KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Todd Haley wouldn't have changed the Kansas City Chiefs' bye week for any other point this season. Not any sooner, not any later.
He'll find out in a hurry whether it truly came at the right time.
The Chiefs were among the teams with an early bye for the second straight year, getting a week off after just five games. The first two were blowout losses to Buffalo and Detroit, but the Chiefs had shown encouraging signs in a narrow loss to San Diego and two straight wins.
It was enough momentum for many to assume the Chiefs would just as soon keep playing, rather than sit around watching the Oakland Raiders, the team they'll play next Sunday.
"I do know from a number of guys that the bye came at the right time, as far as feeling a little better physically," Haley said before a light walkthrough Monday. "I wouldn't have pushed the bye to some other time if we were given the option."
The Chiefs carried a similar bit of positive feeling into last year's week off, when they were riding high after three straight wins to start the season.
Kansas City came back and lost 19-9 in a lackluster performance at Indianapolis, then lost 35-31 at Houston. The Chiefs also lost twice more in the next four weeks before figuring things out in time to rattle off three straight wins and eventually wrap up the AFC West title.
Haley said the approach to the bye week changed slightly from last year, though he wouldn't go into great detail. Some of that had to do with new rules in the collective bargaining agreement that requires teams to ensure players get four consecutive days off, two of which must be the weekend.
After a light walkthrough Monday, Haley said the Chiefs would get back to their normal routine.
"Last year we came out of the bye and went and played a real good Indianapolis team and felt like we had multiple opportunities to win that game," Haley said. "I don't know if the bye week had something to do with that. I felt very good about the way we prepared."
Like most teams, the biggest advantage of the bye week was a chance to get healthy.
The Chiefs had been forced to adapt on the fly after losing tight end Tony Moeaki, Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry and All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles in successive weeks. Their respective replacements each bring a different set of skills to the field, so the coaching staff has been spending about as much time adapting to their own personnel as they've spent worrying about the other team.
The week off gave the Chiefs a better chance to assess Jackie Battle at running back, Sabby Piscitelli and Jon McGraw at safety, and whether Leonard Pope and Jake O'Connell can give the Chiefs any kind of pass-catching ability out of the tight end position.
"I feel like we know a lot more about our team, which is normal," Haley said. "You have five games under your belt and we were able to do a bunch of research and study internally."
That's what the coaches did. Most of the players skipped town, some heading to their alma maters to watch some college football and others simply heading home for the long weekend.
"It's always good to get away," linebacker Derrick Johnson said, "get your head out of football a little bit. I was traveling back Sunday and didn't see much football at all."
That was the case for cornerback Brandon Flowers, too.
But both players acknowledged that the focus is back on the field, and that starts with Sunday's game against the Raiders. It's an important matchup against a division rival, one that could go a long way toward deciding the wide open AFC West.
The Raiders will be without quarterback Jason Campbell, who broke his collarbone in the first half of their 24-17 victory over Cleveland on Sunday. Kyle Boller replaced him but struggled against the Browns, and the only other QB on their roster is Terrelle Pryor, who was officially activated Monday after a five-game suspension and one-week roster exemption.
Flowers said none of that really matters.
"This is a pivotal game for us," he said. "We have to approach it as a pivotal game."
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