KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Eric Berry credits Kansas City's 4-0 start to the "family feeling" that held everyone together during the hapless 2-14 season of 2012.
Even in a league known for quick turnarounds and breathtaking free-falls, this seems preposterous.
Alex Smith, who lost his job last year in San Francisco, threw three touchdown passes, and Dexter McCluster returned a punt 89 yards for another score as the Chiefs joined the 1980 Detroit Lions as the only teams in modern league history to win two or fewer games one season, then rocket to a 4-0 start the next.
"To be honest, all we talked about all offseason was being 1-0," Smith said. "Just get the first one."
Did he ever dream of being 4-0?
"No, to answer your question."
"It is disappointing," said quarterback Eli Manning, who's been operating all year behind a patchwork offensive line. "The defense got us some turnovers and we weren't able to do anything with it. We are just not playing very well offensively."
Manning was 18 for 37 for 217 yards and the one TD. He was sacked three times and intercepted once, but harried and hurried much of the bright, sunny afternoon.
All of a sudden, the misery of 2012 that cost coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli their jobs seems a distant memory.
"We just kept working, kept sticking together," said Berry. "We know things don't always go your way. But you've got to be able to stick together through tough times, in life, period. We kept leaning on each other. Nobody pointed a finger at anybody at any time. We just stuck together and I feel like that was the foundation that was built for us to do what we're doing now. But we've still got a lot of work to do."
The drive took 5 minutes, 38 seconds. To answer, Manning needed only 54 seconds.
The Chiefs led only 10-7 when McCluster fielded the ball and set sail on the first TD punt return the Chiefs have had since Sept. 13, 2010, when McCluster took one back a team-record 94 yards against San Diego during a rain storm. He juked one tackler, put a dizzying 360-degree spin move on another and then broke clear up the middle.
Ryan Succop, who kicked a 51-yard field goal in the second quarter, connected on a 53-yarder a few minutes later.
In the fourth quarter, Smith fired a 2-yard TD pass to Charles and a 35-yarder to Bowe, who twisted free of a couple of tacklers.
NOTES: Like many fans, referee Terry McAulay is used to Reid being with the Eagles. After Reid successfully challenged a spot in the third quarter, McAulay announced, "Philadelphia will not be charged a timeout."... Gary Barbaro, a Pro Bowl safety in the early 1980s, was inducted into the Chiefs' Hall of Fame at halftime. ... The 1987 Giants team which started 0-5 and missed the playoffs after winning the Super Bowl the year before, came in a strike-interrupted season. ... In their last 16 games against the NFC, the Chiefs are 13-3.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press