AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Chiefs have rightly tried to do everything they possibly could this season to take the pressure off rookie kicker Cairo Santos. But they might have gone too far this week by blaming long snapper Thomas Gafford for two missed field goals in Sunday’s win over the Oakland Raiders.

The snaps on both kicks were off, but not by that much. In both cases, holder Dustin Colquitt did a nice job of getting the ball to the spot for Santos on time.

Santos
Santos
“It starts with the snap and the hold," special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. “The hold was good, and then that just throws it off a little bit.

“Sometimes when [Santos] feels like he needs to speed it up and he doesn’t see a perfect snap and it just throws the timing off a little bit and he hits the ball not like he wants to hit it. We have to make sure that everything is perfect. Especially with a rookie kicker, we have to be consistent. The snap and the hold have to be perfect.”

But as coach Andy Reid noted early in the week, it isn’t always going to be perfect for the kicker. To his credit, Toub didn’t let Santos escape without blame.

“We held him accountable, too," Toub said. “We didn’t make an excuse for him, that he missed it because of the snap. He was still able to see the ball. He has to get in there and make that kick.

“Being that it is his rookie year, we need to give him every opportunity to be successful. The veterans need to do that."

Toub said the Chiefs have no plans to promote long snapper Charley Hughlett, who was added to the practice squad this week, to replace Gafford.

“The timing of it seems like we’re trying to put the pressure on Gafford," Toub said. “We’re looking at a future guy, a possible guy that we’re going to have for training camp, in the offseason."

Chiefs will need pass rush against Steelers

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
10:00
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ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher says if Kansas City can get after Ben Roethlisberger it has a chance to beat Pittsburgh.

QB snapshot: Alex Smith

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
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A quick observation of quarterback Alex Smith and how he played in the Kansas City Chiefs' 31-13 win in Week 15:

Smith
The Chiefs would happily accept another game from Smith on Sunday on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers like the one they got from their quarterback in last week's win against the Oakland Raiders. Smith threw for a season-high 297 yards, including the Chiefs' two longest pass plays of the season. Smith threw a 70-yard touchdown to Knile Davis and also completed passes of 48 and 37 yards.

Smith pushed the ball down the field like at no time since the season-opening game. He was 3-of-8 for 106 yards on passes that went at least 15 yards down the field. The attempts and yards were the highest since that season opener.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, his average throw against Oakland traveled 8.5 yards down the field, also highest since Week 1. That's far longer than his season average of 5.4 yards.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Running back Jamaal Charles was none too happy about being yanked from the game with the Kansas City Chiefs about to score a touchdown in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders but he had only himself to blame.

Charles had just taken a hit to the head, similar to the one he had taken in an October game against the San Diego Chargers. Then, he kept quiet about the incident until the next day, when he described having symptoms consistent to those of a concussion.

This time the Chiefs were quick to pull Charles from the game and examined him for a concussion, which it turns out he didn’t have.

“Really, he was complaining about his knee and ankle, not his head,’’ coach Andy Reid said. “But he did take a big hit there so we kind of went in that direction.

“In today’s football, you’re going to go through that. If somebody takes a big hit like that, you’re going to make sure you check them out."

Charles’ understudy, Knile Davis, scored the touchdown on the next play. The score gave the Chiefs a 17-6 lead in a game they would go on to win 31-13.

Charles failed to score a touchdown on Sunday for the first time in nine games. He wasn’t pleased about that.

“The next play they grabbed me and said, ‘We’ve got to go through the protocol and see if you’re fine,’ ’’ Charles said. “I’m like, ‘OK.’ The next play we scored. I was upset. I wanted to play the game. These injuries this year have been killing me this year. It’s part of the game but I’ve got to get over it.

“I had to go through the protocol with the concussion stuff. It was a big hit. I was fine. No seeing stars this time. I made it out clear this time.’’

Charles entered the game with lingering soreness in his knee and a sprained ankle from last week’s game in Arizona. He said he aggravated the ankle injury against the Raiders.

“I told the coach . . . they tried to twist my ankle,’’ Charles said. “The same thing happened last week. I just told them just give me time for my ankle to chill out right now because it was still under a lot of pressure. But I was fine. I could have played. I just told the coach I needed the time and I just needed to rest it.’’

Charles finished the game with 52 yards on 12 carries. He said he would be ready to play in next Sunday’s game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

“I just need to get off of it and ice it and everything would [be all] right,’’ he said. “It was still tender.’’
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Dwayne Bowe wouldn't reveal his answer, perhaps in fear of jinxing his quarterback, his team and its discovery of the downfield passing game.

But the possibilities seem endless for the Kansas City Chiefs if they can continue to open their passing game as they did in Sunday's 31-13 win over the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium.

"You've gotta stick around and wait for it," said Bowe, one of three players to catch a pass of longer than 35 yards on Sunday. "We've got to show you."

If indeed Bowe and his teammates continue to make as many long pass plays as they did Sunday, the Chiefs will be showing up in the postseason for the second straight season. This was the missing ingredient, the thing that prevented the Chiefs from hanging around the chase for the AFC West championship.

Their inability or refusal -- call it whatever you like -- to get big pass plays was rapidly ruining their season. The Chiefs survived with a five-game midseason winning streak because they were extraordinarily efficient on third down.

But they could ride an offense that had to plod its way down the field for only so long. It was putting too much pressure on everything else the Chiefs had going and it was inevitable something would cave in.

The Chiefs entered the game 28th in the NFL in yards per completion (9.68) and 26th in yards per attempt (6.83). Their longest pass play through 13 games, in a league with rules making it relatively easy for teams to get long pass plays, was 41 yards. Every other team had a pass play of at least 50 yards.

The Chiefs finally joined that club, not to mention the modern world, with a 70-yard passing touchdown to Knile Davis. Quarterback Alex Smith also had completions of 48 yards to Albert Wilson and 37 yards to Bowe.

Smith, who finished 18-of-30 for 297 yards and two touchdowns, had 16.5 yards for every completion and 9.9 yards for every attempt.

That's the stuff real NFL passing games are made of.

"That was one of the positives," coach Andy Reid said. "It loosens things up a bit. They were playing a lot of that single safety in the middle and putting that extra guy in the box obviously concerned about Jamaal [Charles] and the run game. That opened up some things down the field for us."

The Chiefs also protected Smith well, something they hadn't done. He was sacked once, but even that was after he had tucked the ball and decided to run but failed to make it back to the line of scrimmage.

"If we can do that, we have people that can make plays," Charles said. "We've got people that can run, that have wheels on them. It's going to open up a lot of stuff in the running game as well."

With that, Charles smiled. Big pass plays or not, he's the Chiefs' best offensive player and, he perhaps more than anyone, has carried the burden of playing for a team with a plodding passing game.

Opponents have consistently jammed the line of scrimmage in wait for Charles, daring the Chiefs to do what they believed impossible and complete some long passes. In that sense, if what the Chiefs put on video Sunday is enough to make next week's opponents, the Pittsburgh Steelers, back off Charles a bit, that should help the Chiefs play to their strength.

"There [are] a lot of people locked in on me," Charles said. "If we can keep on doing this, I think that's going to be good for all of us."

Rapid Reaction: Kansas City Chiefs

December, 14, 2014
Dec 14
4:27
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A few thoughts on the Kansas City Chiefs' 31-13 win over the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium:

What it means: The Chiefs broke a three-game losing streak and raised their record to 8-6. They would make the playoffs as a wild-card entrant for the second straight year by winning their final two games of the season.

Stock watch: The Chiefs at long last got their downfield passing game to work. One wide receiver, rookie Albert Wilson, got deep for a 48-yard catch, while another, veteran Dwayne Bowe, hauled in a 37-yard pass in the first half alone. Running back Knile Davis caught a 70-yard touchdown pass in the second half. The Chiefs were able to harass Oakland rookie quarterback Derek Carr in a way they didn’t in last month’s loss to the Raiders. The Chiefs had four sacks and were otherwise consistently able to make Carr throw before he was ready. Tight end Travis Kelce lost a fumble for the second straight week, which the Raiders converted into a field goal. Kelce later scored on a 20-yard pass from Alex Smith. Rookie kicker Cairo Santos missed two of his three field goal attempts (from 44 and 47 yards).

Improved run defense: The Chiefs limited the Raiders to 78 rushing yards. While Oakland rushed for 4.6 yards a carry, 25 of their yards came on one play by Latavius Murray. Otherwise, the Chiefs were much improved. They allowed Murray to run for 112 yards and two touchdowns on four carries in last month’s game against the Raiders in Oakland.

Game ball: Rookie De'Anthony Thomas gave the Chiefs a boost when their offense was sluggish and needed some help. He returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter to put the Chiefs ahead 7-0. The play was blocked well and Thomas was able to pull away from the Raiders when he got into the open field.

What’s next: The Chiefs play against the 9-5 Steelers at 1 p.m. ET next Sunday in Pittsburgh.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With Tamba Hali on the sideline nursing a sore knee and not practicing for the second straight day, rookie Dee Ford was in the starting lineup for the Kansas City Chiefs at outside linebacker on Thursday.

Ford
Even if Hali rallies later in the week and is available to play on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium, Ford could have a role. He replaced the injured Allen Bailey as a situational pass rusher last week against the Arizona Cardinals and Bailey is unlikely to be available again this week.

So after some weeks of getting almost no work on defense, Ford, their first-round draft pick, might loom large for the Chiefs down the stretch.

“With Allen being out, that created a spot where we said, OK, who’s our next best [pass] rusher for these third downs?" defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “Obviously it was Dee, and we tried to create some things to get him on the field in those situations."

The Chiefs are more comfortable for now using Ford as a situational pass rusher than as a full-time player. He struggled with run defense and pass coverage in limited playing time earlier in the season.

They were comfortable with him filling in for Bailey against Arizona.

“We think he’s got a real upside as far as rushing the passer,’’ Sutton said. “This was giving him an opportunity to kind of do that and get comfortable with those other things.

“I thought he did a really good job. He had no sacks, but there are other things going on. The key thing for us is to affect the quarterback. Get him off his spot. Make him throw when he’s not ready to throw. There were some real positives I thought he did in there."

If Hali doesn’t play on Sunday and Ford plays a full game, things could get interesting for the Chiefs. The Raiders have no doubt made note of Ford’s struggles during the season and will attack him with the run or when he’s in coverage.

Raiders vs. Chiefs preview

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11
8:00
AM ET
When: 1 p.m. ET Sunday Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City TV: CBS

The Oakland Raiders were winless and the Kansas City Chiefs tied for first place in the AFC West when the teams played each other Nov. 20 in Oakland. But the fortunes have turned for each team since the Raiders beat the Chiefs 24-20.

The 2-11 Raiders, who were 0-10 before beating the Chiefs, also won last week in beating the 49ers at home 24-13. In between, though, the Raiders were hammered by the Rams in St. Louis 52-0.

The loss in Oakland started what is now a three-game losing streak for the 7-6 Chiefs. They could still make the playoffs as a wild-card entrant by winning their final three games.

The Chiefs and Raiders play again Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Raiders reporter Bill Williamson preview the game.

Teicher: The Raiders have won two of their past three, both at home. In between was that ugly mess in St. Louis. Are they ready to take that next step here and win on the road?

Williamson: That’s the big question. Look, this season is never going to be remembered as a positive one in Oakland. The Raiders won a total of eight games the past two years, and they expected to be much better this season after a bunch of changes. Yet the losing has continued. Still, the Raiders can finish on a high note with a couple more wins to make the offseason easier to approach. But Oakland has to find a consistency. Coaches and players were really disappointed about the way they flopped after the win over the Chiefs. Now, Oakland wants to build on the big win over the 49ers with a season sweep of the Chiefs. Staying consistent is the focus of the team.

Do you think the Chiefs are a lot more nervous about the Raiders this time around?

Teicher: They should be. The result of the game Nov. 20 in Oakland didn’t look like a fluke to me. The Raiders outgained the Chiefs, and who knows what running back Latavius Murray would have accomplished had he not left the game early because of a concussion. He might have gained 1,000 yards. He’s a big concern for a defense that’s allowed a 100-yard rusher in each of the past four games. The Chiefs also need to do something to rattle rookie quarterback Derek Carr. They did nothing to get him out of his comfort zone the first time around.

Murray looked like the real deal against the Chiefs a few weeks ago, before he left the game. Have the Raiders finally given up on Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew? How will Murray fare as the full-time featured back?

Williamson: The job appears to be Murray’s for the rest of the season. He had 23 carries for 76 yards against the 49ers. McFadden and Jones-Drew have been disappointments this season. It is likely neither will be back next year. Thus, Murray will get the chance in the final three games to show Oakland it doesn’t have to worry about finding a lead back. Murray is an interesting player. After missing his rookie year last season with an injury, the former sixth-round draft pick started very slowly. But he has played well in the past three weeks, highlighted by his 90-yard touchdown run against the Chiefs on Nov. 20. The Chiefs will clearly be keying on Murray in this game. It will be fascinating to see who wins this battle.

What should we expect from the Chiefs' ground attack this week?

Teicher: I would expect a heavy dose of Jamaal Charles, if he’s up to it physically. He began the week with a swollen knee and a sprained ankle, so we’ll see. He was strong enough last week to rush for 91 yards on 10 carries and score both the Chiefs’ touchdowns. Knile Davis, his backup, has become just a bit player now. He hasn’t had more than five carries in a game since October. One thing interesting about the Raiders is historically they’ve done a better job than most opponents against Charles as a runner, at least. Charles did have a nice game against Oakland the previous time; he rushed for 80 yards and caught four passes for 42 yards and a touchdown.

It must have been an interesting scene in Oakland last week, with Jim Harbaugh coaching against the Raiders. What are the chances he’s coaching in Oakland next year? What do the Raiders do if they can’t get Harbaugh? Any chance they’ll stay with their interim head coach, Tony Sparano?

Williamson: Adam, there is certainly smoke about Harbaugh crossing the Bay. Some issues would have to be worked out, but it is certainly on the table. Harbaugh is going to be a target of Oakland owner Mark Davis. I think the odds of it happening are better now than they were earlier in the season, partly because I think Harbaugh is quietly intrigued by the Silver and Black. If the Raiders strike out on Harbaugh, they will likely look at more affordable options. That’s where Sparano could come in. Players like him, and he could be a candidate, but it likely won’t be in the first wave.

Andy Reid seems to have a strong program built. Do you think the Chiefs are set up nicely for the future?

Teicher: I think they have too many good players and are too well-coached to just drop back into a dark period, like the one they emerged from after they hired Reid. But the fact is the Chiefs have, at best, the third-best quarterback in the AFC West, and that’s going to hurt them as they try to compete with the Broncos, Chargers and Raiders -- much less try to get to a Super Bowl. Smith is efficient, and the Chiefs can win some games with him as their quarterback. But he’s not going to saddle them on his back and carry them like Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers are capable of doing. The Chiefs need to surround him with better players if they’re going to compete for titles, division or otherwise.

Chiefs need big plays from receivers

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10
10:00
AM ET


ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher talks about the 41-yard pass from Alex Smith to Jason Avant vs. the Cardinals and the need for more big passing plays.

Chiefs need to win in division

December, 3, 2014
Dec 3
10:00
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ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher says the team needs to beat the Chargers and Raiders at home, and one other of the four games down the stretch, to make the playoffs.

QB snapshot: Alex Smith

December, 2, 2014
Dec 2
1:00
PM ET
A quick observation of quarterback Alex Smith and how he played in the Kansas City Chiefs' 29-16 loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 13:

Smith
To judge from the passer ratings of the quarterbacks in the game, it would be easy to conclude that Smith outplayed Denver's Peyton Manning. Smith had a passer rating of 95.0, Manning 85.3.

This is a case of stats being misleading. Smith was outplayed by his counterpart. He did have a better completion percentage (65.2 percent to 50 percent for Manning) and threw a pair of touchdown passes, the same as Manning. But Smith threw the game's only interception and was greatly outnumbered in clutch throws by Manning. The Broncos converted 9 of 21 third-down plays, the Chiefs just 1-of-9.

Interestingly, Smith also had a better passer rating than Oakland's Derek Carr in the Raiders' 24-20 victory over the Chiefs in the previous game. Smith had a worse passer rating than his counterpart in his two outings before that, both Kansas City victories.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Their two-game losing streak has dropped the Kansas City Chiefs to 7-5 and endangered their playoff chances. Here is our weekly look at the Chiefs’ place in the AFC playoff picture.

Where the Chiefs stand: They are 7-5 and in third place in the AFC West. They are one of six AFC teams with a 7-5 record.

If the season ended today: The Chiefs would not make the playoffs. The 8-4 San Diego Chargers would be the first AFC wild card team and the 7-5 Miami Dolphins would be the second. The Chiefs beat the Dolphins earlier in the season, but that wouldn't be the tiebreaking factor here because a third team, the 7-5 Baltimore Ravens, are also in the mix. Miami would get the wild card spot because it has a better record in games against AFC opponents than either the Chiefs or Ravens.

Chiefs this week and what it means: The Chiefs are at the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. While the game doesn't carry the tiebreaking implications that the Chiefs' other three remaining games will, they need the victory.

Other games to watch this week: The Chargers are home against New England on Sunday night. A Chiefs victory combined with a Chargers loss would move Kansas City back into a tie with San Diego for second place in the division. The Chiefs would have the tiebreaker for now over the Chargers because they won in San Diego earlier in the season. The rest of the schedule is also full of games between playoff contenders. The Dolphins are home against Baltimore, the 7-5 Buffalo Bills are at Denver, the 7-5 Pittsburgh Steelers are at Cincinnati and the 7-5 Cleveland Browns are home against the Indianapolis Colts.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Alex Smith got out of character on the first play of Sunday night's game against the Denver Broncos when he heaved a deep pass intended for Donnie Avery. The pass was well off the mark, a good thing for Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs because Avery was well-covered.

Smith
Things didn't get much better the rest of the night for Smith and the Chiefs. The Chiefs got behind 17-0 by the time they earned their initial first down and they eventually fell to the Broncos 29-16.

The passing of Smith's Denver counterpart, Peyton Manning, put the Chiefs in that hole. Smith was in no position to keep up.

He did throw a pair of touchdown passes but otherwise Smith didn't have much of a night. He missed a couple of open receivers and threw his first interception since a Week 5 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

He was also sacked six times.

"It certainly felt like [the Broncos had everything covered],'' Smith said. "There were times, especially on third down, where they did a good job of it. They had a good plan for us.

"It felt like there were some unscouted looks.''

Coach Andy Reid, as usual, shouldered the blame afterward by saying he needed to do a better job of game planning and play calling. That's true this time if indeed Smith saw some defensive looks from the Broncos he wasn't coached for.

That was a factor in the Chiefs going three-and-out on their first three possessions. By the time Smith passed 10 yards to Dwayne Bowe for their initial first down of the game, the Chiefs were down 17-0.

In their case, that's a hopeless deficit. The Chiefs aren't built to come from behind and proved it once again Sunday night.

They fell behind 14-0 in their previous game against the Oakland Raiders. Though the Chiefs did rally then to take a brief lead, they eventually lost.

Their slow start beat the Chiefs for the second straight game.

"I really felt like the last two weeks were uncharacteristic of who we are as a team,'' Smith said. "It's a little bit of a gut-check time. There's still a lot of football left, a lot of meaningful football left for us. It's going to be a matter of what we do with it.''
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Kansas City Chiefs' 29-16 loss to the Denver Broncos:
  • Smith
    Chairman Clark Hunt and quarterback Alex Smith appeared to be having a heart-to-heart. Their discussion ended with Hunt telling Smith, "Keep your head up."
  • The Chiefs had yet another lousy night defending the run. They allowed 214 rushing yards. Of the ongoing problem, coach Andy Reid said, "If it was an easy fix, we would have fixed it."
  • Defensive lineman Allen Bailey suffered a concussion during the game. He was replaced by former Broncos defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, who had a sack of former teammate Peyton Manning. On that play, Manning stumbled to the ground, and Vickerson touched him down.

Rapid Reaction: Kansas City Chiefs

November, 30, 2014
Nov 30
11:36
PM ET


KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A few thoughts on the Kansas City Chiefs29-16 loss to the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium:

What it means: The Chiefs fell to 7-5, and any realistic chance of winning the AFC West disappeared with the defeat. The Chiefs are two games behind the Broncos (9-3). Denver won both of this season’s games against Kansas City, which gives it the tiebreaker against the Chiefs, so the Chiefs are the equivalent of two-and-a-half games behind the Broncos with four left to play. If the Chiefs are going to make the playoffs, it will have to be as a wild-card entrant.

Stock watch: The run defense, which has been a weakness all season, didn’t hold up well against the Broncos. Denver rushed for more than 200 yards. Quarterback Alex Smith missed more than one open receiver and threw his first interception since Week 5 (a loss to the San Francisco 49ers) on a tipped ball in the third quarter. Linebacker Justin Houston had a sack and strip that could have been a turning point early in the third quarter, but the Chiefs couldn't take advantage of the resulting field position and had to settle for a field goal, which left them down 20-10.

Flipping the stats: The Chiefs ran 29 more plays and dominated time of possession on third downs on both sides of the ball in a seven-point September loss to the Broncos. Denver won handily in those categories Sunday night. The Broncos had the ball for more than 38 minutes and ran 37 more plays than the Chiefs. The Broncos also dominated on third down and converted 9-of-21 on offense while holding the Chiefs to 1-of-9.

Game ball: He didn't play, but he no doubt was watching from his home near Atlanta. Safety Eric Berry, who has meant so much to the Chiefs and to Kansas City through his community activity, is fighting what the Chiefs believe to be lymphoma.

What's next: The Chiefs play against the Cardinals next Sunday in Arizona. The NFC West-leading Cardinals (9-3) have lost two straight games.

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