Injuries, schedule key to charmed start for Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid stands with his players during the first half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) directs his receivers during the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs Coach Andy Reid stepped to the podium yesterday and, as usual, was about to begin his news conference by delivering a quick run-through of the injury report.
Then he stopped himself. He looked at his notes. He shrugged.
“We don’t really have any injuries,” he said. “Everybody’s going to practice today.”
Of course. That’s the way things are going for the charmed Chiefs this season.
As teams across the league deal with devastating injuries to some of their best players – quarterback Sam Bradford in St. Louis, wide receiver Reggie Wayne in Indianapolis – unbeaten Kansas City has just about everyone healthy, just as it has most of the season.
Throw in a favorable schedule and a wave of key injuries to opponents, and it seems as if everything is lining up in the most splendid way imaginable for the Chiefs.
“This is a rough business. Injuries do take place. I get it. But we’ve been fortunate,” Reid offered by way of an explanation. “That’s really what it is.”
The Chiefs have certainly had times where injuries stacked up. Just a couple of years back, running back Jamaal Charles and safety Eric Berry, both Pro Bowlers, went down with season-ending knee injuries a week apart, sending the team into a downward spiral.
Just about the worst thing to happen to the Chiefs this season has been injuries to a couple of rookies who were likely to be backups: tight end Travis Kelce and safety Sanders Commings. Kelce is done for the year, but even Commings is due to come back from injured reserve soon.
“Some of it is chance,” Reid said. “Sometimes it comes in waves. That’s how it works.”
It’s not just that the Chiefs have been healthy; it’s that their opponents have not.
Starting in Week 1, when Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert was dealing with a thumb injury, Kansas City has met teams in disarray. It was Ryan Fitzpatrick starting at quarterback for an injured Jake Locker in Tennessee, and Case Keenum making his first NFL start in place of Texans QB Matt Schaub in a 17-16 victory last week that ran the Chiefs’ record to 7-0.
Not only was Schaub hurt before playing Kansas City, Texans running back Arian Foster went down on the first series of the game with a hamstring injury, and star linebacker Brian Cushing was lost for the season early in the second half with a major knee injury.
The trend of facing backups continues this week, too.
Browns Coach Rob Chudzinski announced yesterday that Jason Campbell will make his first start of the season in place of ineffective Brandon Weeden on Sunday. Weeden was already a replacement for Brian Hoyer, who sustained a season-ending knee injury Oct. 3.
“You go in every week respecting every opponent,” linebacker Derrick Johnson said, “but at the same time, we don’t really care who plays as long as we execute our defensive scheme.”
Injuries to opponents such as Tennessee and Houston have softened the Chiefs’ schedule, but it was already soft. The Jaguars are still winless after tying Kansas City for the NFL’s worst record last year, and the Giants finally won a game this past week.
Altogether, teams the Chiefs have played this season are a combined 15-33, and all but the Cowboys have a losing record. Oakland and Houston each have just two wins.
“I mean, for us the bottom line is to win games,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “With that is to continue to get better as the season goes on, as the stage gets bigger.”
Regardless of the opponent.
The stage can only get bigger considering the high-profile games still on the docket. Among them are home-and-away matchups against the Broncos and Chargers, a game at Washington and one against the Colts, the only team to beat the Seahawks and Broncos this season.
Perhaps that’s why nobody in the Kansas City locker room is celebrating the perfect start too much. They know plenty of tough opponents remain on the schedule.
They also know they’ve been leading a charmed existence so far.