NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - INSIDE SLANT
Players who are part of successful teams always talk about how the locker room has the feel of a family.
It can be just the opposite with a bad team. Take the case of the 2-14 Kansas City Chiefs of last season, a group that performed more like the Addams Family, having trouble getting out of its own way.
That would make the 7-0 Chiefs of this season the Von Trapp Family, singing and dancing while enjoying the sounds of victory music over the schedule's first two months.
"The difference with this team this year, we are a family," free safety Kendrick Lewis said. "We are all together and we are all holding each other accountable.
"We didn't have that last year, at least not where the whole team pulled together and was going in the same direction. That happened only once that I can remember."
That moment would have been the Chiefs second and last victory of the 2012 season, when they beat Carolina in early December. That game was the day after Chiefs inside linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered the mother of his baby daughter and committed suicide outside the team's locker room in front of the general manager, head coach and an assistant coach.
A trauma like that does not wash off easily for anyone. When it's wrapped up inside the worst season in franchise history, it leaves a mark few involved will ever forget.
That's part of the reason the 2013 team has pulled together in a family fashion, something they haven't displayed many times in the last 15 years.
For holdover players such as inside linebacker Derrick Johnson, what's happened this season has been the most welcome ride of their careers.
"There are still guys in this locker room that have gone through a lot of things with this team," said Johnson, the most tenured Chiefs player after being selected in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft.
"That's why we don't take anything for granted. We saw how something could disappear in one moment. We keep our focus on today and not about tomorrow or the next day."
The catalyst for the family feel has been the changes at the top of the organization with coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey.
Reid and Dorsey arrived in January and from the start and simply went about building a team designed to win and win quickly. They did not use the world rebuild, and in fact they did not use many words at all. They simply went to work.
Reid believes work ethic has allowed this team to achieve 7-0 with the Cleveland Browns coming to town this Sunday.
"You just focus in on getting better and you don't worry about all the other stuff," Reid said. "That's what you can control. Everything else is what it is and you can't control any of that. Getting better as a player, coach and team; that's where you put your energy.
"So far I haven't seen our guys worry about any of that. They just kind of go full speed at it; I appreciate that as a head coach."
The players said the status of being the NFL's only remaining unbeaten team is not something they spend a lot of time talking about, only when it's brought up to them by the media.
"One of the things we know is that we will draw more attention and teams will put a target on our back," outside linebacker Tamba Hali said. "That doesn't matter to us, because Andy Reid and the coaches have us thinking about getting better every day. The first seven games are gone, and the next one is against Cleveland. That's all that matters.
"This locker room was always filled with hard working guys. This coaching staff has come and been able to direct that work ethic. They said very clearly what the plan was going to be and they've carried it out. There is no mystery here; we just go to work."
In the first seven games, the defense has carried the Chiefs, as the offense has been inconsistent.
Players on both sides of the ball say they are concerned only about playing complementary football and that the record is a product of that approach.
"We have their back over there and they have ours," strong safety Eric Berry said. "We are looking out for each other. We are together. As long as that's the case, anything is possible."
SERIES HISTORY: 24th regular-season meeting. Browns lead series, 11-10-2. The last game between them was last season in Cleveland, where the Browns handed the Chiefs a 30-7 defeat.
NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - NOTES, QUOTES
--When the Chiefs and Browns have played each other in Kansas City, the home team has had a big edge, winning seven of the 11 games. There was also a tie in 1973. Cleveland's last victory at Arrowhead Stadium came in 2009, 41-34.
--The last time the Browns were able to win in Kansas City was in 2009 and the seven-point victory was built on the legs of running back Jerome Harrison. Against a struggling Chief defense, Harrison ran for 286 yards on 34 carries with three touchdowns. It was a record for most yards rushing by a member of the Browns and it was the most rushing yards allowed by the Chiefs in their history.
--The last time the Chiefs were able to beat the Browns was in 2010, when they grabbed a 16-14 victory in Cleveland. The K.C. offense had trouble that day putting the ball in the end zone as quarterback Matt Cassel threw two interceptions. But the Chiefs defense scored on a 33-yard interception return by cornerback Brandon Flowers on a pass by quarterback Seneca Wallace. K Ryan Succop added three field goals.
--Coach Andy Reid was 4-0 when his Philadelphia teams played the Browns. Reid's Eagles claimed victories in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012. They won those four games by an average of 8.7 points per game.
BY THE NUMBERS: 5.55 -- That's running back Jamaal Charles per-carry average over his six-year career. That leads all running backs in NFL history with a minimum of 750 carries. No. 2 on that list is former Browns running back Jim Brown, who finished his career with a 5.22-yard per carry average.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You don't worry about what people say. You don't worry about records. You prepare yourself, you respect the opponent, you study the opponent and then you get yourself right. If you stay with that, all the other stuff doesn't matter." -- Chiefs coach Andy Reid.
NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--RB Jamaal Charles has averaged 18 carries for nearly 123 yards per game the three times he has faced Cleveland. Last season, he ran for 165 yards on 18 carries, a 9.2-yard per carry average, including an 80-yard touchdown run.
--WR Dwayne Bowe has 10 catches for 171 yards against Cleveland in three games. In last year's meeting against the Browns, Bowe had two catches for 80 yards, but ended up leaving the game when he sustained broken ribs while blocking on a running play for Jamaal Charles.
--TE Anthony Fasano has played against the Browns twice in his career, catching five passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. Fasano got back into action last Sunday after missing four games because of knee and ankle injuries.
--OLB Tamba Hali had two sacks against the Browns when the teams met last season. He finished the game with four other tackles and he knocked down one pass.
--DB Sanders Commings is in his second week of practicing as an injured-reserve list player that was designated for a possible return. Commings will have this week and next week to show the coaching staff he is ready to contribute. By then the Chiefs must make a decision on whether to activate him, or leave him on the injured list for the rest of the season.
--TE Tony Moeaki was often injured during his time with the Chiefs and it seems appropriate that he left the organization as part of the injured-reserve list. The Chiefs worked out an injury settlement with the fourth-year player from Iowa and released him off the injured list. As a rookie in 2010, Moeaki showed a lot of promise, but injuries ended up limiting him to playing in only 31 of the team's 49 games over his three seasons. He finished his time in Kansas City with 80 receptions for 1,009 yards and four touchdowns.
GAME PLAN: If the Chiefs stick to the plan that's given them seven victories in seven games they should be able to make it eight in a row against the Browns. That formula has been led by a defense that allows very few touchdowns/points (eight touchdowns, 81 points), takes the ball away (19) and sacks the quarterback (35). The Chiefs rank No. 1 in the league over all three categories. Cleveland on the other hand is No. 25 in points scored (131), tied for No. 12 in giveaways (10) and tied for last in sacks allowed (27). With that defensive effort, they need at least one big contribution from their special teams and the Alex Smith-led offense must throw in a few scores, while maintaining ball security.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Chiefs SS Eric Berry vs. Browns TE Jordan Cameron -- In the first seven games of the season, the K.C. defense has done a good job of taking the tight end out of the opponents' passing attack. With Berry handling most of the pass coverage, tight ends have caught 25 passes for 204 yards and most importantly no touchdowns. But the Chiefs haven't seen a tight end like Cameron this season. He leads NFL tight ends with 37 catches for 593 yards and six touchdowns. At 6-5 and 245 pounds, Cameron has the size advantage on Berry, 6-0, 210 pounds.
--Chiefs S Husain Abdullah vs. Browns KR Travis Benjamin -- The K.C. special teams have been strong this year, especially in coverage of punts and kickoffs; the longest punt return the Chiefs have allowed is 22 yards and it's 35 yards for the long kickoff return. Abdullah leads the coverage units with five tackles. The Browns have been very good on returns, as Travis Benjamin has a 79-yard punt return score with an 11.7-yard average. On kickoff returns, Cleveland averages 28.6 yards, and Benjamin has the long return at 86 yards.