After poor start, Chiefs riding 3-game winning streak

KANSAS CITY (AP) — A few weeks ago, many Chiefs fans were lobbying to join the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.

Kansas City had lost three straight games, two in historically bad fashion, not to mention the four preseason games before that. The Chiefs had endured a slew of season-ending injuries to some of their best players, and fans were pining for the superstar quarterback from Stanford widely expected to be the first overall pick in the NFL draft.

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Chiefs guard Jon Asamoah (73) and offensive tackle Barry Richardson (67) celebrate after fullback’s L’Ron McClain’s 1-yard touchdown run during hte first quarter of Sunday’s game against the Raiders in Oakland, Calif.

Fast forward to the present and the “Suck for Luck” crusade is a thing of the past. Now, fans are embracing a “Play for Playoffs” movement that certainly sits better with the Chiefs’ players.

“The great part about what this team has done is we just continue to grind and take it one game at a time,” quarterback Matt Cassel said. “You can see us get better from the start of the season till now. Hopefully we’ll just continue to make progress. We know it’s a one-game season every week.”

The cynics will point to the teams Kansas City has beaten and argue little has changed.

Minnesota and Indianapolis are combined 1-13 this season, and the Colts were routed 62-7 by New Orleans on Sunday night.

The Chiefs’ 28-0 victory over Oakland was tempered by the fact the Raiders couldn’t decide whether to play Kyle Boller or newly acquired Carson Palmer at quarterback.

It turned out neither option was very good.

Both of them threw three interceptions, and the six total were one shy of the Chiefs’ franchise single-game record. Two of them were returned for touchdowns.

So it’s not as if Kansas City has recovered from getting shellacked by Buffalo and Detroit to start the season, and losing a competitive game at San Diego, by beating anybody noteworthy.

But they’ve still won three straight games, and that’s nothing to sneeze at in the NFL.

“We don’t have too many pretty games,” cornerback Brandon Carr said, “but as long as we come away with the victory that’s all that matters. We’re definitely making progress.”

That part is indisputable.

The Chiefs have gone from league-wide laughingstock after the first two weeks to a trendy team on the rise, one that can move into a three-way tie for first place in the AFC West with a victory Monday night over the Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City would have a game in hand with the win over Oakland and a split of the season series against San Diego.

Kansas City’s win Sunday over the Raiders was the first time it had pitched a road shutout in the 52-year history of the series. It was also the Chiefs’ first road shutout since beating San Diego on Nov. 4, 1973, and the first shutout overall since beating San Francisco on Oct. 1, 2006.

“We got a division win against a team that won all their division games last year, so that’s big in itself,” said coach Todd Haley, who is refusing to shave his scruffy beard until his team loses.

Haley blames his father, longtime Steelers executive Dick Haley, for the superstitious streak that runs through him.

The younger Haley remembers driving to games at Three Rivers Stadium as a kid and having to sit in the same car seat until Pittsburgh lost a game.

Haley sheepishly admitted to passing along his superstitious nature to his own kids, too. But so long as the Chiefs keep winning, it’s hard to believe anybody will complain.

Especially given what’s coming up on the schedule.

After playing the Chargers on Monday night, Kansas City faces the winless Dolphins and struggling Broncos at home. Then comes a five-game meat grinder: at New England, Pittsburgh at home, and road games against Chicago and the Jets before hosting the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.

There’s a good chance that the wide-open AFC West won’t be decided until the final two weeks of the regular season, when the Chiefs get division foes Oakland and Denver for the second time.

“We just have to keep believing,” cornerback Brandon Flowers said. “We never bowed our head and thought the season was done like some people did. We just knew if we kept pushing, things would turn around for us. It’s going to be a great showdown Monday night.”

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