The Kansas City Chiefs spent much of the 2011 season trying to patch holes caused by injuries. They entered 2012 confident that, at full strength, they could make some noise.
"We went through three quarterbacks, had our home-run-hitting running back [Jamaal Charles] out, our safety [Eric Berry] out, our wild card in the pass game [Jonathan Baldwin] out, and we still had a decent season," Brandon Flowers told Jim Trotter of the Chiefs' 2011 injury woes for SI's season preview issue. "So the attitude with everybody back in place is, Let's go win some games."
One problem: Kansas City could not even make it to Week 1 with its full starting lineup intact.
The Chiefs lined up against the Falcons on Sunday minus Flowers, the team's No. 1 cornerback, as well as starting safety Kendrick Lewis and nose tackle Anthony Toribio -- all dropped from the lineup by injury. They also did not have the services of dynamic outside linebacker Tamba Hali, who was suspended for Week 1 by the NFL.
The results were painfully familiar. Almost exactly one year after the Chiefs opened the 2011 season with a 41-7 home loss to Buffalo (and lost Berry for the season to injury), they fell apart again in a 40-24 defeat Sunday against the Falcons.
Kansas City kept it tight for a half, trailing just 20-17 after two quarters. The lack of able bodies on defense, though, proved too much to overcome against Matt Ryan's aerial assault, even with Berry making his return to action.
Atlanta hung 20 more points on the scoreboard in the second half, and Ryan finished with 299 yards on 23-of-31 passing.
"We can’t be focused on the injuries because that isn’t something that we can control," Berry said. "The only thing we can control are the 11 guys on defense, the 11 guys on offense and the 11 guys on special teams and just rally together."
Said Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel: "The fact that they weren't there today, really no one cares because all they want to know is, 'Did you win or did you lose?' We lost today, so we have to try to do what we can to win the next one."
Every team in the NFL deals with injuries, and Crennel is spot on when he says that all that matters in the long run are wins and losses. But the Chiefs have to be feeling a little bit snake-bitten at the moment.
They won the AFC West in 2010 with a 10-6 record and entered 2011 as one of the favorites, on paper, to capture that crown again. The silver linings in coming up short for the Chiefs were that they closed the year strong (winning three out of five), settled their coaching situation by booting Todd Haley for Romeo Crennel and knew that they would get their key injured players back for 2012.
But it's right back to the drawing board now, with Crennel uncertain when Flowers, Lewis or Toribio would be back -- Hali should play in Week 2 with his suspension completed.
Last season's Week 1 debacle against Buffalo quickly turned into an 0-3 start which, coupled with a four-game losing skid midseason, proved too much for Kansas City to overcome. The Chiefs have little time to right the ship this year, either, with trips to Buffalo, New Orleans and Tampa Bay, plus home games against San Diego and Baltimore looming before a Week 7 bye.
A healthy Chiefs team appears to have what it takes to traverse that tricky schedule and make a playoff run. We're just no longer sure what a healthy Chiefs team looks like anymore.