Here we are at the halfway point of the NFL season, and, as Richard Marx might say, Chiefs fans are feeling "Satisfied".
Any fan would have taken a 5-3 record at the season's midpoint, knowing how daunting the early schedule looked and how many questions the team had coming into the season. Add injuries into the mix with the loss of Mike DeVito and Derrick Johnson for the season, as well as Eric Berry for several games, and you definitely would have raced for 5-3 if it was offered to you like you were climbing the Aggro Crag with 30 seconds left.
Since there's much to celebrate (and some things to confront), it feels like the right time to put on a little Richard Marx and ruminate on the half-season so far.
"Should've Known Better"
We're sorry, Andy. So sorry. You're a proven product. You've endured quarterback injuries, free agent losses, changing power structures and remained a winning head coach for oh-so-long. Here the Chiefs were entering the first season with some actual coaching continuity and you were at the helm and many of us doubted. We were skeptical of the holes on the roster, of Eric Fisher's transition, of the lack of offensive targets, and the inexperience along the front.
Instead, the coaching continuity has been the main thread holding this fabric together. The Chiefs have truly personified the NFL's oft-quoted "next man up" reality. You can actually see the young players getting better week after week. You can see players being used correctly, such as the way you moved Ron Parker around until voila!
The Chiefs are the least penalized team in the NFL with 39. Dead last. With such a young, inexperienced roster, including a completely overhauled secondary and offensive front, the Chiefs have less than half of the penalties of the Pittsburgh Steelers (80) and New England Patriots (79).
It's a beautiful thing to have a capable head coach and solid staff making such a difference on one of the youngest overall rosters in the NFL. From Dave Toub's excellence on special teams to Bob Sutton's creative blitzes to Andy Heck and Eugene Chung's work along the offensive, the Chiefs coaches have molded, shaped, learned lessons and adapted. And the Chiefs are serious players in the AFC because of it.
"Children of the Night"
Seriously, let's keep talking about how surprising this is. Did anyone see this coming? Close defeats on the road against the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers. A dominating win over the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football. An important road win over the red hot division rival San Diego Chargers. After a humiliating home opening loss to the Tennessee Titans, the Chiefs have been among the best teams in the NFL for the last seven weeks.
"We are the children of the night
We won't go down without a fight"
You're so right, Richard. You're so right.
"Don't Mean Nothin'"
Who could have guessed that the Chiefs could lose Jeff Allen to injury and Geoff Schwartz, Branden Albert, and Jon Asamoah in free agency and come out with a strong offense? The line still has room to grow and some performances have been ugly (still haven't forgotten Week 1), but the Chiefs are starting multiple free agent cast-offs and veteran journeymen along with Zach Fulton, their sixth round choice at right guard, and getting better up front each and every week.
It's here that I need to ask Alex Smith for forgiveness. I hated the trade. I've said so before, and I can't deny it now. Not only was I not convinced that Smith would succeed outside of San Francisco, but I also felt like the trade haul to land him was outrageous. I was pissed that John Dorsey would give up solid draft assets, including the more painful second rounder in this year's heralded draft, for Smith. I thought he overpaid on the market and that the Chiefs could have either gotten him for cheaper or grabbed a suitable replacement in free agency or the draft.
What do I know? Even at that price, Smith is the real deal. Last Sunday's game against the Jets shows what it's like to have some solid veterans surrounding a miserable quarterback situation, and Chiefs fans should never want to live through that again.
Think about this: the Chiefs have supposed roster holes along the offensive line and wide receiver and they're averaging nearly 29 points per game over the last six weeks. They're also eighth in the NFL in scoring drive percentage (40.2), and second in third down conversion (51.9). Alex is a fine NFL quarterback and I take back everything I've ever said that ran contrary to that. Have mercy, Alex. Please.
"Endless Summer Nights"
Oh, the innocence of youth. Richard sings, "I remember every moment of those endless summer nights", and that's how I feel about watching some of these incredible young guys. The dynamism of DAT in every facet of the game. The peerless combination of Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis. It's actually fun to watch. Real fun, and it reminds me of why I loved watching in the first place.
I became a Kansas City Chiefs fan from watching Christian Okoye run over opponents. I couldn't wait until they'd hand the ball off to him again, and it'd frustrate me if the quarterback decided to pass instead. The Chiefs just honored Priest Holmes on Sunday and enjoy just as talented players on the current roster. It's fun to see the Chiefs run the hell out of the ball, and it reminds me of my childhood and watching the Nigerian Nightmare.
"Right Here Waiting"
Josh Mauga leads the team in tackles, and after speaking to him myself, I can tell you he's an easy guy to root for. He's made good on his opportunity and he definitely deserves any amount of attention he's getting these days. That said, no matter what happens for the rest of the season, Derrick Johnson can claim his place anytime he's ready to do so.
Richard says it best: "Wherever you go, whatever you do, I will be right here waiting for you." DJ, you might turn 32 in just a few weeks. You might be coming off of a tough injury to rebound from. It doesn't matter. Whatever it takes or how my heart breaks. We'll be here rooting when you're ready to play again.