KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Alex Smith acknowledged he, like Kansas City Chiefs fans everywhere, was curious to see how he and his teammates would handle some adversity, not to mention an opponent on their own level.
Last week’s game against the Jaguars in Jacksonville, Fla., dominated by Kansas City from start to finish, provided little drama and no clue as to the mental makeup of the Chiefs. So, yeah, Smith was eager to see how the Chiefs would respond when many things didn’t go their way Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.
“You’ve got to go through that," said Smith, the Chiefs quarterback. “You can’t simulate that in practice. You can’t simulate that anywhere else. You really have to experience that, situations like today. You’ve got to battle. You don’t know what play it’s going to be that makes a difference."
Down to down, it was a struggle for the Chiefs, but, remarkably, they were the ones who made the plays at crucial junctures during the 17-16 victory over the Cowboys. They won a game that they perhaps shouldn’t have, beating a team that -- on this day at least -- was better than them.
But it’s a win like this one -- earned more by grit than style -- that the Chiefs will remember if they make the playoffs and not necessarily a lopsided victory like last week’s against the Jaguars.
“You need to win games like this," Smith said. "These are the games you look at when you get into November and December. You need [this] type of win. Not just against the caliber of team like that but the style of win. It’s not always going to be pretty. It’s going to be back and forth. You’re going to make mistakes. The team that can find a way to kind of really bear down there in the fourth quarter "
Smith, one of the many new guys in town, had no way of knowing this, but the Chiefs have rarely won games like this one in recent seasons. More often, they had to be the better team to come away with a victory, and, sometimes, even that wasn’t enough.
The Chiefs found it impossible in the first quarter to cover Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant, who, at that point, had five catches, 100 yards and a touchdown. Then, suddenly, they could cover him. Bryant had four receptions for 41 yards the rest of the way, and he dropped a pass in the fourth quarter that would have gone for a long gain.
The Cowboys had Jamaal Charles bottled up for most of four quarters (eight carries for 8 yards) until the Chiefs took over at their 16 with 3:48 left. Charles then had eight carries for 47 yards and chewed up all but 16 seconds, not enough time for Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to lead Dallas into field goal range.
You think that’s not difficult?
"That’s a tough situation to be put in, that four-minute [offense]," Smith said. "They know we’re running it. We know we’re running it. The whole stadium knows we’re running it. You’ve still got to get it done."
The Chiefs managed it and things like that happen only by getting dirty, by digging deep. The Chiefs kept trying to get in their own way. They downed a punt in the fourth quarter at the Dallas 1, but the first player to touch the ball came from out of bounds, giving Dallas the ball at the 20 instead.
Knile Davis fumbled a kickoff return in the fourth quarter, though he pounced on it just before the Cowboys could get there. An Eric Berry interception, also in the fourth quarter, was wiped out by a defensive holding penalty.
Still, the Chiefs found a way.
“There were some ups and there were some downs, some things in crucial situations, those young-guy mistakes here and there," first-year Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "The guys didn’t let any of that get them down. The guys just kept pushing through.
“They fought. That’s what they did. They kind of put everything else out of the picture and just fought. There are certain games where you just have to do that. They just kind of put their heads down and kept going. That might be what I’m proudest of. They didn’t have those high highs or those low lows."
The Chiefs won’t always get the fourth-quarter bounces or the breaks. They won’t always win the close ones. But they know they have what it takes to survive in those kinds of situations. Don’t underestimate how far that goes the next time the Chiefs play a game like this one, perhaps as soon as Thursday night against the Eagles in Philadelphia.
“We haven’t been down this road [until Sunday]," Reid said. “We’re experiencing it all together. That’s how you come together as a team. You’ve got to go through these different experiences and just keep battling. Am I surprised? I’m not surprised because I’ve been around them. But you never know until you’re there."