NFL's three unbeaten teams are surprises

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 28, 2010; 7:42 PM

The NFL has only three unbeaten teams, and the early-season success of each has come as a bit of a surprise.

The Chicago Bears are coming off a 7-9 season. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been playing without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has one game remaining on his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. But no club in the league has been a more surprising success story than the Kansas City Chiefs, who totaled 10 wins over the previous three seasons but have reached their bye week with a 3-0 record and a two-game lead in the AFC West.

The Chiefs are in their second season under General Manager Scott Pioli - the former co-architect (with Coach Bill Belichick) of three Super Bowl-winning teams with the New England Patriots - and Coach Todd Haley. Pioli and Haley reunited Belichick's former top lieutenants by hiring Romeo Crennel as defensive coordinator and Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator this offseason.

The head coaching efforts of Crennel with the Cleveland Browns and Weis at Notre Dame produced a combined record of 59-67, but their arrival in Kansas City has had an immediately positive effect.

"The efficiency of our staff allows me to now be the head coach. . . . I'm not having to do some of the other things that take up a lot of the time when you're on one side of the ball or the other," Haley said at a news conference Monday.

The Chiefs have the league's top-ranked rushing offense and second-ranked scoring defense, and they're coming off a 31-10 triumph on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers that Haley called the team's best performance since he was hired.

"We're continuing to make strides," Haley said.

Weis reportedly underwent surgery Monday for an infected gall bladder. He is expected to be released from a hospital Thursday, the Kansas City Star reported, and plans to coach when the Chiefs next play on Oct. 10 at Indianapolis. That will be a major test for the Chiefs, whose first three opponents - the San Diego Chargers, Browns and 49ers - have a combined record of 1-8.

Hester nears record

Devin Hester's fourth-quarter touchdown Monday night on a 62-yard punt return helped the Chicago Bears beat the Green Bay Packers. It also gave Hester 12 career regular season touchdowns on punt and kickoff returns, one shy of the NFL record held by Brian Mitchell, former kick returner for the Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants.

Before Monday's game, Hester had not scored a touchdown on a punt return since late in the 2007 season.

"If you talk to most opponents, they'll tell you there's still fear seeing Devin Hester back there," Bears Coach Lovie Smith said. "You have to stay patient sometimes. He's back. We like seeing him back."

Quarterback switches

The Carolina Panthers, Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders all lost Sunday after changing their starting quarterbacks last week. The Eagles won after announcing a switch to Michael Vick last week, but Vick already had started for the injured Kevin Kolb the previous weekend.

The Steelers won with Charlie Batch as their new starter, but he was filling in for Roethlisberger and the injured Dennis Dixon.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company