KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs had just scored their second touchdown in less than 10 seconds of game time, an interception that Ron Parker returned untouched for a score, and taken a 38-7 lead over the Cincinnati Bengals with nearly an entire quarter to go.
Talk about being able to put a game on cruise control.
The Chiefs didn’t exactly sub out their entire first string down the stretch, leaving quarterback Patrick Mahomes and most of the regulars in the game. But they were able to rest easy over the final 10 minutes as they improved to an AFC-best 6-1 and kept their stranglehold on their own division.
“Week-in, week-out, we’ve just been preaching playing consistent, playing a full 60 minutes,” Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller said. “We’ve been putting good film out there.”
Now it’s up to the rest of the league to break it down.
The only team that’s managed to hang with the Chiefs this season was New England, and even Tom Brady and Co. had their hands full at home. If not for a crucial drive that set up Stephen Gostkowski’s winning field goal, the Chiefs might have been able to win that one, too.
Making the first stretch of the season even more impressive? The Chiefs have weathered probably the toughest stretch of games they’ll have all season and come out shining like a diamond.
They beat the Chargers on the road to open the season, and Los Angeles has only lost once since that defeat.
Pittsburgh has two losses and one of those was to the Chiefs. The Jaguars and Broncos would be at .500 if not for their losses to Kansas City, and the Bengals rolled into Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday night with plenty of optimism and headed home after a 45-10 blitzing.
Take out games against the Chiefs, their first seven opponents are a combined 23-17-1.
The next nine games include a pair of games against Oakland, which is 1-5, and a home game against Arizona, which is 1-6. Throw in games against struggling Denver at Arrowhead Stadium and trips to Seattle and Cleveland and the Chiefs fully intend to keep hold of the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
“Of course you have the ultimate goal in mind,” Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford said, “but whatever we need to do to improve. We know that this is the kind of league where what you put on film or what you struggle with, teams are going to challenge you the next week.
“Really the biggest challenge for us is to keep playing,” he said. “Stay in the process.”
The Chiefs do have a couple of marquee games down the stretch, including a showdown with the unbeaten Los Angeles Rams in Mexico City. But their other difficult games against Baltimore and the Chargers are at home, where a sellout crowds have made life miserable for opposing teams this season.
Just ask the Bengals about facing the Chiefs at home.
Or anywhere, for that matter.
“It was a bad look for the whole team to see that happen. It’s such a big score difference,” Bengals linebacker Preston Brown said. “You never want to go out there and get blown out on a Sunday night, (especially) when it’s been something we’ve been waiting to show the whole league what we can do. And now, to put up a goose egg like that, it’s not a good look.”
Brown took heart, though, in the fact that the Chiefs have made lots of defenses look foolish. They have only been held under 30 points once and still beat the Broncos 27-23 that night, and the versatility they have shown with Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt and Travis Kelce leading the way has helped them put up the kind of numbers that kids pile up playing the “Madden” video game.
They’ve set a franchise record with 260 points through the first seven games, and their three 40-point efforts this season is tied for third-best in Chiefs history — for an entire season.
Mahomes has tossed 22 touchdown passes in his first eight career games, breaking the NFL record held by Kurt Warner. He also has a record 2,507 yards passing over that span, throwing for at least 300 yards in a franchise-record six consecutive games.
No wonder the Chiefs pulled out some audacious touchdown celebrations against the Bengals on Sunday night. Life in the NFL is a lot of fun when you’re cruising to wins almost every week.
“It’s a young bunch,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “I’m the grandfather. These guys are moving around and enjoying what they are doing, and it’s fun to be a part of and fun to watch.”