Hold off on calling the optometrist – you don’t need a new pair of reading glasses.
You’re reading those NFL standings correctly.
The Kansas City Chiefs come to Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday as the only team in the league with a “0” in the loss column. Yes, the same Chiefs (mostly) who drafted first overall in April after a woebegone 2-14 season are now the class of the league at 8-0.
It raises the question – just how the heck did they do it?
The Chiefs went through a franchise makeover in the offseason very similar to what occurred here in Buffalo – bringing in a new general manager (John Dorsey), head coach (Andy Reid) and quarterback (Alex Smith).
“He’s come in and basically installed his system and demanded from us as players to be accountable to one another,” star linebacker Tamba Hali said of Reid. “He’s just been honest with us and challenged us to work hard and work smart and be at the top of our game.”
The result has been an unrelenting defense that is allowing an NFL-best 12.3 points per game. Under defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, Kansas City has held every opponent to 17 or fewer points in all eight of its victories, one game shy of the NFL record of nine games.
“You know what? They’re hot,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said. “They’re playing extremely well. … They have a lot of things going, which is going to be a pretty big challenge for us.”
Chief among them for the Bills will be protecting the quarterback – whomever that will be. Kansas City leads the NFL with 36 sacks, already surpassing last year’s total of 27.
“Any time you can create negative plays like that it puts you in a bind as an offensive unit,” Bills running back Fred Jackson said. “That’s something we have to stay out of and don’t let them get all those sacks; ball security is going to be big for us this weekend.”
Jackson is right – another area in which the Chiefs excel is creating turnovers. They lead the NFL with a plus-12 turnover margin.
Hali and Justin Houston both rank in the top five in sacks, with nine and 11, respectively. They are part of 15 returning starters from 2012 – a year in which despite going 2-14, the Chiefs had six Pro Bowlers.
“Scott Pioli did a nice job before we got here,” Reid said of the former Chiefs’ general manager. “He deserves some credit here.”
Reid, however, said the returning talent was not a deciding factor in him taking the job.
“I’ve been a big fan of the Hunt family. They’re one of the old-time NFL families that handle themselves with a tremendous amount of class,” said Reid, who came to Kansas City after 14 seasons as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. “I came from a good organization and I’m lucky enough to be in another good organization. That’s really it. I didn’t look at records or anything else.” When Chiefs owner Clark Hunt came calling, Reid said, “that was enough. His name and reputation meant everything.”
One of the first moves made by Reid and Dorsey was to acquire Smith – a former first-round pick of San Francisco who lost his starting job with the 49ers to Colin Kaepernick last season. While Smith’s statistics don’t jump off the page (he’s got a passer rating of 82.1), he’s got a record of 27-5-1 as a starter since the beginning of the 2011 season.
“This is hard for a BYU guy to say, but I was a fan of his when he was at Utah,” Reid said. “I thought he was a heck of a quarterback. I thought he’d be good in our system. … Our schedule was one in Philadelphia that we played the 49ers quite a little bit in the first part of his maturation process that took place there. I got to see him grow firsthand. Through the trials and tribulations of the National Football League, he continued to grow and persevere and won.”
Smith is one of 11 former first-round draft picks on the Chiefs’ roster – including eight of their own.
Despite their sterling record, the Chiefs have their doubters. Kansas City’s opponents have a combined record of 20-41. They have yet to play a team with a winning record.
“We don’t worry about what people are saying about our team,” Hali said. “We’re focused on what we want to be doing and where we want to go. Each week the goal is to be 1-0.”
As far as the Bills are concerned, however, the Chiefs are legit.
“They earned their way to get 8-0,” Bills safety Aaron Williams said. “People have their opinions, but at the same time, the record shows. It’s really hard to be 8-0 in the league, so you have to give them respect. … I just know they’re 8-0 and coming to our house, and we have to protect it.”