To publicly acknowledge a competitive advantage is verboten to most coaches, and Andy Reid is part of that majority.
The Chiefs arrive at Saturday’s playoff game at Houston with a gale-force wind at their backs, winners of a franchise-record 10 straight after starting 1-5.
The next longest winning streak in the NFL is four, by Washington.
Obviously, this is how any team would prefer to enter the postseason, but the best Reid could express is to not disagree with the idea.
“I think there’s something to that,” Reid said. “You come in with a certain confidence.”
But Reid was correct about Houston when he added, “they have the same thing going.”
The Texans won seven of nine to finish the season to win the AFC South. Both locker rooms are coated in confidence. However, no team can wear it better than the Chiefs, coming off a 23-17 victory over the Raiders in Sunday’s finale.
During their winning streak, the Chiefs have averaged 28.1 points and allowed a league-best 12.8 points.
They won all of those games without starting running back Jamaal Charles, lost with a season-ending injury in their fifth game. To that point, Charcandrick West had tallied just five carries and Spencer Ware had been on the practice squad. During their 10-game winning streak, West and Ware have combined for 983 yards.
The Chiefs also won the final five games of the regular season without Pro Bowl linebacker Justin Houston, who is nursing a hyperextended knee. Reid said Monday that the fact Houston practiced last week was a good sign, but then noted that he remains “day to day” — no sure thing to play this weekend.
The Chiefs’ offensive line has been in a state of flux most of the season and center Mitch Morse left Sunday’s game with a concussion. Morse missed a game earlier this season with a similar injury. On Monday, Reid said linebacker Dee Ford also was checked for a concussion after Sunday’s game.
But the Chiefs plowed through it all to post their second 11-5 season and playoff berth in Reid’s three years in Kansas City.
Reid may not publicly embrace the momentum factor this week, but his players are sold on the program Reid and general manager John Dorsey have established, one that convinced them to not give up on a season spiraling away and maintain intensity in the final week even after clinching a playoff berth the previous week.
“When you clinch the playoffs the game before the last one, it’s easy to just kind of look ahead,” defensive end Mike DeVito said. “That’s not what this team does. It speaks to the maturity of the guys. These guys just work and keep grinding.
The same lesson applied when the Chiefs’ season looked its bleakest, after a loss at Minnesota that dropped them to 1-5.
“I’ve been on teams that would never have gotten this far after 1-5,” DeVito said. “Guys would have been thinking about going home. Not here.”
Now, it’s about winning in the playoffs, which hasn’t happened since after the 1993 season: Jan. 9, 1994, in Houston, against the Oilers.
“Everything we’ve done,” defensive tackle Dontari Poe said, “leads us to where we want to go.”