But unlike last year, where the Chiefs struggled to a 2-14 finish, new coach Andy Reid has inspired the team to an undefeated 7-0 start to the 2013 season.
“They’ve got a fire in their eyes,” McGahee said. “They’re playing different than they were the past couple years. It’s the same people, just a different scheme and a couple of coaching changes. They found something that lit those guys, and they’re playing good ball.
“They always had a good defense, but their offense is complementing their defense. They’re playing great ball. They’re ranked in the top five in many categories, but Cincinnati has a great defense too, and we moved the ball against them. The ball can be moved on them.”
Kansas City’s linebackers set the tone for their entire defense.
Outside linebacker Justin Houston leads the Chiefs, and is second in both the AFC and NFL, with 10 sacks for 65 lost yards. He has also registered 12 quarterback pressures and a pair of fumble recoveries through seven games.
Veteran linebacker Tamba Hali lines up opposite Houston, and has registered nine sacks for 71.5 lost yards. Hali also returned an interception for a touchdown in the regular-season opener at the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“They do a good job of edge-rushing,” quarterback
Browns right tackle
“Tamba’s been a consistent Pro Bowler,” Schwartz said. “I think Houston was last year. They’ve got really good players, and they also have some really good schemes as well. They make sure to put their guys in position to make plays and their guys capitalize on it.
“(Houston’s) got a lot of different things. He’s good at taking what the tackle gives him. If you’re set to go inside, he’ll get you outside. If you’re too worried about speed, he’ll come at you with power. He’s good reacting off of what you give him.”
While the Browns’ offense will face multiple challenges in stopping Kansas City’s pass rush, the defense will be focused on limiting the impact Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith and running back Jamaal Charles can have on the game.
Smith has completed 145 of 250 attempts for 1,570 yards and seven touchdowns against four interceptions. He has added the second-most rushing yards, 218, and rushing scores, one, for the Chiefs.
“He’s an athletic quarterback,” Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton said. “When you look at it, he’s got 218 yards rushing with a 5.1 average, which is tops on their team. He’s very athletic. He likes to run with the ball. He did it in college; he did it in San Francisco.
“He’s one of the unique quarterbacks that doesn’t often slide. He’ll just run, and he jumps over guys. I think they’re very comfortable with him running or throwing because he makes good decisions. He’s a challenge. We’ve got to account for Alex.”
The Browns must also account for Charles, who is the Chiefs’ leading rusher and pass-catcher.
In addition to his 561 yards and six touchdowns on 135 carries, Charles has a team-best 36 receptions for 337 yards and two touchdowns. The two receiving touchdowns are tied for the most on the team, and the 337 yards are second only to wide receiver Donnie Avery’s 343 through seven games.
“He’s probably, pound-for-pound, the best running back in the league,” Horton said. “There’s a lot of special guys in the league. (Minnesota running back) Adrian Peterson is a bigger guy, but Jamaal leads their team in receptions, yardage on scrimmage runs, yardage on scrimmage catches, all these things, and he’s a 200-pound back.
“He’s not a dynamic jump-cutter, but he’s so silky smooth that you can’t get the guy down. You don’t get great shots on the guy, and he’s in there every down. He’s a workhorse, and he’s probably got one of those ‘X-factor’ intangibles. He’s got heart and probably will to be good.”