KANSAS CITY, Mo. – On a normal day at the Chiefs training facility, a group of 15-20 reporters are on the scene to provide daily coverage. Those numbers have paled in comparison to the throng of media converging on the facility in the past two days.
Despite already having an embedded Chiefs beat reporter, ESPN sent Bob Holtzman on Wednesday. FOX Sports 1 joined the fray by sending Mike Garafolo and The NFL Network sent Ari Wolfe, both of whom were present Wednesday and Thursday.
And with the on-air talent come the camera crews and TV satellite trucks. Wednesday saw reporters doing live hits into the early evening and Thursday’s almost turnout matched the previous day.
To anyone outside the locker room, one would believe there’s a pretty big game on Sunday between the Chiefs (9-0) and Denver Broncos (8-1).
“I think you guys are more excited than us,” wide receiver Donnie Avery said with a grin when asked about the amount of reporters filling the locker room. “It’s a regular week for us. We’re going to go out and keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
Cornerback Sean Smith agreed.
“It doesn’t bother us,” Smith said. “It’s your guys’ job. You guys have to come in here, get some stories and it’s definitely a great story. You have two great teams facing each other.”
Still, is it truly possible for the Chiefs to view the days leading to Week 11’s showdown, which was flexed to a primetime slot and a contest some view as the game of the season, as a “regular week?”
Smith believes that is certainly the situation in spite of the heavy media presence, which numbered more than 40 for coach Andy Reid’s Wednesday presser.
“We have one goal and right now the goal is to go out there and have a great practice and prepare for the Broncos,” Smith said. “What’s been said in the media, TV, reports and all that, we just let that all fly by.”
Give the players credit because they’re taking after their head coach.
Reid said during Monday’s media conference call the team would be focused and indicated the players wouldn’t be too concerned over the growing hype surrounding Sunday.
“You don’t want to get caught up in all of the distractions that go on with being a Sunday night game or however you look at it,” Reid said. “We’re playing the Denver Broncos and you want to make sure you get yourself prepared to play a good football team.”
Indeed, the Chiefs are set to play one of the league’s top teams.
Led by quarterback Peyton Manning, the Broncos offense rank first in numerous statistical categories and Chiefs defenders know they’re in for a test against Manning.
“He’s a great quarterback, a future Hall of Famer,” linebacker Akeem Jordan said. “It’s a challenge for the defense, but we like challenges.”
A large task is figuring out how to slow an offense averaging a league-high 41.2 points per game.
“They’re a great team,” Jordan said. “They put up great numbers, so it’s just about containing those guys.”
Of course, Sunday also features a battle of strength against strength.
The Chiefs defense ranks No. 1 in points allowed per game (12.3) and haven’t allowed an opponent to score more than 17 points the entire season.
Moreover, the Chiefs defense ranks sixth in net passing yards allowed per game (208.6) and squares off against the league’s top aerial attack (353.4 yards per game).
Sunday’s matchup is worth its weight in gold and one the Chiefs defense is up for.
“We have a team full of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball,” Smith said. “We don’t have that one guy who we’re all waiting for to make a play. We have confidence that everybody on our defense can go out there and make a big play whenever needed.”
Meanwhile, the Broncos come off a game where they scored a season-low 28 points in a 28-20 win against the San Diego Chargers.
Did the Chargers offer a blueprint to slowing down the vaunted Denver offense or do the Chiefs have a mindset to hold the Broncos to less than 28 points?
Smith said none of that mattered against the Broncos on game day, as only one factor is essential.
“We don’t care if they score 30 points,” Smith said. “As long as we win the game, that’s definitely the most important thing.”
Notes: Special teams coordinator Dave Toub said wide receiver Dexter McCluster (ankle) was hurt during Wednesday’s practice when a player stepped on his leg … “I think he’s going to be fine,” Toub said when asked by a reporter on McCluster’s status. “I’m not a doctor, but he looks good to me” … McCluster was limited Wednesday, but returned to a full practice Thursday … Offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said the team is still learning the offense, but he believes the players are getting more comfortable with the system.