An A-Z rewind of the Chiefs 23-17 victory over Cleveland on Sunday and a fast-forward glance ahead:
By VAHE GREGORIAN
The Kansas City Star
A is for Anthony Sherman, the Chiefs fullback who has yet to carry the ball this season but on Sunday scored his first NFL touchdown on a 12-yard pass from Alex Smith. Sherman had three catches for 23 yards to give him 13 for 106 this season.
B is for Buffalo Bills, up next for the Chiefs (8-0). The Bills have won five of their last six against the Chiefs, including 35-17 last season, but they are 3-5 this season after a 35-17 loss to New Orleans on Sunday.
C is for clutch defense, which Star columnist Sam Mellinger makes a compelling case the Chiefs have. Consider what he unearthed: Seventeen times this season in the fourth quarter, an opponent has had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead with a touchdown. On those drives, the Chiefs have surrendered all of three points.
D is for Denver, which scored 38 straight points to blast Washington 45-21 and further set the table for the upcoming home-and-home meetings of irresistible force (Denver’s NFL-best offense) vs. immovable object (the Chiefs’ NFL-best defense). The Chiefs are at Denver on Nov. 17 and play the Broncos at home on Dec. 1.
E is Eric Berry, the Chiefs safety, who summed up the notion of rising to the occasion thusly: “It’s a point and a time on the sideline where we’re just like, ‘We’ve got to buckle down.’ … It’s like a point in the game where they’re getting too close to our lead that we have, and we’ve just got to buckle up. It’s like the point of no return. We can’t give up anything. So everybody kind of refocuses and gets back to ground zero and starts to play a little bit harder, a little bit smarter and everybody locks in.”
F is for first time: Chiefs coach Andy Reid never has been 8-0 before. His previous best was 7-0 in 2004, when he guided the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl.
G is for Gordon, Josh, the Cleveland receiver who confounded the Chiefs with five receptions for 132 yards, including one for a 39-yard touchdown.
H is for humble, which the Chiefs insist they remain despite (or is it because of?) their remarkable turnaround from 2-14 last season. “We’re still hungry,” Berry said, adding, “We don’t take these for granted. We cherish these wins.” Said running back Jamaal Charles: “The goal is to go farther and farther.”
I is for injuries, which were absorbed by defensive end Mike Catapano (ankle) and Charles (knee). But each returned as the Chiefs apparently continue to stay healthy.
J is for Justin Houston, the Chiefs linebacker who had their lone sack to give him a personal career-best 11 this season but couldn’t quite recall how he did it: “Honestly, I have to go watch the film. I don’t know what I was doing. I’m just rushing, and it’s a reaction.”
K is for kicker Ryan Succop, who had three field goals and two extra points to pass Tony Gonzalez (462) on the Chiefs career scoring list with 465. Succop also missed one from 52 yards that the Browns converted into a touchdown two plays later. Reid explained the decision: “We were just bombing those son-of-a-guns before the game, and it was just off by a hair.”
L is for linebacker Derrick Johnson, who was omnipresent in his best game of the season. With 12 solo tackles, he moved into third place on the Chiefs career tackles list with 935.
M is for midway through the season, which the Chiefs have reached with the only unblemished record in the NFL. But the second half will be more challenging. None of the Chiefs first eight opponents has a winning record, and their cumulative won-loss record is 20-41. In the second half, the Chiefs will play five games against teams with winning records, teams that are 33-24 overall.
N is for negative rushing yards, which the Chiefs held the Browns to in the first half (minus 1) to set a team record.
O is for offense of the Chiefs, who enjoyed a touchdown pass by Smith, two, in fact, for the first time in a month.
P is for punt muffed by Cleveland’s Davone Bess, a pivotal play in the fourth quarter after the Chiefs recovered it. “The kick was short, and the ball looked like it was falling off,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “Davone had a long way to go to catch it. he got it on the run, just couldn’t get it clean, couldn’t hold on to it.”
Q is for quarterback chaos, which the Chiefs continue to benefit from. Sunday represented the third time in four weeks they had faced a fill-in QB. And that will be the case again next week at Buffalo, too.
R is for rushing. With 136 yards on the ground Sunday, the Chiefs went over that mark in their first eight games of the season for just the fifth time in franchise history.
S is for sacks. Cleveland unleashed six on the Chiefs, who had only one. But with 36 for the season, the Chiefs still are on pace to break the club record of 60 and tie the NFL record of 72.
T is for targeted, which the Chiefs are as the NFL’s only undefeated team. “I think we love it,” Smith said. “Coach Reid talks about it all the time (that) you want team’s best shots. You want the stages to get bigger. … You want that honor. I think it’s a great thing.”
U is for undisclosed insider information: After Reid mentioned the Chiefs have “a ton of things we can get better at,” he was asked to expand on that. “I can’t tell you that because (it would be) all public, you know what I mean?”
V is for victory: Win at Buffalo, and the Chiefs will match the franchise record with a 9-0 start … a year after not so much as leading during a game until the ninth game of the season.
W is for wall, which the Chiefs defense seem to have constructed at 17 points: No team has scored more than that against Kansas City, which has allowed 17 twice and 16 three times. The Chiefs are just the fourth NFL team since 1970 to do that through the first eight games.
X is for X-factor: turnover margin. The Chiefs entered the game leading the NFL at plus-11. It’s plus-12 now after they committed none and had a special teams takeaway.
Y is for yards, which the Chiefs mustered only 50 of in the second half.
Z is for Zombo, Frank, the reserve linebacker who wrestled to recover Bess’ muffed punt at the Chiefs 47 with 7:02 left after the Browns had dominated the second half and were about to have excellent field position and a prime chance to take the lead.