KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Plenty has gone right during the Chiefs’ two-game winning streak, a span that saw the Chiefs outscore opponents 68-23 heading into the bye.
The defense played a large role, logging eight sacks and four interceptions the past two games.
But it is difficult to ignore an area on offense where the Chiefs totaled 344 yards rushing in Weeks 7-8, including a season-high 206 yards in Week 8.
“The offensive line, man,” said running back Charcandrick West, who has 207 yards rushing and two touchdowns since Week 7. “The offensive line is playing amazing; they’re doing their job up front. That makes running the ball very easy.”
Arguably the largest reason for the offensive line coming together surrounds fourth-year guard/tackle Jeff Allen, who returned to the starting lineup at right tackle in Week 7.
The 6-4, 306-pound Allen, who projected as a starter entering training camp, suffered a knee injury in the preseason opener, and his presence on the field has helped settle the front five.
“I think he definitely adds to the chemistry of that group,” offensive line coach Andy Heck. “He’s a guy that’s been around, he’s played a lot of football, and so he’s got a calming presence in the huddle as well as you see him flying around and finishing guys. So that does have a positive effect on the group as a whole.”
Of course, it wasn’t always easy for the offensive line as the Chiefs went through numerous rotations with Allen not fully healthy to start the season.
Jah Reid started at right tackle the first two games while Eric Fisher recovered from a high-ankle sprain, and the Chiefs rotated Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Zach Fulton at right guard.
Fisher eventually returned in Week 3, but the mainstays through the first six games were Donald Stephenson at left tackle, Ben Grubbs at left guard and rookie Mitch Morse at center.
The Chiefs, however, appeared to find the right combination in Week 7 with Allen, Fisher moving to left tackle, Grubbs at left guard, Morse at center, and Duvernay-Tardif returning to right guard.
While Grubb’s neck injury saw Allen move to left guard in Week 8, Allen also provides intensity regardless where he lines up.
“The attitude part of it,” coach Andy Reid said, “he’s always had a certain amount of leadership and he’s not afraid to let that part of his personality show.”
Allen drew an unsportsmanlike penalty in Week 8 after coming to the defense of quarterback Alex Smith, but Reid seemed fine with the infraction given the circumstances.
“He got carried away on one of the plays there,” Reid said, “but it’s like I said, you’d rather have it that way than to tune him up. I do think that’s contagious. I think that can allow it, brings it out in people around him.”
Allen’s position coach agreed.
“Jeff by nature has a little bit of an edge to him and it’s stuff that you like to see in offensive line play,” Heck said with a grin. “He’s finishing to the echo of the whistle. We try to make sure that we’re making guys on defense feel our presence every play and he’s a guy that really brings that to the table. So, he leads in that way by example and it carries over to the rest of the guys.”
All of that sits perfectly fine with West, who is the the Chiefs’ primary ball carrier with Jamaal Charles out for the season with a torn ACL.
The 5-10, 205-pound West said it is easier for the entire offense to execute knowing teammates, especially the offensive linemen such as Allen, have each other’s back.
“I’m not the biggest guy in the world or the NFL,” West said. “When I know those big guys are behind my back, I just feel fearless out there.”