OAKLAND, Calif. — Sure, a playoff berth for the Chiefs became virtually a foregone conclusion after their 9-0 start.
By VAHE GREGORIAN
The Kansas City Star
But that didnt 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 whos 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 cant really explain it in words, linebacker Derrick Johnson said, though noting, Last year was a year that we wouldnt wish anything (of), on and off the field, on any team.
Added left guard Jeff Allen: To be honest, its pretty tough to put in perspective. We all believed that we could do it, but for it to actually happen, its 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 youre fortunate enough to have this kind of success, its 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 wouldnt have happened without dramatic changes including the commendable work of highly credible first-year coach Andy Reid.
Hes every bit the great leader that I thought he would be. The guys responded to him so well early on, and thats continued, Hunt said. It hasnt all been easy. We went through a three-game stretch where we didnt 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, were 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.
Weve 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. Its the entire organization, from Clark to John to Andy, respecting the business side, (and) the business side respecting the football side and understanding that were 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 were successful. And that resonates throughout the entire marketplace . When were 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?
Its 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. Youre 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 thats already behind him.
I dont think you ever take a moment, he said. But I think as you watched the season progress, you believe theres something with this group. And now as you forge into December and you begin to go back to back to back, youre playing at a high level at the right time.
Thats 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/vgregorian. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.