The Kansas City Chiefs thought the worst was behind them when they beat defending champion Pittsburgh. Maybe they were wrong.
The overtime upset of the Steelers on Nov. 22 was the Chiefs' second victory in a row _ their first two-game winning streak in two years. Everybody said their confidence was soaring and that maybe, finally, the long-struggling franchise and its rookie head coach had turned the corner.
Then came Sunday's shellacking by the San Diego Chargers, who won their sixth in a row, and a shaken team returned Monday to that old familiar drawing board, the one that says they're 5-31 in their last 36 games.
How much of a setback has the Chiefs' fragile psyche suffered?
"It will be how do we respond to that," coach Todd Haley said Monday. "You're going to lose games, especially us early on here as we're fighting our way to find a way to be consistent, and it's hard to be consistent every week."
Before beating the Steelers, the Chiefs had whipped Oakland on the road.
"We had back-to-back wins, one against a division opponent and one against the defending Super Bowl champions, and had a chance to play the Chargers and didn't get the job done," Haley said. "There were a bunch of positives actually, but the score told the story.
"I won't say it's a step back until we see how we respond this week."
The Chiefs destroyed any remote chance of winning with four turnovers. The most momentum-changing was Jamaal Charles' fumble when the Chiefs were driving early and appeared poised to tie it 14-all.
"I was trying to fight for extra yards for the team," Charles said Monday. "In that situation, I should always have two hands, protect the ball. I hurt myself and I feel the pain. We just hurt ourselves. We gave them the game."
At least Charles' turnover was an understandable fumble, coming as he fought for extra yards while being dragged down by multiple tacklers. That can't be said for the others. Quarterback Matt Cassel was intercepted once when his pass bounced off a lineman's helmet. Another time, this one more embarrassing, he had the ball fly out of his hand as he cocked his passing arm. It landed in the hands of surprised safety Paul Oliver, who returned it 40 yards for an easy touchdown.
"I've never played in a game that was that lopsided in the turnovers that way," said wide receiver Bobby Wade.
So how do the Chiefs regain the confident swagger they had last week after beating Pittsburgh and ending a 10-game home losing streak?
"Coming off a win or coming off a loss, you have to approach each week the same," said linebacker Andy Studebaker. "Practice starts on Wednesday, and you start preparing, lifting, running, watching tape, know the team you're playing. Get ready and play.
"We proved (against the Steelers) we did some things right and we're going to keep building on that. We're going to keep moving forward."
Starting with Denver this week, the Chiefs begin a three-game homestand against teams they ought to stand at least a decent chance of beating. After the Broncos, Cleveland and Buffalo come into Arrowhead Stadium.
"I just think if we could get back on track and win this game, I won't feel like (San Diego) was a step back," Haley said. "I'll feel like we're actually making progress."