By Matt Derrick
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It couldn’t have surprised anyone at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday that when Tyreek Hill took to the field for the first time in four weeks that the ball would come to him on the first play out of the gate.
Hill and Patrick Mahomes didn’t connect on that first home run ball, but they did team up on five catches for 80 yards and and two touchdowns, yet in the end it wasn’t enough as the Chiefs fell to the Houston Texans 31-24.
Probably the only positive for head coach Andy Reid on Sunday came from getting Hill back from injury.
“It was good to get him back out there,” Reid said. “That was a positive, to have him back out there and come out healthy.”
Indeed, Hill provided an immediate spark for the Chiefs from the get-go. The Chiefs march down the field in a six-play, 91-yard drive that finished with a 46-yard touchdown strike from Mahomes to Hill.
A false start and an offensive holding penalty left the Chiefs facing third-and-21 at the Houston 46-yard line. The Texans just offsides, and Mahomes knew he had a free play.
“We had an offside play, and instead of going for maybe trying to get the goal range, know I had the free play, I put it up there for Tyreek and he made a great play.”
Texans cornerback Phillip Gaines, a former Chiefs teammate of Hill’s, trailed the receiver, and safety Justin Reid tracked the ball looking for an interception. Hill skied between the two defenders, snatching the ball from the grasp of Reid and fighting his way into the end zone.
Hill said he just wanted to make a play for his quarterback.
“I’m going to do whatever it takes to make him look the best,” Hill said. “That’s my dog, that’s my boy, so if he throws it up, I tell each and everyone of the receivers that’s our ball, it don’t matter if it’s five people around, four or one, we’re going to get the ball.”
With Hill out of the lineup, defenses in recent weeks began playing more man defense against the Chiefs. The Texans didn’t want to leave Hill isolated, putting Justin Reid over the top of the receiver much of the game.
“To his credit, he’s an athletic dude,” Justin Reid said of Hill. “He’s fast, athletic. We made it a part of the game plan. I was leaning into him the whole game.”
Hill’s leaping catch didn’t surprise Mahomes at all.
“That guy can jump out of a gym if you’ve ever seen him dunking, Mahomes said of the 5-foot-10 Hill. “He can jump there and make plays. It’s good to have him back. He played well today, and he will keep getting more and more into the offense as we keep getting him back.”
Even Chiefs defenders said seeing Hill back on the Hill provided a spark for the whole squad. Frank Clark forced a fumble on Houston’s first offensive play of the game following Hill’s touchdown. The Chiefs banked a 17-3 lead at the end of the first quarter behind Hill’s three catches for 66 yards.
Linebacker Darron Lee said it was great to see Hill back in the lineup.
“I know he’s happy and been anxious to get back out there, so it’s good to see him do his thing,” Lee said. “It’s like watching a video game in real life.”
The euphoria, however, didn’t last long. The Texans rallied in the second quarter to assume a 23-17 lead at halftime. Hill and Mahomes hooked up one more time for a 6-yard touchdown score with 6:30 left to put the Chiefs back up front 24-23.
The Texans took control after that point, playing keep away from the Chiefs. Kansas City ran just six plays and netted only 2 yards over the final 21 1/2 minutes of the game. Hill couldn’t explain what happened in the second half.
“I’m just out there running my routes, doing my thing,” Hill said. “That’s what I tell my guys, control what we can control, so that’s what we do.”
And Reid said he wanted to get Hill back in the swing of the game while recognizing the Chiefs have a quick turnaround before traveling to Denver for a Thursday night meeting with the Broncos. Hill said he didn’t feel limited in any way on Sunday.
“I’m just happy,” Hill said. “Limited, full, I don’t care. As long as I’m out there with my brothers, it don’t matter.”
The loss leaves the Chiefs atop the AFC West with a record of 4-2. The second-place Oakland Raiders are on a bye week, which means the Chiefs will maintain a one-half game lead heading to Denver. Hill expects the Chiefs to bounce back from the adversity that comes from dropping back-to-back games at home.
“We’re the Chiefs, that’s what we do,” Hill said. “We got the MVP quarterback, the best tight end in the league, the best offensive line in the league my opinion, so we’re just going to keep building off that.”
Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and a contributor for Sports Radio 810 WHB. Follow him on Twitter @mattderrick.
By Matt Derrick
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It didn’t seem to matter if the Indianapolis Colts need an inch or 30 yards on Sunday night, they simply took what they needed whenever they wanted on the ground in a gritty 19-13 victory over the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Colts rushed for 180 yards against the Chiefs on 45 carries, paced by Marlon Mack with 132 yards. It felt like more than 200 yards to defensive end Frank Clark.
“It’s no mystery what these teams are coming in here to do,” Clark said. “Any time that you look at the box score and you rushing yards and stuff like that as other teams, we understand what other teams are going to look at.”
What other clubs see right now, safety Tyrann Mathieu said, is a Chiefs defense they can dominate on the ground.
“Teams are going to do this every week to us until we figure it out,” Mathieu said. “They’re going to run the ball down our throats.”
The problem starts at the point of attack on the defensive line, head coach Andy Reid said.
“When you win it starts there,” Reid said. “When you lose it starts there too.”
The Chiefs started Sunday night’s game down one starter on the line. Defensive end Alex Okafor did not play with a hip injury. Then a parade of injuries took their toll on the line, with defensive tackles Chris Jones and Xavier Williams both knocked out of the game. At one point Clark exited the game, leaving only four linemen available for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
The injuries took a toll, Clark said.
“These guys, we count on them to make plays and hold down the inside,” he said.
The Chiefs surrendered just 19 points, which normally is enough for a win with a Patrick Mahomes-led offense. But the Colts played keep away from the Chiefs in the second half, holding the ball for a staggering 22:31 seconds compared to 6:29 for the Chiefs. The Kansas City offense had just four second-half possessions.
Cornerback Morris Claiborne, who made his Chiefs debut Sunday night after serving a four-game suspension, said the success of the offense has spoiled the Chiefs. The defense need to pick up the offense on occasion, he says.
“If we could have made one more turnover, give them the ball back one more time or made this stop or that stop, it could have been a different outcome,” Claiborne said. “When they’re not rolling, it’s up to us get them rolling.”
There was nothing pretty about how the Colts offenses manhandled the Chiefs in the second half. The game-defining drive for Indianapolis started with 1:14 left in the third quarter. The 14-play, 45-yard drive ended in a field goal, but consumed more than 8 1/2 minutes off the clock.
The Colts ran the ball 11 times on the drive. The Colts had one of their two pass completions on the drive erased by a pass interference penalty. Twice the Colts converted on fourth-and-1 to keep the drive going.
Clark said opposing offensive coordinators don’t need a deep playbook when the Chiefs consistently allow rushing yards on first and second down that creates easy conversion opportunities.
“What they want to do then?” Clark asked. “Now it’s an easy run, a quarterback sneak tonight as you’ve seen. That makes it easy for the offense.”
At times the Chiefs defensive front found itself overwhelmed by the Colts run game. At moments it looked like the Chiefs had plays bottled up, only to see runners escape their grasp for extra yardage.
Mathieu doesn’t believe the defense’s failings due to coaching or the scheme. It comes down to attitude and pride, he explained.
“As a defense, you’ve got to take pride in being in those situations, being challenged, having some adversity,” Mathieu said. “I like our group, I think we’ve got some tough players, some prideful players, so hopefully this will all stick with us for a while so we can continue to start fast, finish strong, make critical plays, not make critical mistakes.”
Cornerback Morris Claiborne agrees.
“You’ve got to want to go down and tackle,” Claiborne said. “We all as a collective group missed a lot of tackles, left a lot of plays out there that I know we wish that we could have back, but we can’t.”
The NFL is a passing league, but run defense still matters. The Chiefs rank No. 30 against the run, yielding a staggering 155.8 yards per game. The bottom five run defenses in the league own a combine total of five wins. Four of those victories belong to the Chiefs, and the Arizona Cardinals own one. Washington, Cincinnati and Miami all remain winless.
“I’m not really worried about any other team right now because we’ve got our own problems and that’s stopping the run,” Clark said. “At the end of the day, we got to stop the run, man.”
The Chiefs have another difficult challenge next week with Houston coming to town. The 3-2 Texans sit atop the AFC South tied with the Colts after blasting Atlanta 53-32. They rank No. 10 in the league averaging 129.4 yards rushing per game. Carlos Hyde, whom the Chiefs traded to Houston for offensive tackles Martinas Rankin prior to the start of the season, leads the Texans with 310 rushing yards.
If the Chiefs run defense wasn’t already on alert, Claiborne believes Sunday’s performance will serve as a wakeup call.
“I honestly feel in my heart that we will be better, we’ll be better for this loss,” Claiborne said. “We’ll be a better team next week and here on forward.”
If there’s a silver lining for the Chiefs, it’s this: only one playoff team in the 16-game schedule era of the NFL yielded more rushing yards per game than this year’s Chiefs defense. That was the 2006 Indianapolis, who allowed 173 yards per game on the ground on their way to a Super Bowl title.
But the Chiefs know their championship odds become longer unless they find a solution to their ground-game woes.
“We got to pick it up if we want to go where we want to go as a team,” Mathieu said.
Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and a contributor for Sports Radio 810 WHB. Follow him on Twitter @mattderrick.
By Matt Derrick
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Justin Houston ran out of the tunnel and onto the field at Arrowhead Stadium 55 times during the regular season and playoffs as a member of the Chiefs, so it won’t surprise him if old memories come flooding back when he returns as a visitor for the first time on Sunday night.
“I’m pretty sure they will,” Houston said. “I was there eight years, I’m human.”
But much has changed for both Houston and the Chiefs since they were last united together at Arrowhead Stadium. After their loss to New England in the AFC Championship game, the Chiefs parted ways with defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and began rebuilding a tattered defense. On March 10, the Chiefs released Houston, making him a free agent after eight seasons in Kansas City.
Houston quickly found a new home in Indianapolis just 11 days later, signing a two-year deal worth $24 million. He instantly brought leadership to the defense, Colts head coach Frank Reich said.
“I think Justin is the consummate pro,” Reich said. “We could not be any more excited with Justin as a player and as a leader on our team. It took him about one day to establish that.”
Houston’s departure from Kansas City was largely fueled by a salary cap number of $21.1 million for the 2019 season. The club recovered $14 million in cap relief parting ways with Houston. But there were also perceptions the Chiefs moved on due to uncertainty with how Houston might adapt to playing in new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s 4-3 defense.
The Colts, however, also run a 4-3 scheme under coordinator Matt Eberflus. Now Houston lines up with his hand in the dirt at defensive end after eight season as an outside linebacker and edge rusher in the 3-4. Reich said Houston made the adjustment with apparent ease.
“Athletically I think he’s in the best shape of his life,” Reich said. “He’s lean, he’s fit, I just feel like the arrow is up. With each week that passes and him getting comfortable in our scheme, it’s just going to get better and better.”
Houston has started with modest stats through the first four games of the season, picking up 11 total tackles and one sack with three quarterback hits. But Chiefs head coach Andy Reid still sees a difference maker on film.
“He’s playing good football,” Reid said. “Fast, strong. They have a good rotation. He’s got his hand down in the ground now. He can rush the passer. He can play the run. He’s a big, strong kid. He’s a good football player. A lot of experience.”
Colts players have quizzed Houston for a scouting report on his former club, but much of the data on the defense is out of date. Not only do the Chiefs have a new defensive scheme and coaching staff, but the faces of the players have changed as well. There are eight new starters in the team’s defensive lineup from the squad Houston played with in the AFC Championship game. Of the 24 defensive players on the Chiefs roster, Houston played with just 13 and only four of those for more than one season.
“A lot of the defensive guys that I was there with, they’re gone,” Houston said. “Most of the people I played with, they’re not even there no more. It’s a bunch of new faces over there I’m not familiar with.”
The most crucial information Houston can provide his new teammates comes from facing Reid’s offense in practice for six seasons having first-hand experience watching quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“He’s a special guy, he’s one of a kind,” Houston said. “He’s Pat Mahomes. The throws he makes – he can make every throw, he can see everything, he’s got eyes in the back of his head. He’s a great quarterback.”
But institutional knowledge flow both ways The Chiefs know what to expect from Houston as both an pass rusher and run stuffer, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said.
“The thing we want to do is make sure that we’re aware of exactly where he is,” Bieniemy said. “He’s familiar with some things that we do so we just want to make sure he’s accounted.”
Reich understands the emotions of a player returning to their old stomping grounds. He returned twice as a starting quarterback with Carolina and the New York Jets to visit Buffalo, where he played 10 seasons.
“You know it’s always special and unique, and he’s had a lot of success in Kansas City and I have no doubt he is really close with that organization and a lot of people there,” Reich said. “I’m sure it will mean a lot to him going back into Arrowhead.”
Houston doesn’t want this homecoming to turn into a melodramatic trip down memory lane. He wants his return to Kansas City to be simply the next game of the season.
“I’m trying not to think about it,” Houston said. “I don’t want it to get in the way of what I got to do. I’m going there to play a game, I’m not really worried about my past.”
Houston doesn’t expect the game to turn into a family reunion. He doesn’t plan to go on the field for warmups, preferring to work in the locker room. When he comes onto the field in his white and blue No. 99 jersey, he wants it to be just a regular game and not worry about where he is.
“Just treat it like every other game,” Houston said. “Focus on what I’ve got to do and focus on me and not them.”
Houston hopes the Colts can build a lead on the Chiefs early. He wants to pin his ears back in the fourth quarter and rush Mahomes with reckless abandon, just like any other quarterback. Reich believes Houston can produce in a situation like that.
“I think there’s a lot left in the tank and we just high expectations for how he’s going to produce as we go forward,” Reich said.
Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and a contributor for Sports Radio 810 WHB. Follow him on Twitter @mattderrick.
By Matt Derrick
DETROIT — In the midst of chaos on the field, the words of Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo rang clear inside the head of cornerback Bashaud Breeland – scoop up the ball and run.
“Coach Spags preach that every day,” Breeland said. “Pick the ball up, whether it’s live or dead, we never know. We always pick it up and let the chips fall where they may.”
That’s exactly what Breeland did in the middle a wild third quarter Sunday, fueling the Chiefs to a 34-30 win over the Detroit Lions.
A face mask penalty on defensive tackle Xavier Williams gave the Lions a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line, and running back Kerryon Johnson appeared heading into the end zone for a touchdown that would give his team the lead. But in the midst of pileup at the goal line, Williams managed to knock the ball from Johnson’s hand. Williams landed on the ball, but couldn’t corral it. That’s when Breeland jumped into action.
“I saw it down, I didn’t hear no whistle,” Breeland said. “I saw my teammate picked it up and he kind of put it back down. I stared at him, so I just picked it up and ran with it. Just hoped that it wasn’t down.”
It wasn’t, and Breeland streaked 100 yards for a touchdown that put the Chiefs in front 20-13. No one on the field seemed to know exactly what happened, including safety Tyrann Mathieu.
“I actually initially made the tackle, so I was at the bottom of the pile,” Mathieu said. “I didn’t know what was going on, I just saw white jerseys running and I got up and tried to meet them in the end zone.”
After a conference on the field, the officials ruled the play a fumble and a touchdown for the Chiefs. A replay review allowed the call to stand. NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron said after the game the officials didn’t blow a whistle because they did not see the ball carrier down.
“They did not see a body part other than the hand or foot down,” Riveron told pool reporter Paula Pasche. “The ball comes loose and then the ball was picked up by Kansas City, No. 21. He was not touched after he possessed the football. There was no whistle on the play, and he runs it back for a touchdown.”
That was but one of a series of wacky and wild plays in a 53-minute long third quarter. The two teams exchanged fumbles on the first four drives of the period and five lost fumbles in total in the quarter. The Lions started three of their four third-quarter drives on the Kansas City side of the 50, but mustered only one touchdown and a field goal.
That’s a difficult situation for a defense forced to constantly defend its own end zone, Mathieu said.
“It’s hard to play defense like that,” Mathieu said. I think they scored one time, but we held up pretty well.”
Yet in a game filled with turnovers and defensive stands, it as an offensive drive that put the game away.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes didn’t deliver his A-plus stuff on Sunday. He finished the game 24-of-42 passing for 315 yards and no touchdowns. His 81.0 passer rating ranks as the third-lowest in his young career. Yet the Chiefs started their final drive with 2:26 on the clock at their own 21-yard line, trailing 30-27, with all the confidence in the world. Mathieu said the Chiefs had all the faith in the world Mahomes would put them in the end zone.
“His demeanor doesn’t change whether we’re up by 30 or down by 10 points,” Mathieu said. “It feels good to have a quarterback like that, and it goes throughout the locker room, it goes through the team, we always feel like we got a shot.”
Tight end Travis Kelce agreed.
“No matter how long it takes us to get it there, whether it’s one play or 16 plays, 20 plays, it doesn’t matter,” Kelce said. “We’re going north, and we’re getting that ball in that end zone, and I think Pat does an unbelievable job of rallying the troops when when we need it most.”
It took 13 plays in 2:06, but Mahomes got the Chiefs into the end zone. A 15-yard scramble on fourth-and-8 from the Chiefs’ 34-yard line extended the drive. Mahomes completed 6-of-9 passing for 55 yards on the game-winning drive.
Mahomes said he had a simple message to his offensive squad on the final drive – “Be who you are.”
“It’s not about someone having to do something spectacular, it’s not about someone having to do and be more than themselves,” Mahomes said. “It’s about believing in each other and just being who we are and then letting everything fall in line whenever you follow those footsteps.”
That message made an impact, Kelce said. Mahomes found five different receivers on the final drive, and second-year back Darrel Williams provided the muscle in the ground game.
“We have faith in every single one of the guys in that locker room, Kelce said. “It doesn’t matter who it is or what they’re doing. We have Patrick Mahomes back there slinging that rock.”
Williams finished off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. Replays showed he may scored on a first down, but officials ruled him down short of the goal line. He finished the job on second down, with a helpful shove from center Austin Reiter.
“Being on the 1-yard line as a running back, you shouldn’t be denied,” Williams said. “I was trying not to get denied and I know for sure I had to put the team on my back and get in there, and do whatever it takes to get in there.”
The final score, like the game itself, wasn’t a work of art. Yet the Chiefs sit 4-0, joining the Patriots as the only undefeated teams in the AFC.
“It wasn’t pretty, but we got it done,” Breeland said.
By Matt Derrick
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When the Chiefs needed to close out their Week 3 win over the Baltimore Ravens, they didn’t put the ball in the hands of veterans Sammy Watkins or LeSean McCoy. They didn’t even turn to upstart rookies Mecole Hardman or Darwin Thompson.
No, they turned to they guy the call Mr. Consistent, second-year running back Darrel Williams, with all of 29 touches for 164 yards in his NFL career up to that point.
“The kid, he has no fear in what he does,” offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said. “There’s no stage that’s too big for him.”
When the Chiefs built their running back group for 2018, they had no doubts about installing Damien Williams as the de facto starter. They viewed Williams as the leader of a committee, even before welcoming LeSean McCoy into the fold a week before the season opener. That backfield vision always included Darrel Williams, who head coach Andy Reid views buying into the Chiefs way of doing things.
“He’s just kind of Mr. Consistent and tough,” Reid said. “He’s a smart kid, so he knows everything protection-wise that’s going on.”
That’s exactly the role Williams played in college. He shared a backfield with Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice at LSU. He rushed for 1,651 yards in four college seasons with 19 touchdowns, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He added another 462 yards receiving on 38 catches, giving him more than 2,100 yards from scrimmage despite never being “The Guy.” He carried that lunch-pail mentality with him to Kansas City, running backs coach Deland McCullough said.
“He’s been somebody who’s just been keeping his head down and working hard,” McCullough said. “He showed an upper-level mentality when he got here during his rookie season and made some plays during last season.”
That determination and work ethic told Bieniemy what kind of NFL back Williams could become.
“When (LSU) needed him to do something, guess what he did?” Bieniemy asked. “He provided a play. Well, think about it last year. When we asked him to step into certain roles, he did a heck of a job, just like he did this past weekend. Not shocked, not surprised.
”Williams grew more comfortable as undrafted rookie last season – he even scored a touchdown against Indianapolis in the team’s Divisional Playoff win. He changed his diet and workout routine during the offseason, sculpting his body from a 5-11, 224-pound back with a little body fat into leaner, more muscular 218 pounds.
“I feel much faster and much quicker coming out of my cuts and my breaks,” Williams said.
That increased athleticism further bolstered the coaching staff’s belief in Williams. With Damien Williams sideline last week, it was the younger Darrel running with the first-team offense during warmups against Baltimore last week. He rewarded that faith with a breakout performance against the Ravens, rushing for 62 yards on nine carries and catching five passes 47 yards.
He saved his best for last with the Chiefs facing a third-and-9 at their own 37-yard line with 1:51 to play. The Chiefs called his number on a daring screen play. Williams had only one thought on his mind.
“I got to get the first, because I know if I get this first I seal the deal, our defense doesn’t have to go back out there and the game is over, we win the game,” he said.
Williams explained he knew he had the first down before Patrick Mahomes delivered him the ball.
“When I stepped up, I waited on the linebacker to see what he was going to do,” Williams said. “He actually blitzed and the defensive end dropped back. Once they did that, I said it’s over with it, first down. Pat threw the ball and got the first down.”
Bieniemy said he believed in Williams because he says the player has faith in himself.
“If you talk to Darrel, Darrel would tell you he can do it all,” Bieniemy said. “I’ve been told that quite a few times by Darrel. Whatever role you want him to step into, that’s the role that he’s going to assume and that’s the role he will play.”
The emergence of Williams becomes more important with Damien Williams missing this week’s game at Detroit. The Chiefs don’t want the 31-year-old McCoy to carry the burden of serving as the featured back. McCullough said the club looks for opportunities to keep everyone in the backfield fresh by not beating them up too much in practice of in games. They hope to remain at full strength by the time January arrives.
“We like to spread it around a little bit and with the advantage of having some depth and some other guys that can help us and not having to really rely on one guy, that’s been pretty positive for us up to this point,” McCullough said.
McCullough said having depth from both Williams and the rookie Thompson puts a smile on the face of McCoy, who relishes playing a supporting role in the running back by committee.
“He knows that he doesn’t have to be the lead guy 100 percent of the time, he knows he’s sitting in a room with a bunch of guys that can play,” McCullough said.
Williams also fully understands what it means when coaches call him Mr. Consistent, and hopes to continue earning that monicker.
“I know, coach has been calling me that ever since I got here, Mr. Consistent,” Williams said. “That’s something I try to take pride in, trying to do everything right. Each and ever day trying to come out here and get better and not have any bad days, just trying to be consistent.”
By Matt Derrick
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — At the end of a bruising, physical battle at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday afternoon, it turned out that a chess move setup a week in advance and planned on Saturday night proved the decisive play in the Chiefs’ 33-28 win over the Baltimore Ravens.
Facing a third-and-9 from their own 37-yard line with 1:51 remaining in the game, quarterback Patrick Mahomes faked a quick pump pass toward De’Anthony Thomas to the left side, then turned right in dumping off a screen to running back Darrel Williams, who rattled off 16 yards for a first down that iced the victory.
“That one there was Pat’s call,” head coach Andy Reid said. “He wanted that play if we got into that situation, and so we called it.”
Every Saturday night before a game, head coach Andy Reid and the offensive coaching staff and quarterbacks meet to review the game plan. They dissect specific situations and choose what play they believe works best in each situation. Reid asks each quarterback what play call they prefer.
Third-and-10, 4-minute offense, that was the play Mahomes said he wanted.
“It just shows that every little detail matters,” Mahomes said. “We had talked about that play the night before, and you think people would kind of just let that go after we hadn’t called it for a couple of years now. But we had it prepared and we were ready to call it, and we called it and we succeeded when we got the opportunity to run it.”
Much went into making that play the right call at the right time. The Chiefs used an identical formation last week against the Raiders with a different outcome. They counted on Baltimore’s defense remembering that look.
“We knew especially with the Ravens, they have a good veteran group of guys, so they saw the exact same formation and kind of thought we were going that way,” Mahomes said. “We were able to kind of slip them out the backdoor and give them the pass and get the first down.”
The Chiefs also helped setup the play with two conservative runs up the middle with Darrel Williams on the previous two downs. With Baltimore out of timeouts, the Chiefs could play in safe, run the clock down, and try to pin the Ravens deep with less than a minute to play. The Ravens were prepared to clamp down hard inside on the run.
Flawless execution of the play also proved critical. The offensive linemen love screen plays, even it it means moving quickly down the field. No screen play is the same because of all the moving parts on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. The Chiefs have run this screen and other screens in the repertoire countless times in practice, left guard Andrew Wylie said.
“Then we review them in the film room, too, just so we can see everything that might come, and then we’ll be ready for stuff that we haven’t necessarily prepared ourselves for and then we’ll just know what to do out there,” Wylie said.
That unexpected happened on this play as well. Williams caught the ball at the 31-yard line, needing 15 yards after the catch for a first down. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz moved out of the way linebacker Matt Judon, who frustrated the Chiefs all day long. Center Austin Reiter looked to pave the road in front of the play. He saw Schwartz take out Judon, then looked up field and saw no one left to block.
“I was like, let me check one last time behind, because I just knew with the timing, I think the back’s 5 yards behind me,” Reiter said.
When Reiter turned his eyes, he saw linebacker Pernell McPhee charging toward Williams.
“I looked and I saw (McPhee) screaming,” Reiter said. ‘I just threw out the shoulder there, and all of sudden Darrel went right up behind me.”
That block freed Williams for the first down. Safety Tony Jefferson eventually tripped him up from behind, but it was too little too late. Williams turned in a big day in the first extended playing time of his career, rushing for 62 yards on nine carries while adding five catches for 47 yards.
“He kicked through that tackle right there, right there at the end,” Reid said. “He kicked through that tackle on the end there, which was big. He’s a big kid now, when he brings it on, he’s going to bring it on. He’s tough to bring down.”
Building the game plan with the right call takes the entire team working together, Reid says. He singled out quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka as well as pass game analyst/assistant quarterbacks coach Joe Bleymaier for their contributions to the the game plan and the Saturday night planning sessions. Reid says Bleymaier doesn’t get enough credit for the work he does below the radar.
“He’s a name behind the scenes that kind of helps feed some of these things that we do here,” Reid said. “There’s a lot of guys that go into this whole thing that we’ve been doing offensively.”
Reid readily takes the blame when a game plan fails, but he also frequently deflects the credit when he outsmarts the other side. Reid capture career win No. 210 on Sunday, moving him past Chuck Noll into sixth place on the all-list list for most most coaching wins in the regular and postseason. Reid, as usually, passed on the credit to others around him.
“It includes a lot of people,” Reid said. “That ends up being not a one man thing, it took an army to get there. All the players and coaches, ownership. I’ve been fortunate to have two great owners and I’m in a great position here which I love.”
By Matt Derrick
OAKLAND — Every offense needs a receiver that does the dirty work, whether it’s blocking in the run game, running rub routes that free up other pass catchers or simply pushing hard in practice to keep everyone on their toes. When that guy catches lightning in a bottle, such as Demarcus Robinson did in the Chiefs’ 28-10 win over the Raiders, it brings a smile to the face of head coach Andy Reid.
“There’s nobody that epitomizes the do your job and don’t worry about the results, don’t worry about any credit or anything else,” than Robinson, Reid said. “He kind of does all the dirty work. Then you know, this today, which was beautiful.”
With Tyreek Hill out of the lineup due to an injury, Robinson stepped in as the offense’s deep threat stretching the field. He took advantage of the opportunity, establishing new career highs across the board with six catches for 172 yards and two scores. This marked the first 100-yard receiving game of his career – in the first 49 regular-season games of his four-year NFL career prior to Sunday, Robinson had a total of 44 catches for 500 yards.
After all this time, it felt good to help his team in such a big way.
“It’s always been my time to come out and try to make some plays,” Robinson said. “My number was called today, I felt good and I made a couple of plays today.”
It didn’t look like Robinson’s dream day in the first quarter, however – or a dream day for the Chiefs. The Raiders led 10-0 and the high-flying Chiefs offense appeared out of synch. Oakland out gained Kanas City 93 to 39 in the first 15 minutes.
But Mahomes and Robinson took over on the very first play of the second quarter. From the Raiders’ 44-yard line, Robinson lined up in the slot, then split between two zone defenders. No safety help was coming over the top, leaving cornerback Gareon Conley to break off his man to chase Robinson, who had to wait a bit on the ball from Mahomes. That made the play closer than it appeared, but the Chiefs finally broke through to cut the deficit to 10-7.
There are times, Robinson explained, when the route and the coverage tells a receiver before the snap that Mahomes knows he’s has an advantage and the ball is coming your way.
“You got to think like that every play,” Robinson said. “It can come to you, somebody else can be even more wide open and it doesn’t come to them. You got to make yourself get wide open or in his vision to look wide open and he’ll find you for sure.”
That play kick started a busy second quarter for the big-play duo. Mahomes completed 12-of-17 passing for 178 yards with four touchdowns in the quarter. Robinson contributed the lion’s share of the work, catching four passes for 133 yards and two scores during the period.
Once Robinson got going, he didn’t want to slow down for a single second.
“I felt like I was on a roll, I wanted to stay in the game a lot,” he said. “I was feeling pretty good today. I asked the coach could I stay in and get a couple of more reps. He gave me a shot, and did my thing.”
Robinson received plenty of snaps on Sunday, and his second touchdown came shortly via another quick strike. The Raiders went three and out inside the 2-minute warning, and a 36-yard boot from banged up punter A.J. Cole helped set the Chiefs up at the Oakland 39-yard line with 47 seconds remaining in the half.
The Raiders, preferring to bracket Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins on the right side, left Robinson alone outside to the left with Conley. The Raiders corner was draped all over Robinson inside the 5-yard line, but the Chiefs wideout secured the ball and fell backwards on the dirt baseball field into the end zone for the score.
Repeatedly tumbling to the dirt didn’t deter Robinson, however.
“It was pretty tough out there with it being dirt, baseball field,” he said. “We could play on the concrete, man, no matter where they want they want to lineup at, we’ll give them our all.”
Reid said the Raiders decision to leave Robinson in single coverage much of the afternoon made the big day possible.
“He was singled up, and that was really it,” Reid said. “They were concentrating a little bit on Sam, they were concentrating on Kelce, and it allowed D-Rob to get out there and make some plays.”
Robinson didn’t mind waiting for his opportunity to come. He understands the Chiefs have a plethora of offensive targets, and patience is a virtue.
“We got a lot of great guys in the room, and they’ve been here longer than I have,” Robinson said. “Their number gets called more times than mine does, but today mine got called and I was able to make plays and show the coaches I can make plays too. Hopefully I get a couple of more plays.”
The 6-1, 203-pound receiver endears himself to teammates for one simple reason – he never quits and always goes full speed, whether it’s practice or game day.
“He’s a guy that’s always going to be working, he’s always trying to get open,” Mahomes said. “When his number got called today, he made big plays, and I think that’s something he’s done his whole entire career.”
Robinson takes pride in that reputation.
“I try to go out and do my best every day, and the game too, whether it’s blocking, catching, receiving,” he said. “I just try to give it my all every time.”
Mahomes said Robinson sometimes gets lost in the shuffle with the Chiefs’ depth at the skill position. But he said the hard work Robinson puts in on daily basis made Sunday all the more awesome for his teammate.
“It’s everything from catching the ball on scrambles, catching touchdowns, maybe being the last read across the middle of the field, or making the blocks and doing whatever he can to help his teammates out,” Mahomes said. “When you have guys that play hard for each other and that they finally get their time to shine, it’s always good to see that.”
In keeping with his role as a team-first guy, Robinson didn’t have to think long when asked for what stood out to him most personally on Sunday.
“I’m pleased with the W,” he said. Even if I didn’t have a game like I had today, as long as we’re winning and keep it going, I’m happy with that.”
It’s Raider Week and the guys from Sports Radio 810 have their predictions for how this trip to Oakland might turn out as the Chiefs take on the Raiders in Week 2. Here’s what they’ve got:
Chiefs vs. Raiders
Steven St. John — Chiefs, 41-24
Nate Bukaty — Chiefs, 34-26
Jake Gutierrez — Chiefs, 34-24
Jason Anderson — Chiefs, 38-17
Shane Summers — Chiefs, 35-17
Soren Petro — Chiefs, 37-27
Kurtis Seaboldt — Chiefs, 37-21
Jed Marshall — Chiefs, 38-24
Todd Leabo — Chiefs, 34-17
Joshua Brisco — Chiefs, 37-27
By Matt Derrick
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill expects to return to Kansas City on Monday after staying overnight in a Jacksonville hospital receiving treatment for a dislocation involving both his clavicle and sternum sustained during the team’s 40-26 win Sunday over the Jaguars.
Hill was able to have the dislocation reduced – the process of returning the clavicle and sternum to their normal locations – without the need for surgery. Head coach Andy Reid outlined no timetable for his recovery.
“We’ll have to see when he gets back there how he’s doing and just kind of monitor that here as we go through the week,” Reid said.
While the Chiefs have remained mum on Hill’s prognosis, orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Chao postulates Hill could miss several weeks. Packers wide receiver Jake Kumerow went on injured reserve starting the 2018 season with a similar injury and didn’t return to practice until Nov. 21.
Reid said he spoked to Hill on Monday. He said the receiver showed a positive attitude and was happy with the team’s win.
“He had good spirit to him and he just wants to get back here,” Reid said. “He doesn’t want to be in a hospital, he wants to get back and get settled in back here.”
Other takeaways from Reid’s conference call on Monday:
Defense got off the field
Sunday’s game marked the true debut of the new defense under coordinator Steve Spagnuolo featuring six new starters on defense, and Reid like what he saw in the first outing.
“I liked how aggressive we were,” Reid said. “I thought the intensity maintained strong and tempo was fast throughout the game. I think the guys are in shape. I just think it’s becoming more familiar with the defense. I think that as time goes on here, they’ll just keep getting better and better that way.”
Not everything proved perfect against the Jaguars, however. The defense yielded 350 yards passing, most of that to rookie Gardner Minshew in his regular-season debut in relief of injured Nick Foles. That includes four pass plays longer than 35 yards, topped by the 69-yard completion from Minshew to DjJ. Chark.
The Chiefs also surrendered five third-down conversion in 10 tries, a bit worse than their 41.5 percent success rate last season that ranked 25th in the league. But they held to the Jaguars to just one touchdown in three red zone trips, a marked improvement from the 72.4 percent rate at which the defense allowed touchdowns from inside the 20 last season.
Reid saw enough to leave him optimistic for the future.
“You want to get off the field the best you can, and for the most part we did that,” Reid said. “We had a couple that again we were right in the position to make a play, which I look at. Those things are the things that you know are going to get better here as you go on and keep working, working the defense.”
Matt Moore ready to play
Backup quarterback saw his first playing time with the Chiefs right off the bat, taking over late in the fourth quarter with the Chiefs up 37-19. Moore failed to connect on his only passing attempt, as the Chiefs kept the ball on the ground during his two drives.
But Reid said the team asked Moore to identify what parts of the game plan he felt most comfortable with entering Sunday’s game.
“He did for the most part, it was most of the game plan,: Reid said. “We didn’t have to cut out a bunch of stuff for him, but we had a separate game plan sheet for him in case he needed to go in. So we were prepared for that.”
Reid said even though Patrick Mahomes remains critical to the team’s offense, his wary of putting his star pupil on the field if he’s not cleared to play. He leans on the team’s medical and training staff to make the right call.
“Some guys, like Pat, you’ve got to keep an eye on because they’ll go out there at times when maybe they shouldn’t go out there,” Reid. “You’ve got to make sure you stay in tune with your medical staff there.”
Running back by committee plan
Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy divvied up the majority of the workload out of the backfield on Sunday. Williams played 66 percent of the team’s offensive snaps with 19 touches for 65 yards and a touchdown. McCoy chipped in 29 percent of the offensive snaps with 11 touches for 93 yards.
That’s how Reid wanted to see the running back committee work, with a couple of opportunities for rookie Darwin Thompson, who caught one pass for 3 yards on two snaps.
“It kind of worked out how I anticipated there,” Reid said. “You have two veteran players there that love to play, and they give you different flavors. I figure that’s kind of how it would work out, somewhere in that area.”
No Limit on the Mahomes’ no-look
The Chiefs might have left some points on the board on their second drive Sunday when Mahomes misfired on a throw to seemingly wide open Travis Kelce in the end zone. The incomplete pass on third down from the Jaguars’ 9-yard line left the Chiefs settling for a 28-yard field goal by Harrison Butker.
Mahomes kept his eyes glued on the Jaguars’ Sam linebacker over the middle in an effort to freeze cornerback D.J. Hayden who coverage underneath. Replays show Mahomes looking toward the middle of the end zone while floating a pass over the head of Kelce too long.
“I understood why he did it,:” Reid said. “Now I have the pictures here so I can see it along with my own eyes. But when you look at it, you guys have access to it, just look at that underneath coverage guy and you’ll see what he was thinking there.”
Reid argued Kelce was only open because Mahomes used his eyes to misdirect the defense. Mahomes took blame for the misfire after the game, but Reid defended his quarterback on Monday.
“I know he mentioned to you guys that he thought might be a little bit flatter than higher and all that, but when you’re not looking at it, it’s hard to tell if it’s flatter or higher,” Reid said.
By Matt Derrick
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs running back Damien Williams prefers playing football to watching others play on TV. But he remembers watching new teammate LeSean McCoy during his heyday with the Philadelphia Eagles, particularly the snowy December afternoon in 2013 when McCoy galloped through the Detroit Lions defense in whiteout conditions for a career-high 217 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
“That’s a good game to watch,” Williams said before practice on Thursday. “But other than I really didn’t watch too much football. But that was a game that stood out just because he did his thing.”
McCoy continues doing his thing at age 31 after 10 seasons in the league, and now he’s doing it in Kansas City. His arrival in the Chiefs backfield changes the outlook for head coach Andy Reid’s expected running-by-committee approach, yet Williams, the man likely impacted the most by the move see it as a “great addition.”
“With him being a vet and being already behind Andy, me being a vet and this is my second year behind Andy — I feel like us two alone, me picking his head, the younger guys picking our heads, I feel like it’s going to be a great system,” Williams said.
The Chiefs were poised to enter the season with Williams as their unquestioned starter followed on the depth chart by rookie Darwin Thompson and second-year back Darrel Williams. Veteran free agent Carlos Hyde found himself on the bubble after an uneven preseason performance.
When the Buffalo Bills released McCoy on Saturday morning, however, the situation changed quickly. Reid and general manager Brett Veach have a history with McCoy, and it didn’t take long for the parameters of a deal to fall into place. That made Hyde expendable, and the Chiefs dealt him to Houston for offensive lineman Martinas Rankin. Williams heard about McCoy’s addition before he learned of the Hyde trade.
“I look at it with him here or Carlos here, I felt like we have a great backfield,” Williams said. “I just felt like it was a great addition.”
Williams approves of the move despite the fact it foreshadows less playing time for him down the road. Reid indicated as much on Monday when the team introduced McCoy to the media.
“The way we’ll work that situation is that we’re lucky to have Damien here who we consider a starter as we do Shady,” Reid said. “I think it’s a great situation to be in, really for both of them and the football team. They don’t know each other, but they’ll get to know each other here and I know they will work well together.”
That process of the players getting to know each other began in earnest on Wednesday, and Williams said the initial meetings went well.
“It’s interesting just to hear his stories and how he sees things, because he used to be in this offense with Andy,” Williams said. “It’s good just being able to pick his head.”
How much the Chiefs plan to utilize McCoy in the season opener remains to be determined. The Chiefs don’t feel rushed to put him on the field before he’s comfortable within the offense, explained offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
“First of all, you want to see exactly what’s going to stick, what information he’s going to retain,” Bieniemy said. “We just want to make sure when we’re utilizing LeSean that we’re giving him the best opportunity to be himself, but also, too, we got some talented kids here that have done a heck of a job.”
McCoy spent the first four years of his career with Reid in Philadelphia, but he hasn’t played in the offense in nearly seven years. Some of the offense remains the same, but there’s plenty of new plays and concepts to pick up. That means Williams may continue shouldering a bigger chunk of the work early in the season.
“They both have an opportunity to play,” Reid said. “I’m not going to put (McCoy) out there in a bad situation without knowing the plays. I would never do that. We got other guys that can play too, I’m not saying that. That’s where we’re at.”
Bieniemy said his conversations with Williams about his role on the team have been “outstanding.”
“One thing that we take a lot of pride in here is that our guys understand the big picture,” Bieniemy said. “This ain’t about the individual. This is about the organization and the team. We always want to concentrate and do what is best for us that’s going to give us the best opportunity to win every Sunday.”
Williams already sees in McCoy a competitive player similar to himself and the young backs behind them on the depth chart. That should be a harbinger of success this season, Williams believes.
“I feel like we’re all competitive guys,” he said. “Just with McCoy being here already, we’ve been talking a little smack a little bit, he’s a competitive person as well. I feel like if we’re all competing to go out there and be the best back, I feel like we put pressure on each other then who knows what we can do.”