Super Chiefs? Haley's fuel for thought
A key to Arizona's recent Super Bowl run, coach likes chances to repeat feat leading KC
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Chiefs coach Todd Haley just couldn't let it go.He had watched some of his defensive backs drop pass after pass in a drill designed to improve their hands. He had talked smack every time a ball hit the ground. Finally, the players had tired of his jawing. If you think it's so easy, they told him, come on out and give it a shot.
Some Chiefs qualities favoring a long playoff runThe Chiefs have plenty of qualities that can lead to success in the postseason. They have the confidence that comes when a young team enjoys a dramatic turnaround in one year. They have the league's best rushing attack, a blossoming quarterback in Cassel and a defense that has been solid all season. Most importantly, the Chiefs don't scare easy. When they've faced stiffer competition -- as they did in a 19-9 road loss to Indianapolis on Oct. 10 -- they haven't wilted under the pressure. Although Baltimore is the stronger team this weekend, Kansas City does have the advantage of playing in Arrowhead Stadium, where it has lost just once this season. It also helps that the Chiefs will meet a Ravens team that has struggled on offense lately (scoring 33 total points in wins over Cleveland and Cincinnati) and has had issues at cornerback that Chiefs Pro Bowl wide receiver Dwayne Bowe could exploit.
Surprising sides to hot-blooded HaleyWhat's also underrated about the Chiefs is how much Haley and his assistants have gotten out of their talent.
'Sixteen Lombardis' couldn't help the old ChiefsHaley added that last season helped his entire team grow. "The key thing was that we knew last year wasn't going to matter," Haley said. "We could've won two games or we could've won eight, but I'm now glad we didn't do well. It would've created a false impression.
“"We were a four-win team, and having 16 Vince Lombardis on the staff wouldn't have changed that. It was painful, but it had to be like that because we were taking grown men out of their comfort zones." Ask Haley, and he can pinpoint the various moments in the Chiefs' maturation process. One came in the 2009 season-ending win over Denver. Haley had spent the entire week telling players the Chiefs could gain 200 rushing yards against the Broncos (Jamaal Charles actually went for a team-record 259 yards that day). Another appeared when the offseason program started. Suddenly, inconsistent Bowe was showing up early (instead of two hours late), left tackle Branden Albert was reporting at a slimmer 306 pounds (instead of hovering at more than 350) and Waters was eager to be a regular attendee (instead of demanding a trade or release, as the five-time Pro Bowler had a year earlier). It was in the spring and summer that the same players who had endured last season's misery began to see the improvement in talent. Free agents such as Jones, guard Ryan Lilja and center Casey Wiegmann brought valuable leadership to the locker room. Rookies such as safety Eric Berry, receiver/returner Dexter McCluster and tight end Tony Moeaki added speed and athleticism to the roster. By the time the Chiefs jumped out to a 3-0 start, the confidence was building. Their losses became harder to stomach because the players sensed they were letting games slip away. That was especially true in close defeats at Indianapolis, Houston and Oakland. "When we lost those games, we saw that we were killing ourselves with little mistakes," Albert said. "And we realized we could be a good team if we just got rid of them."
We were a four-win team, and having 16 Vince Lombardis on the staff wouldn't have changed that.” -- Chiefs coach Todd Haley on his 4-12 team in 2009
Ready for the spotlight?The Chiefs have managed to reach that goal for most of the second half of this season. Despite losses to San Diego in Week 14 (when Cassel was sidelined while recovering from an appendectomy) and Oakland in Week 17 (in a game that had no effect on the playoff race), Kansas City has been trending in the right direction.
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