After 1-5 start, Chiefs riding 4-game winning streak

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) What the Kansas City Chiefs have accomplished this season is hardly rare. What they can still accomplish is nearly unprecedented.

With their 33-3 rout of the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, the Chiefs have followed up a five-game losing streak filled with discord and disappointment with a four-game winning streak that has pushed them back into playoff contention with six games left in the season.

It was just last season that Carolina lost at least five straight before rattling off four wins in a row. But you have to go back to 1970 and the Bengals to find a team that started 1-5 - or worse - and managed to make the playoffs. Cincinnati was 1-6 before winning its last seven.

No other team has started 1-5 and made the playoffs, according to STATS.

''I'm proud of the guys for the character they have,'' Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. ''Very easily could have gone the other way. Coaches and players, for that matter. And they didn't do that. They played their hearts out. And they'll continue to do that because that's the way they're wired.''

The Chiefs (5-5), still three games back of Denver in the AFC West but in the thick of the wild-card hunt, welcome the Buffalo Bills to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.

The rest of the schedule includes a return game against lowly San Diego, two against struggling Oakland, and games against down-and-out Cleveland and the Joe Flacco-less Baltimore Ravens.

Kansas City likely will be favored in every game the rest of the way.

''You know, 5-5 obviously is not the goal,'' Chiefs safety Eric Berry said, ''but we have our goals set and we know what mission we're on, so we're going to keep striving for that.''

The turnaround has hardly been a fluke.

Start with the defense, which has allowed 18 points or less in six straight games. That stretch of sustained success reached its crescendo with Sunday's game in San Diego, when the Chiefs held the Chargers to a season-low 201 yards and an average starting field position of the 15-yard line.

San Diego never made it into the red zone.

Things were so good for the defense that two of their players scored touchdowns. Justin Houston returned an interception 17 yards for a score, while 346-pound defensive tackle Dontari Poe got into the game at fullback and scored his first career touchdown on a goal-line plunge.

Asked what has changed the past four games, Poe replied: ''We're focusing. We're not waiting for somebody else to make the play. We're just putting it all on ourselves to make it.

''As long as we keep doing that and playing together, we'll be all right.''

That may be true, but it helps that the offense is contributing to the cause.

Despite losing Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles to a season-ending knee injury, the Chiefs have strung together their best performances all season in the past few weeks.

Alex Smith extended his franchise-record streak to 253 passes without an interception, throwing seven touchdown passes during that same period. And while breakout running back Charcandrick West was hobbled by a hamstring injury on Sunday, the Chiefs showed their depth by inserting third-stringer Spencer Ware, who ran 11 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns.

''They have the right nucleus and they're good at what they do,'' said Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers, who began his career in Kansas City. ''They don't do a lot of stuff, but they are perfect at what they do well.''

The result? A perfect record over the past four weeks, and an opportunity to live up to the lofty expectations the Chiefs had coming out of training camp in September.

Notes: West was undergoing an MRI exam on his leg Monday, Reid told reporters on a conference call. There was no word on how long he might be out. ... The Chiefs' 30-point margin of victory was their best in San Diego since a 40-3 victory on Dec. 8, 1968. ... OLB Tamba Hali had two sacks in the game. He needs two more to pass Neil Smith (86 1/2) for second-most in franchise history.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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