- Associated Press - Saturday, November 7, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Few people take losing as hard as Clark Hunt, even though the owner and chief executive of the Kansas City Chiefs manages to convey a professional appearance whenever he sets foot in public.

Imagine what it must have been like for him the first six weeks of the season.

After a season-opening win over Houston, his team dropped five consecutive games, including a heartbreaker to rival Denver and a last-minute loss to Chicago.

The slide threatened to wipe a team with playoff hopes right out of contention by the midway point in the season, and some fans were wondering whether general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid might be let go.

Back-to-back wins put an end to that talk. Even if the thought never crossed Hunt’s mind.

“I have full confidence in Andy and John Dorsey,” Hunt said as the Chiefs headed into their bye week. “They’re the right people to lead our football team. They’re as disappointed as I am, but I think they’re the right guys to lead us not only this year but going forward.”

Still, their future seemed to be a valid topic of discussion.

After taking over a two-win team in turmoil, Dorsey and Reid won their first nine games in Kansas City, and finished 11-5 and made the postseason. But the returns have been diminishing ever since they blew a big second-half lead against Indianapolis in the playoffs - nine wins last season, and just three wins through their first eight games this season.

In fact, throw out that startling winning streak to start their tenure and Dorsey and Reid had been just 12-17 before a win over Pittsburgh and last Sunday’s win over Detroit in London.

Dorsey has been criticized for draft picks that have struggled to live up to expectations, including No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher, who only recently returned to his starting left tackle spot. Reid has been lampooned for everything from playcalling to personnel decisions.

None of that has managed to sway Hunt’s confidence in them.

“They’re both extremely talented, they do a great job,” he said. “They have very good staffs, they do a good job of leading their staffs, so they’re the right guys.”

Reid has never needed such validation, though he certainly appreciates it - especially given the firing of Tennessee Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt just this week.

“In this business, anytime the owner says something like that, that’s a positive thing. So I appreciate that,” Reid said. “We’re trying to just take it day by day, stay focused on what we have to do - both John and I. I’m speaking for John here, too.”

Besides, there are signs that the Chiefs have started to turn things around.

Their latest first-round pick, cornerback Marcus Peters, has already emerged as one of the top rookies in the NFL. Charcandrick West has seemingly come out of nowhere to fill in admirably for Jamaal Charles, out for the season with a knee injury. And a defense that was supposed to dominate opposing offenses had six sacks and two turnovers in last Sunday’s win over the Lions.

It was a victory that not only made Hunt, Dorsey and Reid feel better about the second half of the season, but one that made the guys in the locker room believe the playoffs are still possible.

Fifteen times a team has started 3-5 and qualified for the postseason.

“We can’t count ourselves out,” Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali said. “I’ve been around long enough to see a lot of things happen, and our guys just have to believe. It’s the NFL. It’s the toughest league to play in as a professional. It’s never going to be the same. It’s never how you draw it up. But it’s going to take a bunch of guys who believe in one another.”

The Chiefs at least have that. The past two weeks, they have gotten into a series of scuffles with opposing players, usually caused by the Chiefs backing each other up.

“We’re family, man. We expect that from each other,” West said. That wasn’t a surprise. You know that each and every guy on this team has my back.”

The schedule hardly gets any easier for the Chiefs down the stretch.

After the week off, they play three of their next four on the road, including a trip to Denver to start things off. But things flip the final month of the season, with three of their last four in Arrowhead Stadium - an advantage if they’re still clinging to playoff contention.

“We’re not nearly as good as we possibly can be,” Reid said, “so we’ve got to keep working. That’s the challenge for all of us, players and coaches. We can all improve and get better.”


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

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