Vahe Gregorian

With a playoff berth, the Chiefs can celebrate their rebirth

Updated: 2013-12-16T21:25:10Z

By VAHE GREGORIAN

The Kansas City Star

— Sure, a playoff berth for the Chiefs became virtually a foregone conclusion after their 9-0 start.

But that didn’t diminish the moment it became real on Sunday at Oakland Coliseum, where their quirky, turbulent 56-31 victory served as a proper exclamation point on this improbable season of seismic change.

From the ruins and torment of 2-14 a year ago to 11-3 now and … who’s to say where this stops after their binge to match their highest-scoring output since their 59-7 victory in their first game as the Chiefs in 1963?

“You can’t really explain it in words,” linebacker Derrick Johnson said, though noting, “Last year was a year that we wouldn’t wish anything (of), on and off the field, on any team.”

Added left guard Jeff Allen: “To be honest, it’s pretty tough to put in perspective. … We all believed that we could do it, but for it to actually happen, it’s definitely indescribable.”

Which happened to be an apt description of the goofy game that got them there.

The afternoon featured five touchdowns by running back Jamaal Charles, including an NFL running back record four receiving. And it included a numerical perfect game (158.3 passer rating) for quarterback Alex Smith. And the Chiefs seized seven turnovers …

But there also was a Raider stampede to menace what had been a 35-10 Chiefs lead by cutting it to 35-31 in the third quarter before the Chiefs uncorked the last three TDs of the game.

Maybe some fleeting drama, though, was appropriate for the occasion that stamped the full-fledged turnaround of the franchise.

In some ways, that mirrored the last few weeks, when the burgeoning expectations of the unanticipated 9-0 start were doused by a three-game losing streak.

“Any time you’re fortunate enough to have this kind of success, it’s meaningful. But to get to do it off a difficult year last year, it means a lot for everybody,” Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said as he stood in a hallway beneath the stadium.

That wouldn’t have happened without dramatic changes including the commendable work of highly credible first-year coach Andy Reid.

“He’s every bit the great leader that I thought he would be. The guys responded to him so well early on, and that’s continued,” Hunt said. “It hasn’t all been easy. We went through a three-game stretch where we didn’t win a game, and it was tough.

“But the guys knew that Andy had been there (in 14 seasons in Philadelphia), that he had done it, and they maintained their confidence and let him continue to lead. And as a result, we’re sitting here today in the playoffs.”

Hunt also applauded new general manager John Dorsey for his work in rejiggering the season-opening roster, tweaking all along, and for working so well with Reid.

If that part sounds so simple, it speaks to the very core of what was so wrong before.

For one reason or another, chaos ruled the franchise during the Scott Pioli era as general manager.

And peace, love and understanding is all the rage now.

“We’ve come a long way as an organization,” Chiefs president Mark Donovan said outside the Chiefs interview room, noting the postgame locker room breakdown of “1-2-3, Family.” “It’s the entire organization, from Clark to John to Andy, respecting the business side, (and) the business side respecting the football side and understanding that we’re all in this together.”

For that matter, Kansas City and Chiefs fans are part of this, too.

Pointing to “astounding” television ratings and feedback he gets about “measurable results” for Chiefs sponsors during boom times like this, Donovan added: “It impacts people. Kansas City is a better place to be when we’re successful. And that resonates throughout the entire marketplace…. When we’re doing well, it just really lifts the whole town.”

That buoyancy paralleled, or at least closely tracked, the resurgence of the Chiefs, piece by crucial piece of the revival.

“We saw what this franchise means to this region when we hired Andy: When you come off of winning two games in a season, and you just do that and the (fan) response was unbelievable,” Donovan said. “You saw it when you hired John. You saw it when you signed Alex. You saw it when you went down to Jacksonville. You saw it even more when you (beat) Dallas, right?”

And now?

“It’s a nice start,” Dorsey said with a wry smile in between shaking hands in the locker room and adding, “The milestone moment is (Reid and Dorsey) both understand the significance of it. But by no means are we done. You’re just at the beginning. It just allows you entry.”

But entry where access had been harshly denied just 12 months ago, a point Dorsey appreciates plenty but that’s already behind him.

“I don’t think you ever take a moment,” he said. “But I think as you watched the season progress, you believe there’s something with this group. And now as you forge into December and you begin to go back to back to back, you’re playing at a high level at the right time.

“That’s all you can ask for.”

And way more than could have been expected. So far, anyway.

To reach Vahe Gregorian, call 816-234-4868 or send email to vgregorian@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/vgregorian. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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