team’s training facility Monday. “We’ll just see how he does over this week here. He is moving around today.”
All the positives to come out of the Chiefs’ winning start must be tempered by the fact they were playing Jacksonville, which also went 2-14 last season. A better gauge of where Kansas City is in its rebuilding project comes when the Cowboys visit Arrowhead Stadium next weekend.
Still, that doesn’t change the happy vibes being felt everywhere in town.
“Every victory you get, you’re going to cherish and enjoy it for that small window that you get to enjoy it,” Reid said. “It was neat to see the offense and the defense and the coaches, they were very excited. We also know that we enjoyed it and now we’re moving on.”