Exuberant Chiefs overcome 1-5 start to clinch postseason berth

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs are on a magic carpet ride and everybody is along for the trip.

Dec. 27, 2015; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) celebrates as he runs off the field following a 17-13 win over the Cleveland Browns at Arrowhead Stadium. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Dec. 27, 2015; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) celebrates as he runs off the field following a 17-13 win over the Cleveland Browns at Arrowhead Stadium. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Kansas City (10-5) clinched a postseason berth Sunday with a 17-13 win over the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

The road to the playoffs, however, didn’t start off easy for the Chiefs, who began the season at 1-5 before reeling off a historic nine-game winning streak.

And the reward of a spot in the postseason offered a jubilant locker room following Sunday’s win.

“You look at 1-5 and now we’re in the playoffs,” backup quarterback Chase Daniel said. “The camaraderie, the attitude, the heart, the will of this team is unmatched in anything I’ve ever seen.

“I mean, a lot of teams would pack it in at 1-5, forget about it. But because of the leadership of this team, just keep clawing and digging. Some of them have been big wins, some of them have been close wins, like today, but it’s a win and that’s all we care about.”

Guard Jeff Allen agreed with Daniel.

“It’s been special, man,” Allen said. “I know 99 percent of the world didn’t believe we would turn it around and make the playoffs, but we believed.”

The players’ faith in each other and the coaching staff put the Chiefs in the local and NFL record books.

For the first time in Kansas City history, the Chiefs and Royals made the playoffs in the same year.

The Chiefs are the first team in NFL history to win eight straight games after at least a five-game losing streak. The Chiefs also join the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals as the second team in league annals to make the playoffs after starting 1-5 (the Bengals started 1-6).

“It’s an incredible run,” right tackle Jah Reid said. “You never lose faith during the season.”

Kansas City entered Sunday’s game needing a win over the Browns, and then losses by the Steelers or New York Jets to get in the playoffs.

The Chiefs first took care of business, but didn’t find out the Steelers lost to the Baltimore Ravens until they entered the locker room when coach Andy Reid told his team they were in the postseason.

“Congratulations on a nice win and you’re in the dance, that’s pretty good,” Reid said he told the team. “That’s a dance you like to dance right there.”

Fullback Anthony Sherman certainly appreciated the news.

“We were excited,” Sherman said with a smile. “That’s one of the goals in the season is make the playoffs. We just knew we need to keep taking care of business and things would turn out good for us.”

Meanwhile, the Chiefs still has unfinished matters to tend to.

With one game remaining in the regular season, the Chiefs sit a game behind the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos (10-4) pending the results of Denver’s Monday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Chiefs own the tiebreaker over the Broncos and could be playing for the division crown in the Week 17 season finale against the Oakland Raiders if the Bengals defeat the Broncos.

While clinching a playoff spot offered elation, the Chiefs remain focused on finishing the season strong.

“I think guys have a good understanding,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “I think this team and this locker room have a good mindset about going about their business.”

But there will be scoreboard watching among the Chiefs players when considering what is at stake.

“I’m definitely going to be sitting on the couch rooting for the Bengals,” guard Jeff Allen said. “I want to win the division.”

So who is the Chiefs starting quarterback pulling for when he turns on the television Monday night?

“I’m not rooting for the Broncos if that is what you are asking,” Smith said.

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Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and The Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.

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