KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The sense of relief at One Arrowhead Drive was palpable.
The first nine games last season were followed by what Chiefs coach Andy Reid calls “Victory Monday.” With the exception of some meetings and treatments, players were mostly given the day off as a reward for a winning performance the previous day.
It took three weeks before the Chiefs’ first “Victory Monday” this season.
Faced with the prospect of a 0-3 start, the injury-plagued team rallied for a 34-15 win in Miami on Sunday. Not only did it enhance the Chiefs’ postseason prospects, at least when put in historical context, it also gave them a boost of confidence heading into what could be the toughest stretch of games they will play this season.
Next up? Monday night at home against New England. After that are road games against playoff contenders San Francisco and San Diego, separated by a get-healthy bye week.
“Just a great feeling,” said Knile Davis, who ran for 132 yards and a touchdown in place of the injured Jamaal Charles. “You know, wins don’t come often. They are hard to get in the NFL. You get one, it’s just a great feeling.”
It was a comprehensive win, too. No fluke.
Despite playing without seven starters due to injuries and suspensions, the Chiefs dominated the Dolphins in just about every facet. Their defense held Miami to 332 yards of offense, and just a lone field goal in the first half, while an offense that has been unable to get on track through the first two weeks suddenly hit its stride without several of its biggest weapons.
Davis carried a surprising 32 times. Backup running back Joe McKnight, who wasn’t even in the NFL a year ago, caught six passes for 64 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Travis Kelce, who was hurt all of last season, caught his first career touchdown pass.
“Coach Reid put me in the best situation possible to make plays,” McKnight said. “I just wanted to come out and help the teammates and just keep things going while Jamaal is out.”
Charles was the biggest name missing Sunday, and Reid sounded hopeful that the Pro Bowl running back would be available against the Patriots. Along with a light day Monday, he was giving players Tuesday and Wednesday off, too, with the game scheduled for Monday night.
For Charles, that means extra time off his sprained right ankle.
Wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas, who electrified Chiefs fans in the preseason, still hasn’t gotten on the field because of a hamstring injury that is throwing a curveball in his rookie season. Thomas tried practicing last week but was shut down, and his status is still uncertain.
Then there’s right tackle Donald Stephenson, who will sit out Monday night to finish off his four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
His return can’t come soon enough for a beleaguered offensive line that allowed five sacks Sunday, and is on pace to allow nearly 60 sacks by the end of the season.
“Some of that, especially early, that was my responsibility,” Reid said. “We’re in long-yardage situations, taking seven-step drops. I have to be a little smarter with the play call. And then the other ones, we have to make sure we block the right guys and do the right things.”
Those are quibbles, though. When the offense piles up nearly 200 yards rushing, scores more points than it did the first two games combined and overcomes a pair of turnovers and a safety with a series of long second-half drives, there is plenty positive to talk about.
“They’re developing certain character there,” Reid said. “You have to go through some tough times to develop that. They’re playing hard, they’re eliminating the clutter and that’s a good foundation to start with.”
NOTES — Reid said that S Eric Berry (sprained ankle) is also making progress. Like Charles, he’s expected to work out when the Chiefs resume practice. There were no other injuries in the Miami game, perhaps a sign that the Chiefs’ karma is evening out.
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
At Miami Gardens, Fla.
Kansas City Chiefs 34,
Miami Dolphins 15
Kansas City 0 14 7 13 — 34
Miami 0 3 12 0 — 15
KC—Davis 21 run (Santos kick), 6:38.
KC—Kelce 20 pass from A.Smith (Santos kick), 1:35.
Mia—FG Sturgis 22, :00.
Mia—Hartline 1 pass from Tannehill (Sturgis kick), 12:07.
KC—McKnight 11 pass from A.Smith (Santos kick), 6:36.
Mia—FG Sturgis 51, 5:54.
Mia—Team safety, 2:38.
KC—McKnight 4 pass from A.Smith (pass failed), 4:35.
KC—Gray 6 run (Santos kick), :13.
First downs 23 18
Total net yards 342 332
Rushes-yards 41-174 20-141
Passing 168 191
Punt returns 5-100 3-11
Kick returns 3-65 7-212
Int. Ret. 0-0 0-0
Comp-Att-Int 19-25-0 21-43-0
Sack-Yds lost 5-18 4-14
Punts 5-51.0 7-46.7
Fumbles-Lost 4-2 1-0
Penalties-Yards 4-23 6-65
T.O.P. 33:42 26:18
RUSHING—Kansas City, Davis 32-132, Gray 4-18, A.Smith 2-17, Sherman 1-4, McKnight 1-3, Jenkins 1-0. Miami, Miller 15-108, Dan.Thomas 2-15, M.Wallace 1-12, Tannehill 1-9, Williams 1-(minus 3).
PASSING—Kansas City, A.Smith 19-25-0-186. Miami, Tannehill 21-43-0-205.
RECEIVING—Kansas City, McKnight 6-64, Kelce 3-36, Bowe 3-32, Fasano 2-23, Hemingway 2-18, Avery 2-12, Sherman 1-1. Miami, M.Wallace 5-74, Miller 4-24, Hartline 3-25, Landry 3-24, Clay 3-21, Dan.Thomas 1-21, Matthews 1-13, Gibson 1-3.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Miami, Sturgis 48 (WL).