KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — It's hard to find anybody in the Kansas City Chiefs locker room willing to think back to last season. Those memories have been purged for weeks, if not months.
Kendrick Lewis remembers, though. The starting free safety remembers vividly what it was like to win just two games and finish with the worst record in franchise history. He still recalls what it was like to show up to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday and see row after row of empty seats.
All of which makes their 7-0 start this season feel that much sweeter.
"There's a big difference," Lewis said after a 17-16 win over Houston on Sunday that, along with the Broncos' loss to the Colts, left Kansas City as the lone unbeaten team in the NFL.
"We're more of a family now," Lewis explained. "Every time we break it down, we break it down on family. We're more of a brotherhood. We're more together, pulling for one common goal."
Lewis went on to hazard the words "Super Bowl," making him not only one of the few players to recall last season but one of the few to look beyond the next team on the schedule.
There have been just 31 previous teams in the Super Bowl era to win their first seven games, and all of them made the playoffs. Fifteen of those teams made it to the final game of the season, and nine of them raised the Lombardi Trophy. One of those teams to start 7-0 was the 2003 version of the Chiefs, who won their first nine games — the only team in franchise history to get off to a better start than this crew.
That team wound up getting ousted by the Colts in their first playoff game.
Another team to start 7-0 was the 2004 bunch that Chiefs coach Andy Reid led in Philadelphia, which wound up losing its next game. But that team fared better when the postseason rolled around, making it to the Super Bowl and losing a 24-21 heartbreaker to the Patriots.
Reid refused to make any comparisons to the Chiefs of today with his Eagles of yesteryear, but the way he deftly sidestepped the question on Monday may indicate one similarity.
Both teams have focused solely on the present.
"If you just get into this thing and you hold things you can control, and that's practicing right, go through the different steps, and you hold true to that, you don't worry about what other people say," Reid said. "You prepare yourself for your opponent, you get yourself right, and if you stay right with that, all that other stuff doesn't really matter."
Still, there are lots of things swirling around this team that are worthy of asterisks.
— The Chiefs are the first team in NFL history to start 7-0 after having the worst record the previous season. The 1956 Lions won their first six games.
— Alex Smith joined Dieter Brock of the 1985 Rams as the only quarterbacks to win their first seven games with a new team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
— The Chiefs have 35 sacks, and are on pace to break the NFL's single-season record of 72 set by the 1984 Bears. Kansas City has not allowed more than 17 points in a game this season.
— Running back Jamaal Charles has at least 100 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in every game this season. O.J. Simpson in 1975 is the only other player to accomplish that feat.
"It's confidence," Pro Bowl linebacker Tamba Hali said. "Guys believe in what we're doing. They believe in one another, and that goes a long way. When you have confidence and you get on the field, regardless of who you're playing, something good is going to happen for you."
It helps that things keep falling in the Chiefs' favor.
The teams they've beaten had a combined 14-33 record heading into Monday night, with the Jaguars and Giants both winless.
The Chiefs have also been healthy while their foes have not: On Sunday, the Texans not only played without quarterback Matt Schaub, they also lost running back Arian Foster and linebacker Brian Cushing during the game.
"We've been playing well," Chiefs wide receiver Dexter McCluster said. "We're 7-0, and you have to cherish every one of these. Just keep doing what you've been doing as far as preparation, take care of what you can and everything will be all right."