Coming Out Fast … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs

From Arrowhead Stadium

Since the four-month NFL owners’ lockout came to an end, the world of the NFL has been rolling past at breakneck speed.

Signing draft choices … signing undrafted college players … signing free agents … holding brief get-ready camps and meetings … training camp … pre-season games – it all came down in 47 days that tested the patience of players, coaches and fans.

Today, that sprint is officially over, as the first Sunday of the NFL season kickoff around the country. At Arrowhead it’s the Chiefs hosting the Buffalo Bills in a noon kickoff. TV coverage is on CBS.

Every team playing today and the four that finish up with a Monday night double-header all have the same thing in mind – start fast. They want to keep the pace of the last month and a half going. Pedal to the metal, full speed ahead – they think that in this unusual 2011 season, the fast the start, the more margin for error as the teams come together and try to make up for the lost off-season.

Certainly, that’s the goal of the Chiefs.

They learned last year how important getting off to a good start can be when stalking a spot in the post-season tournament. They won their opener against San Diego, went out and also won the next two and that 3-0 start put them in the AFC West driver’s seat that they did not give up the rest of the season.

At times, they had a two-game lead over their next nearest division competitor. Only once in the 16 weeks of the season were they tied, and that was at 5-4 when the Raiders had the same record. The Chiefs won the next three, while Oakland faded with three losses in the next four games. In six of the 16 weeks they had a two-game lead, including after the 15th game. That made the season finale a moot point.

The Chiefs needed that start last year as they were coming off three seasons of 10-38 football. To change “the culture” that winning streak to start the season built confidence and produced a winning season, division title and a home game in the playoffs.

“I think it’s always better to get out in front and have a lead than to spend all your time chasing,” said RB Jamaal Charles. “I like to be in front. When you are in the back, it’s harder.”

But even more important to the 2011 Chiefs will be the start of this season. That’s due to the way the schedule is put together. Over the first nine games, the Chiefs face just one team that made the playoffs last season. That Indianapolis team will be without starting quarterback Peyton Manning when the teams play on October 9. He’ll still be recovering from his most recent spinal surgery which has a two to three-month rehab period.

What happened last year doesn’t always mean anything in the next season, but with Buffalo, Detroit, two games vs. San Diego, Minnesota, Indy, Oakland, Miami and Denver across the line of scrimmage there are victories to be had.

Not so much in the next five games, where the Chiefs will face maybe the toughest stretch of any team in the 2011 season – at New England, Pittsburgh, at Chicago, at the New York Jets and Green Bay. That’s all of the 2010 final four teams in the NFL, plus the Patriots. Three of those five are on the road.

Todd Haley won’t even mention the rest of the Chiefs schedule after the Buffalo game. That’s certainly verboten in the coaching world, especially when you are driving home the point to your roster that it has to be one game at a time to be successful in the NFL.

But the Chiefs coach also knows that starting strong is the only way to go.

“It’s always good to get off quickly, to build momentum out of the blocks,” Haley said. “That builds on itself from week to week and the team develops a swagger and confidence grows. That’s always our goal.”

That fast start Haley talks about is complicated by the fashion that he approached the recent pre-season. It was not designed to get the team off to a fast start. It was designed to have the team in physical condition for the entire schedule, especially the grueling months of November and December. Haley tried to build toward a crescendo with the final pre-season game, but that didn’t work out the way he envisioned, as TE Tony Moeaki was lost for the season and QB Matt Cassel begins the season with a cracked rib.

Haley disagrees with that assessment.

“Our plan was designed to be ready to play on September 11 against Buffalo, that’s what we pointed to throughout the 47 days,” Haley said.

So are the Chiefs ready to start the season fast?

“I think we are,” said LB Derrick Johnson. “I think we did the things necessary to get ourselves in shape and I think we’ve gotten better every day. Sometimes nobody else can see that because it comes in practice. But you can see us improving. I think we are ready.”

With the Chargers notorious for their slow starts, it’s doubtful they will run away with the division out of the gate. Oakland and Denver have too many question marks to believe they are capable of leading the pace in the early going. All the more reason it’s imperative that they start fast, open a division lead and control the race. In the current NFL post-season setup, winning a division is the most solid way of finding a spot in the field.

For the Chiefs to build on what they did last year, and with recognition of the schedule that faces them in the second half of the season, they need another fast start. That begins against the Bills.

STARTING FAST

  • Last year, the 12 teams that made the playoffs in the AFC & NFC opened the season with an 8-4 record in the opener. None of those teams had a losing record in the first half of the season. They averaged 5.3 victories.
  • The Packers made the 2010 playoffs on the final day of the season with help. But they won their opener, started 3-1 and were 5-3 at mid-season.
  • The last 10 Super Bowl winners were 6-4 in their opening week. In the last seven years, the winner was 6-1 in the first week.
  • Among those last 10 Super Bowl winners, on average they were 3-1 after the first four games and 6-2 at mid-season.

2 Responses to “Coming Out Fast … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs”

  • September 11, 2011  - johnfromfairfax says:

    The preparation has ended and it all counts starting today. Let the games begin. Go Chiefs!


  • September 11, 2011  - el cid says:

    It is good Haley is so driven. As for coming out fast, they better,




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