"I like the makeup of this football team."
That's something Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said about his football team, and he didn't just say that it after Sunday's 34-14 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He said that after their 16-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings back in Week 6.
When things weren't going well, there was never doubt coming from Reid. There was only focus on what needed to improve on a micro level so that the overall results and bigger picture would match what many outsiders expected from the beginning.
When Reid first arrived in Kansas City three years ago, he and new general manager John Dorsey orchestrated the greatest single-season turnaround in franchise history, going from 2 wins in 2012 to 11 wins in their first year in 2013.
That plus-9 improvement is the best in the history of the franchise, and now after eight consecutive wins, the second-longest streak in franchise history (9-2003, 2013), the Chiefs find themselves with the same goals and expectations they had before the season began right in front of them.
"They've taken advantage of opportunity and they've done that really all year," Reid said after Sunday's win in Baltimore. "We still have to clean up some things. We still have a lot of room to improve."
When asked what they did when things weren't going well to try and change the tide, Reid said it was about getting to work and staying focused on what could be controlled—their effort and preparation.
"We just put our heads down," Reid explained. "We try to do that every week—put our heads down and go to work. I kept mentioning it: I like this football team, I like the makeup—even during that time.
"We have some character guys. There's a small margin between winning and losing in this league and I felt like we were close, but you have to do it.
"The guys just rallied."
The players have rallied and now sit as one of the hottest teams in the NFL, currently holding the No. 5 spot in the AFC playoff picture, although there are scenarios that could play out over the next two weeks that could improve even that.
But as of today, the Chiefs haven't earned anything yet because there are still two games left to play. They've put themselves in a good position but that's all it is right now—a good position.
The work is still ahead of them, and they seem ready for the challenge.
"Every team has talent and there's a lot of parity in the NFL," quarterback Alex Smith explained. "But, what sets this team apart is that we have a lot of character. We have great focus and we play hard together.
"That's sometimes the difference in this league."
The difference with this team is also the leadership they get at the top, from CEO and Chairman Clark Hunt providing the resources Dorsey and Reid need to do their jobs to the coaching staff that works with these players on a daily basis.
The strength and conditioning staff has these players physically ready to perform each and every week.
The athletic training staff has been busy with the number of injuries and ailments that have hampered some key players on the team this year, not to mention the work they did last year to have defensive lineman Mike DeVito and linebacker Derrick Johnson ready to perform at such high levels this year.
There are so many people behind the scenes who have been key cogs in a machine that has found its groove over the past several weeks.
Postgame facts and stats from the Chiefs win over the Ravens in Week 15
Right now, it's about steadying that ship when success, much like failure, can try to send you off path.
The lessons learned through the difficult times have prepared this team to be able to handle success and stay focused at the task at hand, because they know the margin of error can thwart even the most talented of teams.
"The best thing is we stuck together," running back Charcandrick West explained of the tough times. "We had those struggles, but we didn't turn back on each other and we all stayed together.
"Right now, we need to keep taking it like we've been taking it—one day at a time. We'll just keep getting better each and every day.
"When game day comes, we're going to lay it on the line."
The Chiefs return home on Sunday to host the Cleveland Browns at Arrowhead Stadium, and the best fans in the world can help steer this character-driven and tested group towards a playoff berth after beginning the season with a 1-5 record. There won't be a better place to experience the culmination of this ride than with 70,000 of your closest friends in the home of Chiefs Kingdom—Arrowhead Stadium.