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In the aftermath of a fourth consecutive victory a week ago against the Cowboys, Chiefs coach Andy Reid interrupted a locker room celebration with some welcome news.
“Listen,” he said. “You got the whole week off.”
Not the coaches.
While Reid advises players to take their annual bye week to enjoy time with family, take vacations, return to hometowns — basically, anything but football — he and his coaching staff operate a little differently. Yes, they’ll take a couple days away from the facility, but they also take advantage of an opportunity to study something other than the upcoming game.
Like, say, themselves. The Chiefs use their bye for self-evaluation. It’s a process they adhere to during the course of the season, sure, but rarely are they afforded so much time to do it.
What did they find?
“How am I gonna tell you that?” Reid quipped. “If there was anything good, if I tell you, I tell the whole world, right?
“But listen, there’s always a little something you find out about yourself. Because you have extended time, it gives you the opportunity to look even a little deeper. Although we try to do it on a week-to-week basis, there weren’t any huge surprises, but there’s always a little nugget in there somewhere if you look hard enough.”
The timing of the bye is a bit interesting. Had those evaluations arrived earlier in the season — some teams had their bye as early as Week 6 — the Chiefs would’ve likely arrived at much different conclusions. The defense was a mess; the Chiefs led football in turnovers; they lost four of their first seven games.
But the Chiefs have won four straight games since that 3-4 start, reeling off victories against the Giants, Packers, Raiders and Cowboys. The defense has come alive and suddenly — after ranking as the league’s worst unit for most of the first two months, it’s the only defense in the NFL this season to hold four straight opponents to 17 points or fewer.
In that sense, the Chiefs might have preferred to keep rolling — to have the bye week fall earlier or later in the year. On the other hand, there’s this: Reid is 19-3 in his coaching career coming off a bye, and the Chiefs will next face three consecutive division opponents — the Broncos on Sunday Night Football, followed by a home date with the Raiders and a trip to play the Chargers. All three trail the Chiefs by just one game in the AFC West.
Reid’s post-bye week success is well-documented. Well, his record is, anyway.
The reasons? Maybe less so.
“I get asked that every year,” Reid said. “I’m not sure what it is. We go back, and we try to review everything and make whatever corrections. I don’t know what the secret (is), if there’s any secret there. I think everybody kind of does that.”