KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In a joyous locker room long after the final whistle, Fred Jackson was asked whether Buffalo could stay grounded after a big win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
He made sure to choose his words carefully.
"We're 1-0," the veteran Bills running back said. "We haven't won the Super Bowl. We still have a lot of work to do and a long way to go."
Just not as far as they had last season.
With a retooled defense and composure oozing from career backup Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bills romped to a 41-7 victory in one of the most hostile venues in the NFL. Fitzpatrick threw four TD passes, Jackson ran for 112 yards, and a team that hasn't reached the playoffs since the '90s handed Kansas City its worst season-opening defeat in franchise history.
Two of Fitzpatrick's four touchdowns went to Scott Chandler, a journeyman tight end who'd caught one pass in his career coming into the game. Buffalo wound up with 40 points in a season opener for the first time since beating the Los Angeles Rams 40-7 on Sept. 6, 1992.
"All those people that thought we were as bad as they thought we were, we're not," coach Chan Gailey said. "I do think we're improved over last year. I thought we'd play well."
Gailey certainly had reason to be pleased.
He was the offensive coordinator in Kansas City under Herm Edwards in 2008, and stayed on when Todd Haley was hired to take over the struggling club. Their marriage lasted all of three preseason games, and Haley fired Gailey a mere 13 days before the 2009 opener.
"It feels good," Gailey acknowledged Sunday. "You're lying if you say it doesn't."
David Nelson had four catches for 66 yards, Steve Johnson and Donald Jones each caught a touchdown pass, and the Bills rolled up 364 yards of total offense.
Their defense, much-maligned a year ago, was every bit as good.
The worst run-stuffing unit in the NFL last season held the league's top rushing attack to 108 yards. Buffalo's stout pass defense forced quarterback Matt Cassel into an assortment of dinks and dunks — 22 completions gained just 119 yards.
"I felt like we were prepared," Cassel said. "We just didn't come out and play well. ... We all have to make a collective effort to get better."
There's certainly room for improvement.
Kansas City managed 213 yards of total offense, two fumbles turned into 10 points for Buffalo, and even reliable punter Dustin Colquitt had a problem with the shanks. The time of possession was almost a full quarter — 14 minutes, 4 seconds — in the Bills' favor.
Even when Kansas City put together a promising drive, things went haywire.
Cassel appeared to find tight end Leonard Pope from 19 yards out for a touchdown early in the second quarter. The officials reviewed the play, though, and determined Pope's left knee came down out of bounds while he was still juggling the ball.
Cassel was sacked by Spencer Johnson on the next play, the lost yardage turning a chip-shot field goal into an adventure. Ryan Succop pushed the 49-yard try wide right.Comment on this story
"It's a team loss — special teams, defense, offense, everybody left plays out on the field," linebacker Andy Studebaker said. "When you don't execute on a consistent basis, it's going to cost you points. And obviously, it cost us a lot of points today."
The Chiefs finished last season with a pair of stinkers at Arrowhead Stadium, losing 31-10 to Oakland in their regular-season finale and 30-7 to Baltimore in the playoffs. They looked terrible in both their home preseason games, too.
Maybe things will be better for them on the road. They play at Detroit next Sunday.
"We weren't very good," Haley said. "We have to be better and we're going to be better. I believe in their ability to steel their mind and stick together in the face of adversity as a team, and that's what we're going to do."