KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Sometimes the first-place Kansas City Chiefs almost seem in denial.
Chiefs coach Todd Haley’s one-game-at-a-time message is so deeply ingrained, players hardly know who their next opponent is, let alone where they stand in the division race.
“To be honest, I really never know who we playing the following week,” said tight end Leonard Pope, who caught the only touchdown pass in Sunday’s 10-6 squeaker over Denver. “Todd makes us (think) just one game at a time, one practice at a time. That’s where our focus is.”
The playoffs is where this team seems headed. Their victory over Denver coupled with Oakland’s upset of San Diego on Sunday gives the Chiefs (8-4) a two-game lead over the four-time defending AFC West champion Chargers with four to play.
The Chiefs’ game on Sunday at San Diego, while still big, hardly looms as huge as it would if the Chargers had beaten Oakland and remained just one game behind. Now, the best San Diego can do on Sunday is trim their deficit to one game.
“Obviously, that helps us, but by no means does it take next week’s game off for us,” said Chiefs linebacker Andy Studebaker. “It doesn’t mean that next week’s game is any less important. In fact, it becomes more important for us.”
One thing everybody does have full appreciation for is the significance of the Chiefs’ 21-14 victory over San Diego in the season opener.
That Monday night win, played in a driving rainstorm, seemed to set the tone for what may be shaping up as the first division-winning season in Kansas City since 2003. They followed that with two more wins. Now, since getting smacked by 20 points at Denver on Nov. 14, they’ve reeled off another three-game streak that’s put them in a commanding position.