KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Welcome to a new phase of the NFL season for the Chiefs, or “the dance,” as coach Andy Reid called it Monday.
Indeed, the Chiefs (11-5, No. 5 seed) enter the week preparing for Saturday’s Wild Card Round for a first-round playoff matchup against the Indianapolis Colts (11-5, No. 4 seed).
Dec 22, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) congratulates Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) after the game at Arrowhead Stadium. The Colts won 23-7. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
“For us, it’s the start of a new season,” Reid said during Monday’s media session. “That’s how the playoffs work. You’re in the dance as they say.
“It’s another phase of the season, and you have worked very hard as a team to get into this position and now it’s important that you exhaust yourself to make sure that you’re right.”
The Chiefs and Colts square off for the second time in three weeks.
While the Colts got the better off the Chiefs in Week 16 during a 23-7 win at Arrowhead Stadium, Reid said learning from that game is part of the preparations this week.
One area Reid pointed out the team needed to improve from the first meeting against the Colts are turnovers, as the Chiefs had four (two fumbles, two interceptions) two weeks ago.
But unlike that Week 16 matchup, the first round of the playoffs carries more significance.
There won’t be a second chance in the postseason against the Colts on the road to the Super Bowl.
“It’s single-elimination and you have to make sure you prepare the right way,” Reid said. “Again, we have an opportunity to play a good football team in the Colts. We look forward to that challenge of going down there and playing them in Indy.”
Meanwhile, the Chiefs and Colts have met three times in the postseason with the Colts emerging victorious in each game:
• A 10-7 victory at Arrowhead in a 1995 AFC Divisional Playoff Game played on Jan. 7, 1996.
• A 38-31 victory at Arrowhead in a 2003 AFC Divisional Playoff Game played on Jan. 11, 2004.
• A 23-8 victory at the RCA Dome in a 2006 AFC Wild Card Game played on Jan. 6, 2007.
Reid pleased with Week 17 effort
The Chiefs rolled with backups, most of whom receiving their first career starts, against the San Diego Chargers.
And while the Chiefs eventually fell 27-24 in overtime, Reid came away pleased with what he saw.
“I’m proud of some of the things I saw our team do yesterday, in particular the young players who were given an opportunity to play as starters and contribute to as much as they did in the game yesterday,” Reid said. “We were trying to win the game, however we understand that we didn’t get that accomplished.”
Sunday allowed Reid an opportunity to rest key starters such as quarterback Alex Smith and running back Jamaal Charles, among others, for the playoffs.
But it also gave Reid confidence over numerous performances from the young players.
“The depth of our football team, that’s important to have that and to have the confidence of playing those guys, in particular down the stretch here, and know that you have good players,” Reid said. “I think it’s a real tribute to most of all John Dorsey and what he has done bringing those kids in here. What happened yesterday was really a tribute to his effort and his staff.”
Acknowledging a record
The Chiefs special teams established an NFL single-season record for highest kickoff return average with 29.9 yards this season (1,316 yards on 44 returns), breaking the previous mark of 29.4 yards by the Chicago Bears in 1972.
Reid typically shies from statistics, but was compelled to acknowledge what the unit under special teams coordinator Dave Toub and assistant special teams coach Kevin O’Dea accomplished.
“I’m not really into the year stats and that, but when you’re breaking an NFL record like we did on special teams with our kickoff return average, I think that is worthy of a note there,” Reid said. “I think Dave has done a tremendous job there, both he and Kevin O’Dea, in preparing our guys, and then the players obviously have done a nice job with it.”
Under Toub and O’Dea, wide receiver Dexter McCluster was recently named to the Pro Bowl as a punt returner.
Additionally, the Chiefs scored five special teams touchdowns this season (two punt returns from McCluster; two kickoff returns – one each by Knile Davis and Quintin Demps; and one fumble recovery for a touchdown from Marcus Cooper).
Jenkins comes through
Given a chance to shine with extended playing time against the Chargers, second-year wide receiver A.J. Jenkins proved his worth.
Jenkins made the most of the opportunity, hauling in three catches for 67 yards on seven targets, the latter two being team highs.
He also averaged a team-high 22.3 yards per catch, which included a career-high 48-yard reception.
“I thought he played a heck of a game yesterday,” Reid said of Jenkins. “He blocked well, he caught the ball well, ran good solid routes and you saw his athletic ability (with the) run after the catch.”
Jenkins’ ability to stretch the field could come in handy in the playoffs.
Notes: Reid said wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (concussion) continues to make progress and “will probably work tomorrow” when the team returns to the practice field Tuesday … Reid said the swelling in outside linebacker Tamba Hali’s knee is down, but the team will “see how he does” Tuesday … Reid said cornerback Sean Smith, who suffered a knee sprain Sunday, is OK and “felt better” Monday … Reid said linebacker James-Michael Johnson (ankle) is day-to-day.