KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs cherish every victory. After all, they only had two of them all last season.
So while the entire city is abuzz about their 8-0 start, and the fact that they lead the rival Denver Broncos in the suddenly stacked AFC West, the Chiefs remain humble to the point where it was hard to tell in Sunday’s postgame locker room that they had just defeated the Browns.
“We’ve always been humble,” safety Eric Berry said. “We’re going to keep working because we know how hard these wins are to come by. We don’t take these for granted.”
The Chiefs are off to the second-best start in franchise history, and can match the 2003 team that won its first nine games on Sunday at Buffalo. They’ve done it primarily by leaning on special teams and defense, which is on pace to set several NFL records.
The defense was at it again last weekend. The Browns closed within a field goal early in the second half, but Kansas City kept repelling them down the stretch. The Chiefs finally tacked on a sealing field goal in the closing seconds to wrap up the 23-17 victory, giving them eight wins in a season for just the second time in the past seven years.
At the midway point in the season, the Chiefs are within range of matching or surpassing the franchise record of 13 wins in a season reached most recently by the 2003 team, the only other one to start 8-0.
If there’s ever cautionary tale, though, it would be those Chiefs.
After winning their first nine games, they lost the following week at Pittsburgh, and then scuffled down the stretch. They earned a bye in the playoffs, but wound up losing to the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round at Arrowhead Stadium.
“This team has been through so much the last couple of years, we know we can withstand a lot of things,” linebacker Justin Houston said, “but we also know we have a lot of work to do.”
Perfect starts at this juncture of the season generally portend good things.
Fifteen teams have won their first eight games since the league expanded to a 16-game schedule in 1978. Nine of them made the Super Bowl and eight of them won it, including the New Orleans Saints in 2009, which beat a Colts team that also won its first eight games.
The Atlanta Falcons were the only team to win its first eight games a year ago, and they reached the NFC championship game, where they lost to the San Francisco 49ers.
“The best you can be right now is 8-0 and that’s where we’re at,” linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “Everybody’s going to give us their best. We know that.”
Johnson admitted that Sunday’s win over the Browns wasn’t pretty, but several of Kansas City’s wins this season have been of that variety. The Chiefs squeaked out 17-16 wins over Houston and Dallas, and needed to rally in the second half to beat Tennessee earlier this year.
But previous teams also built their 8-0 records despite close calls, including the Falcons of last season, which had a pair of wins by a field goal or less.
“We’re not trying to be the beauty queens. A win is a win,” wide receiver Dexter McCluster said. “We know we’re going to have to fight. This is the NFL. Teams are going to be good, going to play well. All we worry about is that win.”
Critics will point to the Chiefs’ soft schedule and the fact that they’ve been blessed by good health, but the fact remains that they’re the lone unbeaten team left in the NFL.
They also have plenty of stiff tests still awaiting them.
After playing the Bills and getting a week off, they travel to Denver for a high-profile showdown with Peyton Manning and Co. They return home to face the upstart San Diego Chargers before their return game against the Broncos on Dec. 1.
The finish kick includes games against Washington, Oakland, Indianapolis and San Diego.
“We love what’s going on around here as far as winning,” linebacker Tamba Hali said. “None of us have been in this position where this team is 8-0. To keep winning, to go 1-0 every week, I think we have a sense of urgency to keep getting wins.”