The Chiefs enjoyed a season to remember in 2015, becoming the first team in NFL history to rip off a nine-game winning streak following a losing skid of at least five games.
Kansas City extended its streak to 10 games to close the regular season, establishing a franchise record for consecutive wins to finish a season.
The Chiefs also became the second team in NFL history to start 1-5 and make the playoffs, joining the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals.
A successful run such as what the Chiefs enjoyed in 2015 requires strong coaching and players to execute on the field.
With the latter in mind, here are players who played a large role the past season:
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: QB ALEX SMITH
Smith has a fair share of detractors, but the Chiefs simply don’t win 10 straight games and make the playoffs without him. He was arguably the one player the Chiefs could not lose down the stretch in a season full of impact injuries.
A model of durability, Smith played in all 16 games, a remarkable feat when looking around the NFL where quarterbacks seemed to drop on a weekly basis.
While the Chiefs’ passing game ranked 30th in the league, Smith threw for a career-high 3,486 yards with 20 touchdowns against seven interceptions.
The 11-year-pro also consistently got it done on the ground by establishing a career-high 84 rushing attempts, a mark that also set a single-season franchise record. Smith rushed for 498 yards, which ranked second on the team behind running back Charcandrick West, and two touchdowns.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: WR JEREMY MACLIN
The Chiefs’ prized free-agent signing more than proved his worth, leading the team in receptions (87), yards receiving (1,088) and touchdowns (eight).
He became the first Chiefs wide receiver to hit the 1,000-yard receiving mark since Dwayne Bowe in 2011.
Maclin also became just the fourth wide receiver to achieve 1,000 yards receiving under coach Andy Reid. Terrell Owens (2004), Kevin Curtis (2007) and DeSean Jackson (2009-10) were the other three.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: LB DERRICK JOHNSON
A strong argument obviously exists for safety Eric Berry or rookie cornerback Marcus Peters, but the Chiefs defense isn’t the same without Johnson.
The Chiefs ranked 28th against the run (127.2 yards rushing allowed per game) in 2014 without Johnson, who went down in the season opener with a ruptured Achilles tendon, but finished eighth (98.2 yards allowed per game) in 2015.
Johnson started all 16 games and totaled 1,062 defensive snaps, which led the team. He also led the team with 116 tackles (95 solo), adding four sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and eight passes defensed.
The 33-year-old Johnson is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent when the league’s calendar year begins on March 9.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR/DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: CB MARCUS PETERS
Peters, a first-round pick out of Washington, exploded on the scene with eight interceptions, a total tying for most in the NFL. He led the league in interception yards with 280 and tied for first in the NFL in passes defensed with 26, a franchise record.
He returned two interceptions for touchdowns and totaled 60 tackles (53 solo), which ranked as the fourth-most on the team, adding a forced fumble.
Peters led all cornerbacks in snaps with 1,037, a total ranking as the third-most on defense behind linebacker Derrick Johnson (1,062) and strong safety Ron Parker (1,057).
Peters was voted to the Pro Bowl, named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for December and named the 2015 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: C MITCH MORSE
Morse, a second-round pick out of Missouri, seized control of the starting job in training camp and never let go.
While Morse missed one start during the regular season with a concussion, he ranked third on the team with 920 total snaps on offense behind quarterback Alex Smith (989) and tight end Travis Kelce (923).
COMEBACKY PLAYER OF THE YEAR: FS ERIC BERRY
Berry made a triumphant return from Hodgkin lymphoma in training camp, where he made the switch from strong safety to free safety.
He went on to appear in all 16 games with 15 starts, playing on 1,033 defensive snaps, which ranked as the fourth-most on the team. Berry finished third on the team with 61 tackles (55 solo), adding two interceptions and 10 passes defensed.
Berry was named a first-team All-Pro selection by The Associated Press; the NFL Comeback Player of the Year, All-NFL and All-AFC by the PFWA; and voted to the Pro Bowl.
The sixth-year pro is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR: DE JAYE HOWARD
The Chiefs needed Howard to step up at the beginning of the season with Dontari Poe returning from back surgery, and Howard proved up to the task in the final year of his contract.
The fourth-year pro appeared in all 16 games with 14 starts and enjoyed a career season with 57 tackles (36 solo) and 5½ sacks, adding a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
GOOD GUY AWARD: WR JASON AVANT
The PFWA’s Good Guy Award recognizes a player annually “for his qualities and professional style in helping pro football writers do their jobs.”
Some NFL cities have PFWA chapters that give out local awards, but the Kansas City media isn’t one of them. This recognition of Avant signals who would get this member’s vote if the Chiefs media held annual awards.
While a majority of players stayed away from the open locker room period this past season, Avant was one of the handful of players who made himself available to the media on a daily basis. This was especially true during the team’s five-game losing streak when player availability during the open locker room session was extremely scarce.
Avant’s willingness to patiently respond to questions throughout the season allowed beat writers to perform their jobs.
Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and The Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.