Chiefs getting off to fast starts

Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry reacts after returning an interception for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry reacts after returning an interception for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs are all about fast starts these days.

They’ve started fast in games, taking the lead in the first quarter of each of them, and carrying that advantage into halftime twice. And they’ve started fast on the season, beating the Jaguars, Cowboys and Eagles to surpass their win total from all of last year.

While that may seem like something to scoff about so early in the season, consider that Kansas City never led a game in regulation until Week 10 a year ago.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid insisted that he’d rather score most than first, but he also said there’s value in getting on the board early. It helps build confidence throughout the team, while also allowing players to settle in for the rest of the game.

“I like to score first — that’s a good thing — but that doesn’t always happen,” Reid said. “I don’t know if that stat necessarily carries over to wins — there are some other ones that are more important — but it surely doesn’t hurt.”

Especially for a team that struggled to start fast last season.

The Chiefs actually trailed in the opener at Jacksonville when a blocked punt resulted in a safety, but they bounced back to score three touchdowns before halftime. They coasted the rest of the way to a 28-2 victory that was every bit as dominant as the final score indicated.

In their home opener against Dallas, the Chiefs marched downfield for a touchdown in the game’s opening minutes. It proved to be a critical score, too, because neither offense did much the rest of the way. Kansas City wound up holding on for a 17-16 victory.

Then last Thursday night in Philadelphia, the Chiefs got a field goal from Ryan Succop in the opening minutes before a pick-six by safety Eric Berry gave them a 10-point lead. That seemed to deflate the Eagles and their high-powered offense, which never managed to get on track. The Chiefs stoically put the game away in the second half for a 26-16 victory.

Just like that, the Chiefs were off to a 3-0 start. Brimming with confidence, too.

“I think confidence starts from within,” cornerback Sean Smith said. “If you’re not confident in the way you prepare and work and study, I don’t know what to say about you. But our confidence started back in OTAs and minicamps. We knew we’ve had something special here for a long time.”

Now, the rest of the league is starting to see it.

One of the biggest reasons for the early success in game is turnovers. The Chiefs were minus-24 in differential last season, last in the league, and has six turnovers in a Week 4 loss to San Diego. But through their first three games under Reid, they’ve picked off four passes and picked up five fumbles, and their plus-nine differential is the best in the NFL.

“Points and turnovers are the two most important things that you have as a football team,” Reid said. “If you turn the ball over you’re losing football games, and if your takeaway ratio is high then normally you’re winning. Those are two important stat points.”

Another one is sacks — the Chiefs have 15 of them already this season, two more than second-place Dallas for the league lead. Those sacks have not only kept opposing teams for putting drives together early in games, but have also given the Chiefs splendid field position.

That wasn’t the case a year ago, when Kansas City managed 27 sacks the entire season.

Very little about the Chiefs this season resembles last year, though. That team never had a lead in regulation until Week 10 against Pittsburgh, tying the 1929 record of the Buffalo Bisons for most games without ever leading in regulation.

“We’re not looking at the past,” running back Jamaal Charles said. “It’s the future now, so whatever we need to do to sustain drives and put points on the board for our team helps a lot.”

The earlier the better, too.

Notes: DB Brandon Flowers (knee), FS Kendrick Lewis (ankle), FB Anthony Sherman (knee), OG Jeff Allen (groin), and TEs Travis Kelce (knee) and Anthony Fasano (ankle) did not practice Monday. … The Chiefs worked out Sunday and Monday but did not plan to begin preparing in earnest for Sunday’s game against the Giants until Wednesday. “We worked on some things we needed to work on,” Reid said.

 

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