Hard as it might be to believe that the Kansas City Chiefs who won just twice last season rattled off nine straight wins this year, it may have been even harder to digest what transpired at Washington.
The Chiefs team that had lost three straight dismantled the Redskins.
It wasn't just a blowout, either. It was 45-10, that rare lopsided outcome in the NFL in which a team can start playing its backups by the fourth quarter. It was the kind of game that can fill a team with confidence.
"Losing three straight, not really playing our style of football, it felt like this week we did that," Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. "Defense played great. It was great all the way around."
Just about the only thing that didn't go right for the Chiefs (10-3) on Sunday was they didn't wrap up a playoff berth, though it's a virtual certainty given the way the schedule sets up.
They can clinch it by winning at Oakland (4-9) on Sunday, or if the Dolphins lose at home to New England or the Ravens lose at Detroit on Monday night.
Perhaps even more tantalizing is the fact that they're likely to land the fifth seed in the AFC, the best among non-division winners. That would send Kansas City in the first round to the weakest division champion — perhaps Indianapolis, which visits Arrowhead Stadium on Dec. 22.
"We're still going to come out and try to play our best game next week," Chiefs Coach Andy Reid said, "so I'm not really into all that other stuff."
The win proved especially sweet for Reid, who became the 21st coach to win 150 games. Four of those this season came against the NFC East, where he coached for 14 years with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Chiefs won those by a combined score of 119-49.
"You know, I'm just proud," Reid said. "I'm proud of the coaches, the guys, just the way they handled things. I think they did a heck of a job."
He's not embellishing one bit.
Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe paced an offense that thrived on splendid field position. Dexter McCluster returned a punt for a touchdown, and Quintin Demps did the same with a kickoff. A once-fearsome defense that had been gutted by the Broncos' Peyton Manning and the Chargers' Phillip Rivers during that three-game slide nearly pitched a shutout against RG3 and Co.
The performance of the defense may have been what stood out the most.
Even after losing Pro Bowl pass rusher Justin Houston to a dislocated elbow a couple weeks ago, the Chiefs still managed to sack Robert Griffin III six times. Tamba Hali and Tyson Jackson each had two of them. And when they weren't wrapping him up, they were frustrating Griffin in other ways.
The former Heisman Trophy winner was just 12 of 26 for 164 yards with an interception that Derrick Johnson returned 40 yards — more yardage than all but two of the Redskins' own wide receivers.
"In those prior games, teams came out and got rid of the ball a lot more. The different (against Washington) was just that we came out with the mindset that we have to get a win," Hali said. "Guys were focused all week. We had good practices, and that was our mindset."
Critics will still argue that the Chiefs have polished their record with a bunch of also-rans, and they have a point. The Chiefs have played five teams that are last in their respective division, including all four AFC teams in consecutive weeks.
But they also beat the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles early in the season and the Dallas Cowboys — another team in the playoff hunt — the previous week. And with games still on deck against the Colts and Chargers, they have ample opportunity to impress their detractors.
If nothing else, it's all but certain they'll still have the playoffs to do it.
"It's a big deal," McCluster said. "Having a chance to play in the postseason, you know, that's what we play for. We wanted to come out (Sunday) and show that we can do it, most definitely get a win, and we did that. Let the chips fall where they may right now."
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