Kansas City opens eyes with 7-1 first half Chiefs defy predictions, shake off '94 struggles

November 05, 1995|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

The Kansas City Chiefs appeared to be a team headed downhill last season.

They struggled to a 9-7 record and were bounced out of the playoffs in the first round.

There were whispers that coach Marty Schottenheimer didn't get along with general manager Carl Peterson.

Toss in the fact that quarterback Joe Montana retired and the Chiefs figured to be at the bottom of their division this year.

"I was frankly amazed at some of the predictions I saw," Peterson said. "People thought that without Joe, we would crash and burn and become just an average club."

Instead, the Chiefs have thrived.

They were the league's surprise team in the first half of the year with a 7-1 mark and are favored to make the Washington Redskins their eighth victim today at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs' Thanksgiving Day game against the Dallas Cowboys may even top the long-awaited Dallas-San Francisco game that has been tarnished by the 49ers' injuries.

The emergence of Steve Bono as the starting quarterback, a lack of key injuries and a new attitude in camp are three reasons for the Chiefs' success, which includes three overtime victories.

Schottenheimer said his first mistake a year ago was in training camp.

"I made an error in judgment," he said. "The first year of the salary cap, I made a statement to the players that I wanted to make sure that we got through training camp without any major injuries and I think their perspective was, 'All right, we don't have to try as hard.' "

Schottenheimer also said he never had a rift with Peterson, even though eyebrows where raised when he left the scouting combine meeting in Indianapolis early and skipped the league meetings in March.

"I had a personal matter that made it necessary for me to leave [Indianapolis] and my decision not to attend the league meetings had more to do with the fact that my wife and I wanted to spend some time in Florida than it had to do with Carl Peterson," he said.

"Our relationship is an excellent one. We don't always agree on everything, but we trust each other."

Bono's ability to step in at quarterback has been another factor in the team's success.

"I had some big shoes to fill," he said.

Even Bono said he's surprised the team is 7-1. "To be honest, I would have said if we were 6-2 at this point, that would have been pretty good," he said.

There have been some suggestions that the Chiefs are better off without Montana because his skills had declined and the other players waited for him to make the big plays.

Linebacker Tracy Simien said: "We're a better team now because it's not just one man. It's not Joe Montana and the Chiefs. It's just the Chiefs."

Not that the Chiefs can relax. After today's game against the Redskins, they have San Diego, Dallas, Oakland and Miami in four of their next five games.

Schottenheimer, who has never taken a team to the Super Bowl, said: "We're certainly pleased that we're 7-1, but 7-1 is only half the battle."

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