Vrabel saw the Steelers from both angles as a young player. He was part of an 11-5 Steelers team that reached the 1997 AFC Championship Game and he was also a member of the 6-10 1999 squad that finished fourth in the AFC Central.
Throughout the highs and lows of Vrabel’s three seasons in Pittsburgh, Cowher preached the same message.
“Bill Cowher, 13 or 14 years ago, told us to stick to a 24-hour rule in the NFL and let it go, and move on as a team,” Vrabel remembered. “We certainly have a lot to accomplish yet and we’re going to try to do that.”
The Chiefs have watched the tape. It wasn’t pretty. To say that San Diego dominated the Chiefs might be an understatement. Everyone saw the Chiefs get exposed on Sunday; the players, the coaches, the media and, of course, the fans. Sunday’s loss makes this week all the more important.
Now a seasoned veteran and defensive starter, Vrabel hears Cowher’s message replicated through second-year head coach Todd Haley. It’s time to move on.
“I think what I’ve been very consistent with our team is we’ve got to move on and we’ve done a very good job of moving on, win or lose,” Haley said. “Now we just have to do the same thing; we’ve got to move on; we’ve got to move forward and get to work.
“We cannot let a big win or a tragic loss drag you down,” Haley continued. “If you do, you’ll be sorry and that’s kind of been our M.O., what we’ve preached and what we’ll continue to preach and the guys have done a good job of paying attention to.”
During the preseason, the Chiefs made it a goal of theirs to win the AFC West. The players stated it publically plenty of times, though nobody outside Kansas City seemed to pay much attention. Haley mentioned it several times at press conferences, yet no follow-up questions came.
For most outside of Arrowhead, talk of a division championship was just training camp fodder from a youthful team filled with hope. Confidence was nice to hear as organizational culture shift continued, but the Chiefs clearly weren’t ready to compete with the likes of San Diego for a division crown. At least that was the general sentiment before the 2010 season kicked off.
After watching Sunday’s game, maybe the Chiefs aren’t ready to compete week-in and week-out with the Chargers, but the division standings speak differently.
Sitting with a one-game lead in the AFC West with only three games to play, Kansas City’s postseason scenario isn’t difficult to decipher. Win-out and they’re in. Lose and start scoreboard watching.
Now isn’t the time to sulk about an embarrassing whitewash is So Cal. The season is condensing and the only time to re-right the ship is now.
“We’ve overcome a couple real devastating, heart-breaking losses as I said yesterday, really heart-breaking losses and a couple of those have come at the start of quarters of the season and we found a way in the last quarter to start really in a very similar game,” said Haley. “It was 35-0 at one point to open the third quarter against Denver and we were able to get back, get together as a team, get to work on the little things and find a way to have some success last quarter against Arizona, Seattle and then Denver.”
Haley also mentioned the Chiefs ability to bounce back from a second half collapse in Houston earlier this season. After seeing that game slip out of their hands, Haley’s team went got back on track by winning its next two games.
Yes, the Chiefs have found answers to adversity throughout the season, but this weekend isn’t the same. It’s more challenging. Arrowhead is the place that Kansas City has found solace this season. This week the Chiefs must find their answer away from home.
This team is going to have to win on the road, plain and simple. The Chiefs are winless this season when playing in consecutive road games and this isn’t a time that the team can afford to drop their second road game in as many weeks.
“We do have some experience to draw on, but that experience will have nothing to do with this week, all it will do is it will give us a couple examples of how we’ve been able to respond,” Haley said.
The first order of business was to put the 24-hour rule into effect.
“We certainly have a lot to fix from Sunday, but we can’t let it define how we play this next game,” Vrabel said. “I think that you want to go out there and play with confidence, but how you get that is by practicing and making the plays in practice so that when you go into the game you are confident and have an idea of what you can expect on Sunday.”
The second order of business is to get back to work.