Chiefs coach Andy Reid should be in his comfort zone for the next three weeks.
The Chiefs’ next three opponents, starting with Sunday’s home opener against the Dallas Cowboys, are against teams from the NFC East, the division Reid won seven times in his 14 years as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Following the Dallas game, the Chiefs will have a short week to get ready for Reid’s much-anticipated return to Philadelphia on a Thursday night, Sept. 19, before facing one of his biggest rivals as Eagles coach, the New York Giants, on Sept. 29 at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chiefs won’t face the fourth member of the NFC East until a Dec. 8 trip to Washington. The Chiefs last faced the NFC East in Todd Haley’s first year as coach in 2009 and went 1-3, only beating Washington.
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Reid went 51-37 in regular-season and postseason games against the Cowboys, Giants and Washington while at Philadelphia, and he had consistent marks against each — 17-12 vs. Dallas; 17-14 vs. New York and 17-11 against Washington.
While the Chiefs opened the season with a 28-2 victory at Jacksonville last Sunday, the four NFC East teams faced each other in prime-time games with Dallas beating the turnover-prone Giants 36-31 and Philadelphia upsetting Washington 33-27 on the road.
The Chiefs’ performance at Jacksonville caught the attention of Dallas coach Jason Garrett.
“You watch that tape, and they're a good team, and obviously Andy Reid is an outstanding football coach,” Garrett said. “He’s put this program in place up in Kansas City … the colors are different, but we’ve gone against him a lot, and we have an immense amount of respect for him and what he’s done and the kind of program he’ll put together. It does not surprise me one bit he’s gone in there and had the success he had (Sunday).
“He certainly has a good feel for our team, having competed against us a couple times a year for a lot of years. We do have a new defensive system, which is something he hasn’t seen before.”
The Cowboys brought in 73-year old Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator this year, and switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3 front. They forced six turnovers against the Giants — three fumbles and three interceptions — and returned two for touchdowns, a fumble recovery by safety Barry Church and a game-clinching interception by former Chiefs cornerback Brandon Carr.
A year ago, the Cowboys forced just 16 turnovers, which ranked only ahead of the 13 by Reid’s old team, Philadelphia, and his new team, the Chiefs. And the Cowboys’ seven interceptions tied the Chiefs for the fewest in the NFL.
“Whenever you can create five takeaways in the ball game and return two of them for touchdowns, you are playing good defense,” Garrett said. “There is no question about that, those were the difference-making plays in the game. Set up our offense for scoring opportunities, and when they returned them themselves, obviously that makes the job a little easier.
“That was the story of the ball game. We made a huge emphasis on that. Our players did a great job taking that emphasis to the field.”
The Cowboys’ immediate concern this week is injuries to quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant.
Romo was sacked just twice by the Giants, and he took some vicious hits and suffered bruised ribs in the game. But he missed just one play and is expected to be in the lineup against the Chiefs.
“There really was no doubt in my mind he was going to go back and play,” Garrett said. “When I heard it his ribs, I said, ‘He will be OK.’ Tony just shook it off and came back and played the second half. It’s part of the game. Everybody is playing with some kind of nick or bruise. You just fight through it. Tony has a track record of doing that for us and is not only fighting through it but playing well with the injury.”
Bryant, who caught four passes for 24 yards against the Giants, suffered a sprained foot.
“We’re still waiting on seeing what the results of the MRI are,” Garrett said. “We don’t think it’s a too, too serious thing.”