KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Positive energy enveloped the Chiefs postgame locker room Sunday.
There was joking among teammates and players were available and willing to talk to media, all of which were a stark contrast when compared to the past five games.
Winning will do that, after all.
The Chiefs put a dismal five-game losing streak in the books after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers, 23-13, at Arrowhead Stadium, effectively lifting a large weight off the team’s shoulders.
“You know what, winning is a habit,” linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “Winning is a habit – losing is a habit, too – and to actually get off of that losing streak, it feels a little bit better.
“Everybody’s got their chest out, but we know we have to play with our backs against the wall every week because we put ourselves in a deep, deep hole. We’re not oblivious to – our record is 2-5, so we’ve got a long way to go.”
The relief of winning was clear on left guard Ben Grubbs face, who sported a wide grin as he finished dressing.
“It feels great,” Grubbs said. “I tell you, losing consecutively like that, man, that’s not a good feeling. Nothing goes right, you have to find some things to be positive about. When you get a win, you still have mistakes, but man, it makes it feel a lot better.”
After losing by a combined 25 points in Weeks 3-4, the Chiefs kept games close in Weeks 5-6, losing by a combined stomach-turning seven points during that span.
Sunday’s performance, however, against an AFC power – even with Steelers third-string quarterback Landry Jones drawing the start – helped cure some of the ailments.
The Chiefs offense went 9 of 16 on third downs (56 percent), which is the team’s best conversion rate of the season. The Chiefs also received second-half touchdowns from running back Charcandrick West and rookie wide receiver Chris Conley.
Defensively, the Chiefs held the Steelers to covert 2 of 10 chances on third down, making the 20 percent conversion rate the lowest by an opponent through seven games. The Chiefs also sacked Jones twice and picked him off once.
Sunday’s game saw the Chiefs erase a lot of the mistakes on offense and defense observed throughout the losing streak.
“We knew we were close,” fullback Anthony Sherman said. “We were beating ourselves a lot.
“Go back to Cincinnati, (kicker) Cairo (Santos) did a great job with seven field goals, but we were in the red zone seven times and we needed to score some touchdowns. Today, we capitalized on our opportunities, the defense played great. We went out there and it felt good to get a win and it felt good to do the right things and continue on our journey.”
Kansas City still has hopes for the playoffs despite a 2-5 record, and recent league history shows that isn’t a far-fetched objective.
The Denver Broncos started 1-5 in 2011 before winning the AFC West with an 8-8 record and advancing two games into the playoffs. The New York Jets started 1-5 in 2002 before winning the AFC East with a 9-7 record, also advancing two games into the postseason.
But before looking too far ahead, the Chiefs will bask in the glory of a hard-fought victory knowing a good week of practice and putting it together in a game paid off.
“To put it all on the line and you’re putting it out there for the guy next to you,” quarterback Alex Smith said, “to be accountable, to hold up your end and to come in together and to go do that together to get a win is great.”