As they changed clothes and celebrated a resounding 45-10 win over Washington on Sunday, the Chiefs were scrambling to hear scores.
Fingers manipulated cell phones, eyes searched and scanned TV screens and players and coaches kept quizzing each other.
What have you heard? Did Miami win? Wasn’t Baltimore losing? How did they come back?
The only thing the Chiefs, 10-3, knew for certain was that they snapped a three-game losing streak and moved to within one victory of clinching an AFC playoff spot by mauling a seemingly uninterested Washington team.
Had Miami or Baltimore — now both 7-6 — lost, the Chiefs would have clinched an AFC playoff spot. But neither will be able to catch Kansas City if the Chiefs perform next week at Oakland as they did on Sunday.
“We heard about scenarios here and there,” said linebacker Derrick Johnson, “but our main focus was we win we get back to winning, things will work out for themselves.”
The Chiefs handed Washington, 3-10, its fifth straight loss by rediscovering the elements that contributed to their 9-0 start and seemed to disappear during the past three weeks.• They were spectacular on special teams, with Dexter McCluster returning a punt 74 yards among his club-record 177 punt return yards, seventh best in the NFL; and Quintin Demps returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. Both in the first half.
• They won the turnover battle, including Johnson’s interception of a Robert Griffin III pass in the first quarter, setting up a first-quarter touchdown for an insurmountable 17-0 lead.
• The sack attack was back, as the Chiefs, who had just two sacks in the past five games, sacked Griffin six times -- two by Tamba Hali, two by Tyson Jackson and one by Eric Berry and Frank Zombo -- that eventually led to Griffin finishing the game on the bench.
• The running game was devastating as Jamaal Charles ran for a season-best 151 yards and a 7.9-yard average.
• Quarterback Alex Smith’s 14 for 20 for 137 yards and two touchdowns produced a season-best 122.3 passer rating.
• They took advantage of yet another weak opponent with a struggling quarterback. The margin of victory was the Chiefs’ largest since a 41-0 win over San Francisco in 2006.
• And the Chiefs went 4-0 this season against the NFC East, where Andy Reid spent 14 years as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, and outscored those teams 119-49. He’s also now 11-4 in games at FedExField.
“It’s tough to lose three games in the National Football League three consecutive games,” Reid said of the Chiefs, who had not won since Nov. 3 at Buffalo.
“It seems like a year those are dog years, as you would say, each week that you have a loss in the NFL. So for the guys to come back and rebound after that, I was proud of them the effort, the way they approached practice.”
Reid did not emerge to meet with reporters until he had learned the results of the Miami and Baltimore games, which were still in progress after the Chiefs game ended.
“Even if one of those teams (loses), we’re going to try and play our best game next week,” Reid said.
It may be hard to top this one. The Chiefs scored the first four times they touched the ball -- and once when Washington had it -- and took a ridiculously easy 31-0 lead less than 23 minutes into the game.
In fact, the Chiefs only needed to go 79 yards on offense for four touchdowns. And they led 38-10 despite outgaining Washington 166 yards to 159.
“Field position was great all day between defense and special teams,” said Smith. “We had great starting position and your chances go way up. We jumped on these guys early and kept going.”
McCluster’s punt returning was responsible for three of the four touchdowns, capped by a 74-yard touchdown for a 31-0 lead with 9:45 left in the first half. Demps put a punctuation mark on the first half when he bolted 95 yards down the sidelines with a kickoff return after Washington scored its only touchdown of the first half.
Clearly, the team had its mojo back.
“One thing Bob Sutton had been preaching all week was, ‘Get the It back,’’’ said Jackson. “This game proved that. We still had the It in us.”
Clinching a playoff berth can wait. After going 2-14 a year ago, what’s another week?
“It’s humbling being able to be in the hunt for the playoffs after everything we went through last year, on and off the field,” Johnson said. “This team has tremendous character, and I’m proud to be a Chief.”