KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Todd Haley's opening words to the Chiefs today as they return to work for the first time since Monday night's overtime win over San Diego are to beware of the trap.
That's probably a wise move. Sunday's game against Miami at Arrowhead Stadium has all the signs of the classic trap game, in which the favored team can easily overlook the underdog... and wind up paying for it on the scoreboard.
The Chiefs have already achieved plenty by winning four straight games after their 0-3 start to climb back into a tie for first place in the AFC West. They're coming off two tough division games, including the emotional 23-20 overtime win over the Chargers that will be legend in these parts for years to come.
They'll have a short week of preparation because of the Monday night game.
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And they're preparing to play the 0-7 Dolphins, one of the NFL's two remaining winless teams.
"We really already started with it (Monday night after the game)," coach Todd Haley said Tuesday. "I told them I wish they had the normal 24 hours to enjoy it because we really don't. We're on a short week. We're already behind. They understood. That's the first step. Once they get in here, they'll get the message full force.
"This is life in the NFL. You play big game after big game, especially after you limited your margin of error to nothing. You've got to go forward and play your best football each week."
It's comforting to Haley that his team faced a similar situation about this time last season, when the 4-2 Chiefs welcomed the winless Bills to Arrowhead.
Buffalo took the Chiefs to the end of overtime before losing on a Ryan Succop field goal.
"I'm thankful we've been together a few years because last year we had a very similar challenge," Haley said. We responded to that situation very well."
This year's situation is different. When the Chiefs started the season 0-3, they were left for dead by perhaps everyone outside their own locker room.
They roared back to life by winning four straight games, the most emotional victory coming on Monday night. The Chiefs jumped out to a 10-0 lead, which further pumped up an already energetic Arrowhead crowd.
San Diego came back to tie the score in the fourth quarter and was merely killing time before a potential game-winning field goal attempt when quarterback Philip Rivers fumbled.
The Chiefs recovered and went on to win in overtime.
That's a lot to digest in a short week, particularly after the Chiefs had already won three straight.
"We've got to be very cognizant of the fact they exerted a lot of energy," Haley said. "It's mental as much as anything else. You invest so much into it and that game went back and forth."
He said as a concession, the Chiefs would hold a light walkthrough practice today. That will leave them with only two days of real practice for the Miami game instead of the usual three.
"I'm really trying to give them as much time to recover as we can," Haley said. "We've got to try to get everything in Thursday and Friday."
That concession aside, Haley indicated he and his staff will continue to push as hard as they would any other week.
"That's what they count on from their head coach and all their assistant coaches," he said. "That's what the coaches are here for, to put them in a position to succeed mentally and physically. I wouldn't think they'll ask for anything less.
"This game is just as important as last week's. It's one of our eight home games, and every one of these counts. We dug a hole that we're still trying to get out of."
Johnson honored — Linebacker Derrick Johnson was selected the AFC defensive player of the week after his 13-tackle performance against the Chargers.
Johnson also had 13 tackles in the previous week's game against Oakland. But the award then went to Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers, who had two interceptions against the Raiders and returned one for a touchdown.