Kansas City Chiefs

Quick start has Chiefs optimistic

KANSAS CITY, Mo. —It's unfamiliar territory, all this talk and swagger of being one of the NFL's eight undefeated teams.

The Chiefs are hardly used to being 2-0, their hottest start in five seasons. But now a preseason of optimism and two weeks of triumph are behind them, and coach Todd Haley is trying to convince his team that this is a nice start and all, but that there's much further to go.

"We're 2-0 for a reason, because we've played better than our opponents in each game," Haley said. "And I will continue to try to impress upon these guys of what it takes to continue to do that."

Haley set a personal deadline for his own celebration, and it expired at 5 p.m. Monday. That was a solid and festive 24 hours after the Chiefs used defense and special teams to defeat the Browns in Cleveland on Sunday afternoon.

After that, Haley said, it was back to work.

"As soon as that ended yesterday and you felt that little bit of jubilation and sense of accomplishment," Haley said, "there's no bigger game than San Francisco coming this Sunday.

"That part of it is difficult."

But some things are easier. Haley said that after victories, players are more willing to listen to their coaches and absorb their lessons. He said coaches see these times as opportunities to be more critical than usual.

"Their force field isn't up quite the way it is when you've not had the success, and the sensitivity level gets high," Haley said of players. "It's a little more doable."

That's when coaches, at least in theory, can point out quarterback Matt Cassel's shortcomings and hope for some noticeable improvement. They also can work with the defense and keep its rookie safeties, Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis, from looking so often like rookies. And it's a time to fine-tune some things before a brutal stretch of the schedule begins, if not this Sunday then the week after the Chiefs' open date, when the team goes on the road to play Indianapolis and then Houston.

It'll be in these coming weeks that the Chiefs prove whether their fast start was a fluke or an early signal that a playoff appearance might come sooner instead of later.

There is, of course, plenty to work on, and Haley is repeating a strategy he used last year: breaking the season into four segments, which he calls the season's "quarters." The Chiefs are 2-0 in the first quarter, and Haley said the team's goal is to win at least three games per quarter, because 12 wins is a strong indicator of a team's path toward the postseason - another unfamiliar place. The Chiefs haven't made the playoffs since 2006.

"Our primary goal," Haley said. "To get into the playoffs so that we have a chance to play in big games for bigger games."

For now, those hopes seem a long way off, even if they have at least drawn closer. The Chiefs have plenty to work on, and that's why Haley said he hopes his team continues the breakneck pace and urgency they brought to practices, meetings and workouts the past two weeks.

During those two weeks, anyway, the Chiefs were determined and focused. They listened, persevered and performed.

Now everyone wants to know how long the Chiefs can keep this up. Haley said the team will help decide its fate with how it responds to these previous victories, and whether it remains hungry for more.

"That's what our goal is for the week," Haley said, "for each and every one of these days, for us to make a little progress, knowing that if we do that, good things will happen."