KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It was Week 5 during the 2020 season — the peak, as it turns out, of the Las Vegas Raiders’ second run under former coach Jon Gruden, who resigned last month.
After a stunning upset of the then-unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, Gruden ordered the police escort set to shuttle the team buses back to the airport to circle the stadium a few times as a victory lap before heading out of town.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said taking a victory lap after a road win was “not our style,” when asked for his thoughts about Gruden’s victory-lap order last season.
Reid even seemed at least mildly irked about it, while Gruden blamed a “smart-aleck bus driver in Kansas City” for prompting the victory lap.
Clearly, the Chiefs haven’t forgotten that slight.
Safety Armani Watts, who led Kansas City with seven tackles in a 41-14 beatdown on Sunday Night Football from Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, tweeted shortly after the game: “We don’t need no victory lap on to the next.”
We don’t need no victory lap on to the next 💪🏽— Armani Watts (KCP) (@ArmaniWatts23) November 15, 2021
Fellow safety Tyrann Mathieu was more subtle, but nonetheless seemed to throw a little shade after the lopsided win, which restored the two-time reigning AFC champions’ swagger and moved the Chiefs back into first place in the AFC West.
“Being to the last two Super Bowls, they don’t crown champions in October and November,” Mathieu said.
The defense has helped power Kansas City’s rise amid an uneven start to the season.
The Chiefs had yet to win consecutive games, breaking from the gate at 3-4 overall after a 27-3 loss to the AFC-leading Tennessee Titans on Oct. 24 in Nashville.
During the last three games — wins against the New York Giants, Green Bay Packers and Las Vegas Raiders — the Chiefs’ defense has allowed 12.7 points, 300 total yards and only 81.3 rushing yards per game.
“We knew it was going to take some time,” Mathieu said. “The last few years it’s taken us quite some time to start clicking, but we believe in it and, at the end of the day, I think that’s all that matters. ... I think we’re going to continue to get better and, just like the last couple seasons, I see us being one of the better defenses when it matters the most, late in the season.”
Kansas City’s defense allowed at least 29 points in each of the first five weeks, ranking dead last in the NFL in scoring average (32.6) and per-drive scoring average (3.29).
The Chiefs were giving up 7.1 yards per play, also worst in the league, and ranked in the bottom five in passing yards, QB rating, and both rushing yards per game and per carry.
Aided by a few personnel changes - including safety Juan Thornhill’s return to the starting lineup, linebacker Nick Bolton’s ascendance and the trade for defensive end Melvin Ingram - Kansas City seems to have turned a corner.
“There’s always going to be people nitpicking, and everybody has expectations for the Kansas City Chiefs being that we went to the last couple Super Bowls,” Mathieu said. “But this game is hard. There’s ebbs and flows, there’s ups and downs, but I wouldn’t want to be in this with anybody else.”