Vahe Gregorian

At midway point, Chiefs flash intriguing parallels to Royals

Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland hugged Kansas City Chiefs long snapper Thomas Gafford before the game between the Chiefs and the New England Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium on Sept. 29.
Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland hugged Kansas City Chiefs long snapper Thomas Gafford before the game between the Chiefs and the New England Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium on Sept. 29. The Kansas City Star

Like Royals general manager Dayton Moore, Chiefs counterpart John Dorsey is the sixth GM in the team’s history.

Dorsey, too, is a gracious, energetic man who honed his approach for years with a model franchise before coming to Kansas City to resuscitate a wheezing one.

Like Royals manager Ned Yost, Chiefs coach Andy Reid is a California kid more appreciated in his second job guiding a team than he was in his first.

Like the Royals with James Shields, the Chiefs about two years ago traded for a leader, quarterback Alex Smith.

As with Shields, Smith had been to the pinnacle of his sport and could set the tone for a young group (average age this season: 25.9) as other veterans were spackled in.

And like the Royals, the 5-3 Chiefs are winning with a distinct and unorthodox formula as they travel to 5-3 Buffalo for a pivotal game this weekend.

They’re concocting points with meager long-range game, neutralizing opponents with big-play defense and then stifling them silly late.

The Chiefs have surrendered one fourth-quarter touchdown all season, a token one with a 41-7 lead over New England, a fine parallel to the smothering back end of the Royals’ bullpen.

They used to call those closers “firemen,” which coincidentally was what Chiefs’ broadcaster Mitch Holthus dressed as earlier this week for a video hailing the Kansas City Fire Department and … the Chiefs’ defense.

Sound familiar?

Just grinding, Yost would call it.

In Reid’s world, it’s all some version of what he said after the Chiefs’ 24-10 victory Sunday over the Jets:

“I told the team that they don’t give these things away, not in the National Football League … I was proud of our guys for bowing up when they needed to.”

Now, even if you kindly indulge us our point here, these parallels can only go so far in two radically different games.

And one thing you don’t and can’t know is whether the dynamics will have much resemblance when it comes to the stretch run that will define this Chiefs season.

Do they have the same sort of moxie and mojo that the Royals did, the sort of stuff that makes them capable of ending what now is Kansas City’s most glaring sports drought: no NFL playoff win since Jan. 16, 1994?

Or at least enough to join the Royals with a postseason berth that would mean each reached the playoffs in the same season for the first time?

“Hopefully, we can change that this year,” said Chiefs’ fullback Anthony Sherman, who is close to Billy Butler and thus one of a number of Chiefs who have friendships with Royals players.

If so, maybe the achievements won’t be unrelated between the teams that Sherman says share a “lunch-pail” mentality.

“Their momentum definitely kick-started us, really, everyone here,” Sherman said. “And also to see how much it did for the city, now we have that on our shoulders, and now we want to bring another great season end to our season.”

At least to date, anyway, the notion of similarities holds up in plenty of ways … with one overriding angle.

“I just think it’s finding a way, and using your personnel to find that way. ‘The personnel that I have now, how am I going to find a way to win?’ And that’s what the Royals did,” Holtus said. “You go, ‘Wait a minute: You don’t have a big bat in the middle, you’re last in the major leagues in home runs. There’s no way you’re going to get to game seven of the World Series.’

“Well, you know what, you figure out a way and you create a mentality.”

Not that Holthus has put much thought into this.

“At five-sixteenths of the season, 30.8 percent, they were 24-27; it was the equivalent of 2-3 (as the Chiefs were),” he said, smiling at the start of an impromptu interview Wednesday. “Then at six-sixteenths of the season, on June 6, they were 29-32 and the Chiefs were 3-3.

“I did all that math.”

Up to eight-sixteenths, anyway, when the Royals were 42-39 … not so dissimilar to 5-3.

But whether or not it carries forward later, this goes well beyond comparative mid-season standings.

Consider that the Royals capitalized on small ball, including steals and bunts, at a time the big bang theory still rules baseball … and that, led by Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs are emphasizing the rush at a time the running back is an endangered species.

Consider that the Royals were last in the big-leagues in home runs … and that the Chiefs have yet to record a touchdown to a wide receiver and have run just 17 plays of 20 yards or longer.

“To me, that’s the equivalent of getting all those infield hits,” Holthus said.

Consider that the Royals established a practically unprecedented bullpen presence with Kelvin Herrera in the seventh inning, Wade Davis in the eighth and Greg Holland in the ninth … and that the Chiefs’ defense has kept opponents out of the end zone from the Kansas City 9, 8, 6, 4, 3 and 2 yard lines as well almost completely in the fourth quarter.

We could go on.

The Royals had three Gold Glove defenders, and others (Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar in particular) who were consistently stellar; led by Justin Houston’s 12 sacks, the Chiefs are second in the AFC in yardage allowed.

Maybe De’Anthony Thomas’ speed is a game-changer like Jerrod Dyson and Terrance Gore’s.

Linebacker Josh Mauga suddenly resembles Cain with a “I’m-going-to-catch-everything” presence.

Like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, offensive tackle Eric Fisher, running back Knile Davis and tight end Travis Kelce are vindicating decisions of drafts past.

And like the Royals, the Chiefs started 0-2 and had to find themselves lest the season be buried early.

For the Chiefs, that was quite a contrast to their 9-0 start last season.

“I think early losses are sometimes better than early wins,” Colquitt said, “because you kind of find out who you are quicker.”

To date, who they are at least has the glimmer of what paved the way for the Royals.

It could just as easily prove a fickle flicker, of course, as something that takes or defines.

But at least at the eight-sixteenths point, there are a heap of uncommon common denominators.

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

Related stories from Kansas City Star

  Comments