KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Todd Haley is rarely caught searching for the right word. The Chiefs coach can launch into a 5-minute ramble on just about any subject, and it's usually a well-thought out and carefully formulated opinion.
When he started to sum up the defending AFC West champions' ability to get over their humiliating 41-7 season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills, Haley finally stumbled.
"It didn't appear that there was a whole bunch of, you know, continued kind of — suffering — going on, so to speak, so that's a good sign," he said.
Suffering. That's a good word to use.
From the moment they fumbled the opening kickoff to C.J. Spiller's touchdown run in the fourth quarter, Buffalo made the Chiefs suffer. Along the way, Kansas City lost Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry to a season-ending ACL injury, Matt Cassel struggled under center, running back Jamaal Charles had slippery fingers and the offensive and defensive lines spent the afternoon backpedaling.
Now, the Chiefs are heading to Detroit to play one of the most promising young teams in the NFL inside a boombox of a stadium, and Haley is searching for somebody — anybody — to step up.
"One of the solutions is work," Haley said Wednesday. "You just get back to work, and you work hard to try to figure out what you did, and what you can do, and a lot of that involves your own team in addition to whatever opponent you're going to face."
No amount of work is going to make up for the loss of Berry, who played every single down of every game during his rookie season. His performance not only helped the Chiefs win the division and make the playoffs, it also turned him into one of the most popular players in Kansas City.
Sabby Piscitelli and Jon McGraw, a pair of veterans who have bounced around the league, will be called upon to help fill the void. But even Haley admitted that they won't be able to do it alone.
"Eric is a 1,100-plus play guy for us, and allows you to do a bunch of different things because of his skill set," Haley said, "but I don't think you can just replace Eric with the next Eric. It has to be a number of players and coaches trying to figure out a way to best overcome that loss."
That includes getting a little more pressure on the quarterback, which in turn would put a little less pressure on their defensive backs to cover a Lions receiving corps that includes superstar Calvin Johnson and big, physical tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler.
The Chiefs managed just one sack last week, while the Lions — led by Ndamukong Suh — got to Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman twice in their 27-20 opening-week victory.
"When you have a loss like that, of that caliber, you just want to get back on the field as quick as possible, to get that taste out of your mouth, to show that ain't what you are, that ain't what we're about," safety Kendrick Lewis said. "There's a sense of urgency to get things back to normal."
Normal starts with not allowing 41 points.
But even though it's easy to blame the defense for such an unsightly number, special teams mistakes and general offensive ineptitude played their part in it, too.
Dexter McCluster fumbled the opening kickoff to set up a short touchdown drive by the Bills, Charles fumbled later in the game to set up a field goal, Cassel's inability to find targets anywhere down field — paging Dwayne Bowe — resulted in 119 yards passing on 22 completions, the worst yards-per-completion rate with that many attempts in the history of the NFL.
"The guys have made some great effort these last few days to get in and make the corrections with the coaches, to figure out what we need to do moving forward, and close the chapter on that first game and get ready for Detroit," Cassel said. "We know we have 15 games, but this is a one-game season for us. It starts with Detroit, and having more success than we did against Buffalo."