AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Remember the incredible run of backups, developmental players and journeymen quarterbacks the Kansas City Chiefs played against last year in their 9-0 start? It’s been a distant memory this year.

The Chiefs have instead gone up against a couple of quarterbacks who are certain to eventually reach the Hall of Fame (Tom Brady and Peyton Manning) and another who will likely get to Canton (Philip Rivers). Two of the others were former first-round draft picks (Ryan Tannehill and Jake Locker) and the last was Colin Kaepernick.

Not a bad lineup, certainly more formidable than the group the Chiefs faced last season over the first nine games. Six of those quarterbacks from 2013, by the way, are no longer starting. Two of them aren’t even on the active roster of an NFL team.

The stretch of upcoming opposing quarterbacks for the Chiefs resembles the bunch the Chiefs faced early last season more than the ones they’ve gone against this year. On Sunday, the opposing quarterback for the St. Louis Rams will be Austin Davis, an undrafted player who was once on the scrap heap for any team to salvage.

After that: struggling Geno Smith of the New York Jets and journeyman Kyle Orton of the Buffalo Bills. The Chiefs will face Seattle Russell Wilson, Arizona’s Carson Palmer, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger later this season, as well as Manning and Rivers again. But there are also two games against the Oakland Raiders and rookie quarterback Derek Carr.

Davis has played well in replacing the injured Sam Bradford. He’s completing 66 percent of his passes and is 14th in passer rating at 94.3. As a comparison, the Chiefs’ Alex Smith is completing 64 percent of his throws and is 19th in passer rating at 91.0.

"There are challenges,’’ Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said of playing against a young starting quarterback as opposed to an established veteran. “You don’t know his arm strength.

“Anytime you haven’t played against somebody personally, whether you’re coaching or playing, there’s always that unknown. You’re not quite sure what he’s really like. You can see things on video but you don’t appreciate [his strengths and weaknesses].’’

But it bodes well for the Chiefs’ chances to successfully defend Davis that they’ve done well against their first six opposing quarterbacks, four of whom have better passer ratings than Davis.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Chiefs last year set an NFL record for kickoff return average and scored two touchdowns on kickoff returns. This year, they’re near the bottom of the league in return average and their longest return is a feeble 37 yards.

“We’re a little bit disappointed right now," special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. “We’ve had some breakdowns. It’s one guy here, one guy there. We just haven’t been able to pop one yet. It’s a long season. We’re just going to keep plugging away and eventually they’ll start coming, hopefully sooner rather than later."

Davis
The Chiefs should be better in this particular phase. They’ve built the bottom of their roster with an eye on special teams, keeping backups such as running back Cyrus Gray and linebacker Jerry Franklin because of their value in the kicking game. Their main returner, Knile Davis, averaged more than 32 yards per chance last year and had a 108-yard touchdown.

Davis has started a lot of his returns from deep in the end zone, when he might be better off taking a touchback. But he’s only doing what Toub has coached him to do.

“They’re doing everything we’re coaching them to do," Toub said, speaking of Davis and the alternate returners. “We still want to be aggressive coming out with the ball. That’s not going to change. We just have to do a better job of blocking. It’s not the returners. It’s the blockers up front [not] giving those guys a chance to get started."

The Chiefs have had to shuffle some players on special teams because of injuries and that hasn’t helped the kickoff-return efforts. But despite having to utilize some different players, the Chiefs still excel in some phases of the kicking game. They’ve been good at returning punts and great at covering them.

The pieces are in place for the Chiefs to move into one of those categories on kickoff return. It’s important they do. The Chiefs don’t have a big-play offense. They could use the points and field position that kickoff returns are capable of providing.

Rams vs. Chiefs preview

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
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The 3-3 Kansas City Chiefs and 2-4 St. Louis Rams, both coming off big divisional victories, meet for the Governor’s Cup this Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won in San Diego for the first time in seven years last week when they beat the Chargers 23-20. The Rams, after losing 16 of their past 18 games to Seattle, beat the Seahawks 28-26 in St. Louis.

Here, ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Rams reporter Nick Wagoner discuss Sunday’s game.

Teicher: Nick, big win for the Rams last week, but they obviously put a lot into that game, and I wonder how much they’ll have in the tank for this week’s game, at least from an emotional standpoint. How do you think the Rams will respond against the Chiefs?

Wagoner: The Rams do and have lacked a lot of things this year, but in a general sense, effort and enthusiasm have been pretty constant. The only time they looked wholly unprepared was the beginning of their loss to Philadelphia, and even then they came back and had a late possession with a chance to win the game. The stunning thing was that one came out of the bye week. The Rams under Jeff Fisher have been a mixed bag. In 2012, they were great against NFC West division foes and not good outside the division. Last year was the opposite. This year, they haven't really had enough of a sample size to determine either way. But they went on the road and blasted Indianapolis a year ago, and they might have another performance like that in them. That's not to say it will come against the Chiefs, but the Rams under Fisher seem to find a game or two a year in which they play way above their means. It should also help them to get back on a normal schedule this week (St. Louis played last Monday night) and potentially get some guys healthy in the secondary.

I suppose I can simply redirect a similar question to you, but with the addendum that the Chiefs' win was probably more expected than the Rams', though they were on the road. The Chiefs seem to be getting some momentum, anyway, and have won three of their past four. What's been the key to getting it going a bit?

Teicher: It’s true the Chiefs put a lot into beating the Chargers. They had to win that game to stay relevant in the playoff race. Since they were coming off their bye, they had two weeks to rest and emphasize that game. But the Chiefs didn’t play much better in San Diego than they had in the previous several weeks. The Chiefs actually picked up their game starting with the Week 2 game against Denver. Ever since their miserable game against Tennessee to open the season, they’ve played fairly consistently. So, it’s the Titans game that stands out among their six this season. The Chiefs looked lost, unprepared to play. But that hasn’t happened since.

Give me a scouting report on Rams quarterback Austin Davis. What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Wagoner: Davis has mostly been a pleasant surprise, especially for a guy who didn't look like he had a chance to make the roster entering training camp. His teammates love his fire and enthusiasm, something that Sam Bradford didn't really bring to the table. One thing I like about him is you can see noticeable progress and improvement each week. For example, he found himself taking too many deep shots against San Francisco two weeks ago, missing easy, open completions underneath. So last week he took what the defense gave him, and though he averaged only 5.5 yards per completion, he had just three incompletions on his 21 attempts. And all of those short passes opened things up for him to make plays when the Rams needed him to at the end of the game. His mission now will be to find a healthy balance between taking shots and settling for checkdowns, but it's encouraging that he's able to notice something he needs to work on, be honest about it and then take steps to fix it. As for weaknesses, he's had a tendency to make a bad throw or two every week that turns into an instant six points for the opponent. Turnovers have been a serious issue for him, though he didn't have any against the Seahawks. He's got a good-but-not-great arm, and he sometimes gets caught locking onto a receiver without going through progressions. He's made strides in that area, but there's still work to do. But honestly, as third-string quarterbacks go, you can't ask for much more from Davis.

Sticking with the quarterback theme, the last time the Rams saw Alex Smith, they were knocking him out of a game in San Francisco in what became the official changing of the guard to Colin Kaepernick. That was in 2012. Since he's been in Kansas City, obviously he's become a key part of what they do. In what ways does he fit with what Andy Reid wants to do, and do you believe he's the right guy for the long term?

Teicher: Smith isn’t the most talented quarterback around, but he does fit well with what Reid is looking for. He is a mostly accurate passer who is mobile enough to frequently get out of trouble and extend a play either with a throw or run. Smith also has the intangibles that Reid likes. He’s liked and well-respected in the locker room. As for the long-term, Smith might not be the quarterback who will ever lead the Chiefs to a Super Bowl victory. But better alternatives will be difficult to find, and the Chiefs committed to Smith for the foreseeable future when they gave him a new contract. For the time being, they seem content to coach him up, make him the best player he can be and then build the rest of the roster around him.

Robert Quinn had 19 sacks for the Rams last year but has only one so far this season. The Rams as a whole have just four. What have opponents done to counter Quinn in particular and the Rams’ pass rush in general?

Wagoner: Well, the first thing they've done is not throw the ball much. In the first four games, the Rams were seeing almost nothing in terms of pass attempts against. That was partially because they couldn't stop the run and teams had no desire to take a risk throwing against the Rams' pass rush when they could hand it off and move the chains. Beyond that, teams have also been getting the ball out as quickly as possible. The Rams are now seeing the ninth-fastest release in terms of average time teams are taking to get the ball out, but that number has dipped a bit the past two weeks. San Francisco and Seattle had little success running the ball in traditional ways (with running backs), and that forced those teams to pass. The results haven't been pretty for the Rams, as they've allowed 656 passing yards in the past two games, so they can probably expect to see teams throwing it around a little bit more moving forward. That should create more pass-rush opportunities. They had three sacks in a span of five plays against the Seahawks and were in Russell Wilson's face for most of the day. The hope is that production will give them something to build on moving forward.

The Chiefs got off to such a great start in 2013 because of what they were getting done defensively, particularly in the pass rush. They again rank near the top in sacks per dropback. While the Rams have struggled to maintain their pass rush of a year ago, the Chiefs seem to keep the beat going. How do they do it, and has anything changed in terms of scheme or approach from a year ago?

Teicher: The Chiefs are actually blitzing less than they did last year. They have for the most part been getting the job done with their two edge pass-rushers, Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, and their inside rushers, Dontari Poe and Allen Bailey. They’ve cut back greatly on the exotic blitzes they showed last year. While they haven’t been vanilla in their approach, they’ve more often been able to get pressure with skill than with scheme. The biggest change in the defense is that they’re giving up far fewer big pass plays than they did last year. One reason is that they’ve reduced their blitzing. But the safeties have also played well, much better than last season. One cornerback, Sean Smith, is also having a better season.video

Chiefs need to keep using Dwayne Bowe

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
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Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher talks about wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and his ability as a playmaker.

The Film Don't Lie: Chiefs

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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A weekly look at what the Chiefs must fix:

Just as they do every week, the Kansas City Chiefs will need a big game from Dwayne Bowe on Sunday when they play against the St. Louis Rams. Bowe is their best wide receiver and the Chiefs received a grisly look at what their passing game looks like without him in their season-opening loss to the Tennessee Titans.

The Chiefs need to make Bowe more of a priority in their passing game. They did that in their win against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, when Bowe was their leading targeted receiver for the first time this season. Alex Smith threw seven passes in Bowe's direction.

Though Bowe dropped a third-down pass that could have been costly, he was the Chiefs' leading receiver with five catches for 84 yards and had a 19-yard gain on the game-winning field goal drive.

But the Chiefs can do more with Bowe. What he does best is run after the catch. He's big, runs strong and is hard to tackle. According to Pro Football Focus, 32 of his yards against the Chargers came after the catch.

So the Chiefs should get the ball more to Bowe in the open field. They threw a lot of bubble screens to Bowe earlier in his career to get him going that way but have mostly abandoned that.

They should get back to that against the Rams and beyond.
videoSAN DIEGO -- Dwayne Bowe had an explanation for why the Kansas City Chiefs, after a long dry spell, finally made a two-minute drill work with coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith.

“Alex won two championships here and he knows the field,’’ Bowe said jokingly.

Smith, a San Diego native, did win a pair of high school championships at Qualcomm Stadium, but otherwise the place has been cursed as far as the Chiefs are concerned. They hadn’t beaten the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm since 2007, when they were coached by Herm Edwards and quarterbacked by Damon Huard.

This time, in Smith’s old haunt, the Chiefs went 62 yards in 1:36 and beat the Chargers 23-20 on Cairo Santos' 48-yard field goal with 21 seconds remaining. The successful drive might have saved the Chiefs’ season. They have overcome a rotten start to get to 3-3 with home games against the St. Louis Rams and New York Jets immediately ahead.

By taking care of business against a pair of sub-.500 opponents, the Chiefs can get to 5-3 at the season’s midway point. After a start to their season that included a home loss to the dismal Tennessee Titans, a potentially overwhelming wave of injuries and four road games, the Chiefs would be elated with a 5-3 record.

But they couldn’t get there without beating the Chargers and to do that, they would need a late scoring drive after the Chargers tied the game at 20-20 with 1:57 remaining.

The Chiefs had no reason to be confident. They failed in similar late-game situations this season in Denver and San Francisco. Then, they had been unable to get the ball to some of their better downfield receivers, most notably Bowe and tight end Travis Kelce.

The Chiefs had a little bit of good fortune this time in that they had their bye and two weeks to prepare for the Chargers. They made their two-minute drill an emphasis. Reid and Smith both gave credit to offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, who spent extra hours designing some plays that might, for a change, work.

“Doug did a great job of sitting down and looking at all our two-minute stuff even from last year and [figured out] what are our strengths and weaknesses and when we’re doing well, what are we doing and putting those guys in those situations,’’ Smith said.

One thing Pederson wanted Smith to do was get the ball to their better receivers. That’s Bowe and Kelce. Bowe dropped a big third-down earlier in the game, but got open on the big play of the drive, a 19-yard pass from Smith. The Chiefs then fed the ball twice to Kelce with short passes and let him do what he does best, run with the ball in his hands.

Those were the only passes Smith would complete on the drive, which other than the result wasn’t a thing of beauty. He was just 3-of-7 for 43 yards.

That doesn’t mean the Chiefs will throw it back. They’ll hold it tight and hope it spurs them on to bigger and better things this season.

“I think this team is in a good place mentally,’’ Smith said. “I think we understood that coming into this game we were a couple of plays away from being 4-1 and we understood we didn’t make those plays, though.

“It was a tough road game. Four of the first six were on the road. So I feel like we’re in a good place to keep going.’’
SAN DIEGO -- Qualcomm Stadium serves as familiar surroundings for Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith.

Smith
He grew up watching and attending San Diego Chargers games. And with the help of high school teammate Reggie Bush, the San Diego native led Helix High School to two San Diego California Interscholastic Federation section championships played at Qualcomm Stadium.

Smith also led Utah to a win over San Diego State at Qualcomm Stadium in his final year in college.

But as a pro, Smith is 0-2 at Qualcomm, losing in 2006 and 2010 to the Chargers as the quarterback and No. 1 overall pick of the San Francisco 49ers in the 2005 draft.

Smith will play in Qualcomm Stadium as a member of the Chiefs for the first time Sunday. He did not play last year's final regular-season game because Andy Reid chose to rest his starters in preparation for the playoffs, a game in which San Diego escaped with a 27-24 victory to advance to the postseason.

Smith, 30, said he’s looking forward to playing at Qualcomm again.

“Of course, growing up there in your hometown and going back,” Smith said. “But I haven’t thought a lot about that. To be honest, I kind of got my hands full with this film, and obviously getting ready to play a pretty good team.”

Last year, the Chiefs made a trade with the 49ers to obtain Smith and serve as the team’s franchise quarterback. And prior to this season, he signed a four-year, $68 million contract extension in the hopes of becoming the long-term solution at quarterback.

So far, he’s lived up to the lofty expectations, leading the Chiefs to the playoffs in 2013 and making the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 10-year NFL career.

After a slow start this season, in which he struggled in losses against Tennessee and Denver, Smith has led Kansas City to two wins in its past three games.

“He’s the perfect guy for that scheme,” former Kansas City cornerback Brandon Flowers said. “He’s a guy who’s not going to turn the ball over. He’s going to make all of the smart throws. He gets the ball out of his hands quick. He’s not going to take sacks.

“He’s the type of quarterback a lot of offensive coordinators would love to have in their system.”

Growing up in San Diego, Smith said that Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was someone he studied.

“It’s always fun to go against Philip,” Smith said. “He’s such a competitor, having gotten to know him. He’s a good guy. I’ve always watched him. In the NFL you watch a lot of offense and opponents’ film. And certainly, he’s a guy who I appreciate how he goes about his game, and I think [he's] one of the best there is from inside the pocket.”

Facing Smith breaks a streak of four straight weeks in which San Diego’s defense played against first or second-year quarterbacks. The Chargers won all four of those games, but defensive coordinator John Pagano will face a different challenge in game-planning for an experienced and mobile quarterback in Smith.

“It’s about us going out and executing,” Pagano said. “It's about us doing what we have to do as a defensive unit. They are explosive, and Alex is playing at a high level. He’s confident in his throws.

“You hear all the things about him managing the game, and then you put the tape on, and you see how his completion percentage is up there, not a lot of interceptions, and he’s putting it where they need to catch it. From an experience standpoint, I think this is one of the most explosive offenses. The weapons they have across the board it is a tremendous challenge.”

With the San Diego Chargers (5-1) riding high on a five-game winning streak, the Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) will attempt to knock down their AFC West division rival a peg or two when they travel to Qualcomm Stadium for a Sunday afternoon contest.

Kansas City has struggled of late against the Chargers, losing four straight and 11 of their past 14 meetings.

But the Chiefs should benefit from coming off a bye week. Andy Reid-led teams are 13-2 in games after the bye week in his career as an NFL head coach.

However, Kansas City lost after the bye week last season, 27-17 at Denver.

“It’s constant work because we lost the last one,” Reid said, when asked about his team’s success after the bye week. “So we’re always evaluating what we can do to be better in that area. Last year we weren’t very good, so we’ve got to get better.”

Sunday’s matchup also highlights the Brandon Flowers-Kansas City grudge match. Released by the Chiefs last June in a cost-cutting move, Flowers didn’t like it. And now he can do something about it twice this season, facing his former team for the first time.

Flowers suffered a groin injury against Oakland, so his availability for Sunday’s game is in question.

“If I’m not ready, I won’t be out there,” Flowers said. “If I’m out there, I’m ready.”

ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and ESPN Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams preview the game:

Williams: Adam, after starting out the season 0-2, the Chiefs won two of their next three games heading into the bye week. What have been the reasons for the improved play?

Teicher: They’re a far better team than the way they played in the season opener in Tennessee. They looked lost, like they didn’t know which players to play or how to utilize them. No sense of urgency at all. They started to play better the next week at Denver, where their late rally fell a couple of yards short and they lost by a touchdown. The way the Chiefs have played since the opener is much closer to the real Chiefs than the way they played against Tennessee. They’ve figured out their strengths and weaknesses and try to play to those, particularly on offense.

Eric, the Chargers have the AFC’s best record but three of their wins came against some of the NFL’s weakest teams. Do you feel the Chargers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, or is the fast start more a function of their schedule?

Williams: That’s a fair question. The Chargers have played some of the bottom-feeders of the NFL. However, the win over Seattle was a sign of how good this team can be if everything is working well for it. The Chargers looked dominant in defeating the defending Super Bowl champs. They easily handled teams they were supposed to beat in Jacksonville and the New York Jets. And even though the Chargers did not play their best at Oakland, they did what good teams do in adverse situations -- find a way to win. If the Chargers can keep Philip Rivers upright and healthy, they are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

Adam, Travis Kelce looks like an emerging talent at tight end. He leads Kansas City in receptions (20), receiving yards (274) and receiving touchdowns (3). What makes him so productive?

Teicher: He’s 260 pounds but is fast -- wide receiver fast. In the preseason, he caught a pass over the middle and then outran a bunch of defensive backs to the end zone for a long touchdown. He runs good routes and catches the ball well, so put everything together and he can be tough to cover. The Chiefs had big plans for him last season, when he was a rookie. But he came down with a knee ailment during the preseason and never played an offensive snap all season. The Chiefs’ passing game would be lost if something similar happened now.

Eric, San Diego’s running game has picked up since Branden Oliver became the featured back. Give me a scouting report on Oliver and tell me why he’s been able to succeed where Ryan Mathews and Donald Brown didn’t.

Williams: Generously listed at 5-foot-8, Oliver is very elusive, which means San Diego’s offensive line does have to block plays perfectly for the undrafted rookie free agent to find a crease in the defense and spring loose. Oliver is hard for defenders to see behind San Diego’s offensive line, which works in his favor. And at 208 pounds, Oliver can run over defenders at the second level, and is hard to bring down because he’s so low to the ground. He’s a hard worker who quickly learned the offense, and adds a different dimension with his jitterbug running style. It will be interesting to see how the Chargers divide the carries when Brown and Mathews are both healthy again.

Adam, what’s your evaluation of how quarterback Alex Smith, a San Diego native, has played after receiving his new contract extension before the season started?

Teicher: Like many of his teammates, Smith has played better since the Tennessee game. He uncharacteristically tried to force a lot of passes that day and wound up throwing three interceptions. He’s thrown just one pick since and that was late in the game against San Francisco when the Chiefs were backed up deep and trying to rally. Where he’s failed this year is that he’s 0-of-2 in late fourth-quarter drives. The Chiefs failed to score a touchdown against the 49ers and the Broncos when each time when it could have won the game. Smith has not led a late-game rally for the Chiefs. He’s 0-for-4 including last season and that’s what needs to change.

Eric, Flowers is a question mark to play on Sunday because of a groin injury, but he’ll be back at some point. How has he fit in with the Chargers and how much credit does he deserve for the Chargers having one of the top pass defenses in the league?

Williams: Flowers has fit in well and exceeded expectations through the first six weeks of this season. He leads the team in interceptions, and according to defensive co-captain Eric Weddle has brought a level of professionalism to the defensive backfield room with his strong work ethic and knowledge of the game. Weddle says those characteristics are rubbing off on the rest of a young cornerback group, which includes first-round selection Jason Verrett. One last thing is Flowers has added a level of toughness, both mentally and physically. He’s a sure tackler in the run game, and as mentally prepared as they come. Flowers also has been willing to play different roles on the field, including special teams and slot defender in passing situations.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Since Andy Reid arrived as the head coach and Alex Smith as quarterback last year, the Kansas City Chiefs are 0-4 when they needed a late touchdown to win a game. They are 0-2 in those situations this season, failing to score late in last month’s game in Denver and then again in their most recent game at San Francisco.

Smith
 The solution on the surface might seem obvious. The Chiefs need to find a new coach and a new quarterback.

While that’s a bit drastic, both Reid and Smith share some blame in the matter. Reid, as the play-caller, can do better than what he dialed up in the loss to the Broncos. The Chiefs had gotten the ball for the last time at their 34 with 3:20 remaining, down 24-17. They quickly moved to the Denver 9, where they had a first and goal with 1:45 left.

So far, so good. The situation at this point becomes tricky for Reid and the Chiefs because there is danger in getting the touchdown too quickly and leaving ample time for Peyton Manning and the Broncos to counter.

But the Chiefs were still far too conservative, as if not scoring the touchdown at all was an acceptable outcome. Their next three plays consisted of a short pass to Donnie Avery and two Knile Davis runs. The only time the Chiefs took a shot in the end zone was on fourth down and then Smith’s rushed throw for Dwayne Bowe was deflected at the line and never had a chance.

“I’ve got to make sure I’m dialing up better plays there,’’ Reid said. “The bottom line is we’ve got to finish when we’re put in those positions. We can obviously do better.’’

The Chiefs, down 22-17 with 2:12 to go, again needed a touchdown late in the game to beat the 49ers two weeks ago. From the Kansas City 20, the Chiefs ran two plays, an incomplete pass intended for A.J. Jenkins and an interception where Smith tried to squeeze a difficult and delicate throw to Anthony Fasano in between two defenders.

The interception smacked of desperation, the kind of throw Smith might have needed to try on fourth down, but not second down.
Smith this week acknowledged as much.

“So much of the two-minute drill is about getting some completions, moving the chains early,’’ he said. “You can’t press. That’s the whole thing. Time is winding down, but sometimes the gut instinct is to press and that’s when mistakes happen. We probably did that a little bit, I probably did that a little bit instead of getting us going.

“We need to do a better job certainly.’’

He’s right about that, too. The Chiefs’ two victories this season have been comfortable by NFL standards, by 19 and 27 points. They won’t always have that luxury, and many times, they won’t even have a lead of any margin late in the game.

They’ll need some successful two-minute drills in order to be the team they want to be and, starting with Reid and Smith, the Chiefs have much to improve there.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Safety Eric Berry, who hasn’t played since suffering a high ankle sprain in last month’s game against the Denver Broncos, was scheduled to practice again Wednesday for the Kansas City Chiefs. Berry practiced with the Chiefs on Monday for the first time since the injury.

Berry
Coach Andy Reid did not speculate on the three-time Pro Bowl safety's availability for Sunday’s game against the Chargers in San Diego.

“He went through Monday’s practice," Reid said Wednesday. “He felt good. He’s going to go through today’s [practice]. We’ll see how he does. He came back and felt good. I’m pretty good with him for today, and we’ll see how it goes."

The Chiefs have ruled out starting wide receiver Donnie Avery for Sunday’s game. He recently had surgery to repair a sports hernia.

Nickelback Chris Owens (knee) and reserve running back Cyrus Gray (hand) are the other players who were scheduled to miss practice.

Chiefs need to beat Chargers

October, 15, 2014
Oct 15
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ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher talks about Kansas City’s chances of breaking a six-game losing streak at San Diego.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With the Kansas City Chiefs five games into their season and on their bye week, it’s a good time to check in on each of the eight rookies on their active roster.

Ford
LB Dee Ford, first round: Ford has played little this season and mostly on passing downs. His signature play from the season happened last week, when he retreated from Frank Gore like the ball-carrying San Francisco 49ers runner was on fire. We’re going to give Ford the benefit of the doubt on that one, that he didn’t know that Gore had the ball and was headed for what he believed to be other responsibilities. But even on running plays when he wasn’t fooled, Ford hasn’t played well. He also has looked lost in pass coverage. These things are to be expected from a player making the transition from a college defensive end. Ford does have pass-rush skills and could be of use to the Chiefs in getting after the quarterback as the season wears on. It will probably be at least until 2015 that the Chiefs can count on him to be an every-down player.

CB Phillip Gaines, third round: Gaines has played little on defense but has developed into a good special-teams player. Help in the kicking game is probably all the Chiefs will get from Gaines this season. He looked lost at cornerback during training camp and the preseason. Gaines suffered a concussion toward the end of the game in San Francisco.

RB/WR/PR De'Anthony Thomas, fourth round: Thomas missed the season’s first four games because of a strained hamstring, but the Chiefs got a glimpse in his first game in San Francisco of how someone with his world-class speed can help. Thomas started the Chiefs’ final touchdown drive with a 28-yard punt return and finished it by taking a screen pass 17 yards to the end zone on a play the 49ers actually defended well. Look for Thomas to play more as the season goes on.

QB Aaron Murray, fifth round: Murray has been inactive for each of the five games and he probably won’t get into a game this season unless there’s an injury to Alex Smith or Chase Daniel. Murray looked like a talented rookie in the preseason. He would follow a nice throw with an inexperienced mistake. Murray doesn’t have a strong arm, but has enough ability that the Chiefs should get a long look at him during the next offseason, training camp and preseason.

OG Zach Fulton, sixth round: Fulton won the starting job at right guard in training camp and has played more snaps than any other Chiefs rookie. His inexperience has showed during the regular season, but Fulton is advanced for a low-round draft pick in that he understands complicated blocking schemes. He’s also a relentless player who should continue to get better.

OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, sixth round: Like Murray, he has been inactive for all five games. Duvernay-Tardif played in college in Canada and the Chiefs knew he would be a developmental project. But he’s a good athlete who showed well in the preseason, so the chances that he eventually develops into a reliable backup or even a starter are good.

WR Albert Wilson, undrafted: Wilson was in uniform for the season-opening game against Tennessee but he has been inactive for every game since then. He looks destined to spend the rest of his rookie season as a developmental prospect. If he wasn’t available last week, when the Chiefs were down injured starter Donnie Avery, then when?

PK Cairo Santos, undrafted: Santos is starting to come around after his notoriously slow start. He made his last three field-goal attempts after starting the season 2-of-4. Santos has a strong enough leg to make it as an NFL kicker. He showed that repeatedly in training camp.

Chiefs close to breakthrough

October, 8, 2014
Oct 8
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ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher says he agrees with coach Andy Reid, that the Chiefs are a close to a break though after the bye.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If you're one of the 10 or so fans of the Kansas City Chiefs who missed the highlight of rookie linebacker Dee Ford retreating from ball-carrying San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore, do yourself a favor and take a look.

Ford, understandably, is more than a little embarrassed and responded on Twitter.

Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton's explanation: Ford just lost track of the ball.

"He didn't read the play right," Sutton said. "It was kind of a fake run-looking play to him. Then he went to his pass [coverage] responsibility. Obviously, it was a bad read on his part. He needed to come up and be part of the force there."

That's an understandable explanation. Still, the play makes it look as if Ford, the Chiefs' first-round draft pick, is afraid of contact. The Chiefs say that's not true and that, too, is believable. It's difficult to think Ford could survive a college career in the SEC at Auburn and become a first-round NFL draft pick if he lived in fear of opposing blockers and ball carriers.

But for now, at least, that's the image people will have of Ford. He won't get much of a chance to change that image any time soon, either. The Chiefs are on their bye and won't play again until Oct. 19, when they meet the Chargers in San Diego.

Even then, Ford doesn't figure to play a lot. He hasn't been on the field much during the Chiefs' first five games and it has been mostly on passing downs.

"His strength is rushing the quarterback and he's done a good job for us through the first five games as a pass-rusher," linebackers coach Gary Gibbs said. "He's still developing his skill set as far as being a first- and second-down run-stopper and playing play-action passes and that kind of stuff. It's a process.

"Anytime you take someone that's been a defensive end his entire career and try to stand him up to play a different position, there's a learning process he has to go through. He works hard and he wants to be a good player. As a pass-rusher, he's been a good player for us."

Pro Football Focus has given Ford through five games negative grades for his run defense and pass coverage and a positive grade for his pass rushing.

"I think he'll be fine," Sutton said. "We need him to keep going right now. We've got a lot of football left. We don't want to wait for next year for him to develop."

The Film Don't Lie: Chiefs

October, 7, 2014
Oct 7
11:00
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A weekly look at what the Kansas City Chiefs must fix:

The Chiefs were disappointed they had only 50 offensive plays in Sunday's 22-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, but there's a way they can almost guarantee they'll have more snaps in their next game, on Oct. 19 against the San Diego Chargers.

The Chiefs need to run the ball more frequently. They tried only 19 rushing plays, a number far too low given the facts the Chiefs led for much of the game and they were gaining yardage at a nice clip when they gave the ball to Jamaal Charles. He had 80 yards on his 15 carries, or 5.3 yards per carry.

The running game was working in San Francisco, so this was a self-inflicted wound. The running game will work more often than not when the Chiefs are committed to making it work with Charles and Knile Davis.

They could have extended more drives by going to Charles or Davis on third-and-short or medium-yardage situations. But against the 49ers, the Chiefs had seven third-down plays where they needed four or fewer yards to convert.

The Chiefs passed every time. The Chiefs threw an incomplete pass on third-and-1 in the fourth quarter when the situation begged for them to hand the ball to Charles or Davis.

Coach Andy Reid said he now regrets not going to Charles on that play. It's too late to help them in San Francisco -- but it won't be the next time.

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