KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) There have been two entirely different versions of the Chiefs defense this season.
Really good and really bad.
That doesn't necessarily sit well with coach Andy Reid, who craves consistency above just about all else.
But with the Chiefs riding a three-game win streak and back in playoff contention, he may have to settle for hoping ''really good'' shows up more often than the alternative.
''We've got a ton of work to do,'' he said Wednesday, ''but this group is willing to work and they don't get caught up in that other stuff. It's a close locker room. And when I tell you I like this team, it's the substance of the team. There's some good people on it.''
That was never in doubt on defense, even back in training camp.
Dontari Poe gives the Chiefs a Pro Bowl run stuffer, and he's flanked by talented players in Allen Bailey, Mike DeVito and Jaye Howard. The linebacker group is highlighted by three Pro Bowl players in Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson. And the secondary includes first-round pick Marcus Peters and former Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry.
So yes, there are some good people on the defense. But it only made the team's struggles early in the season, when the Chiefs were muddling to a 1-5 start, even harder to explain.
How could they allow the Packers to roll up nearly 450 yards of offense? Or the lowly Texans with their quarterback mess go for nearly 300 yards through the air? How did Denver score twice in a minute to steal a victory at Arrowhead Stadium, or Jay Cutler lead Chicago downfield for a similar last-minute touchdown to snatch away another win?
''Communication, that's the biggest thing,'' Houston said. ''When you've got everyone out there talking, on the same page, that's the biggest thing. When you're out there blowing calls, people on different pages, thinking different things, it throws everything off.''
The Chiefs allowed nearly 400 yards per game through their first four games, creating just three turnovers in the process. Over the past five, they're surrendering fewer than 300 yards and 14 points per game, and they've turned their opponents over 13 times.
The past couple of weeks have been the most impressive.
In their victory over Detroit in London, the Chiefs sacked Matthew Stafford six times and picked him off twice. Then last week in Denver, the Chiefs piled up five more sacks while getting five interceptions from five different players - four of them against Peyton Manning.
''Sometimes we don't start fast and we're always digging ourselves out of a hole,'' Peters said. ''I feel like the last couple weeks, that's been the whole theme that we stay composed and play good defense, so we can get the ball back to the offense and we can all make it work together.''
Not that anybody seems that satisfied. The Chiefs (4-5) are still chasing wins as they head to San Diego on Sunday, that losing streak early in the season costly for their postseason hopes.
''We know where we are, and we know where we've been,'' Houston said. ''There were a couple games that didn't show the way we wanted to, but right now I think we're doing a good job communicating, talking and having some fun.''
Notes: Hali (knee swelling) skipped practice against Wednesday, which has become his routine after games. ... Bailey (calf strain) is still sidelined, though Reid sounded optimistic that he would be back soon. ... OG Ben Grubbs (neck) had another MRI, but the Chiefs have not ruled him out for the season. Grubbs has missed the past two games. ... S Tyvon Branch had an MRI on his injured foot that came back clean. He was back at practice Wednesday.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL