KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In the NFL, a team does not win 11 straight games and advance in the league’s playoffs on just the performances from 22 starters.
In the Chiefs’ playoff victory over the Houston Texans, there were quite a few background players from the roster that played major roles in the 30-0 shutout.
Here are three:
–Kicker Cairo Santos – Every action and reaction is magnified in the playoffs because of the one-and-done nature of the tournament. There’s only one player that came through the Houston game at 100 percent for his performance and that was Santos.
In his first postseason game, Santos was involved in 13 plays: 3 field goal attempts, 3 PAT kicks and 7 kickoffs. He made field goals from 33, 49 and 49 yards; those last two are the longest field goals in the Chiefs history in the playoffs.
Santos nailed all three of his extra-point kicks, which are 33-yard kicks for just one point instead of three. He kicked off seven times and each kick went deep into the end zone or out the back. All were touchbacks, none were returned. That’s seven possessions where the Texans started at the 20-yard line.
“Field position in the playoffs is a huge thing,” said head coach Andy Reid. “His ability to kick it deep in the end zone and make the Texans drive a long field is a son of a gun and I’m proud of him for doing that.”
–Right guard Jah Reid – Starting right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif suffered a concussion sometime in late first quarter or early in the second period. When the offense came out for a possession with 10 minutes, 35 seconds to play in the first half, he was on the sidelines and Jah Reid took over at right guard.
Ordinarily, Reid would have been at right tackle where he started nine straight games before missing the regular season finale against Oakland due to knee inflammation. He practiced all week leading into the game against Houston, but Donald Stephenson stayed in the starting spot at right tackle.
There were seven active blockers on the game-day roster, with only Reid and rookie center Daniel Munyer available off the bench. So when LDT went down, Reid went to guard. During his time with Baltimore, Reid played a lot of guard, especially on the left side.
With the Chiefs, he’s been a tackle, but he moved to guard and the offense did not seem to miss a beat.
“I thought it was important that the lines played well in this game and I thought they did that,” coach Andy Reid said. “I think that’s magnified in the playoffs; you come out of those games and if your offensive and defensive lines don’t play well, normally you’re on the short end of the stick.”
When Duvernay-Tardif left the field, the Chiefs had 61 yards on 16 plays. After that, with Reid at right guard, the offense had 253 yards on 46 plays. All that happened with Reid manning right guard after what the head coach said was only a handful of practice snaps at the position in the week before the game.
“I think he rotated in; (offensive line coach) Andy Heck rotates all those guys in, so he might have had a few, but it wasn’t much,” said Andy Reid.
The Chiefs were able to win with a backup center as Zach Fulton replaced Mitch Morse (concussion), Reid at right guard and Stephenson at right tackle.
–Kick returner Knile Davis – Just a week before, the only job that Knile Davis could count on with the 2015 Chiefs was taken away. Against the Oakland Raiders, wide receiver Chris Conley handled the first two kickoff returns rather than Davis. The rookie had only two chances, as Sebastian Janikowski’s first kick went out the back of the end zone for a touchback. Conley returned the second kickoff for 14 yards.
Special teams coordinator Dave Toub said he was just trying to give Conley some opportunities in the job. But it was just another chapter in what has been a horrible season for the running back out of Arkansas. When Jamaal Charles went down, the coaches reached for Charcandrick West. When West was dinged up, they reached for Spencer Ware.
Davis ended up touching the ball 30 times on offense, producing 96 yards and one touchdown. He returned 24 kickoffs for a 25.1-yard average. In the last 10-games of the regular season, he had just 12 touches for 32 yards on offense.
Still, when it came time to make a big play in the postseason, Davis returned the opening kickoff 106 yards for a score, the second longest kickoff return in NFL postseason history.
“That’s the National Football League,” said Reid. “It’s a crazy thing, but he’s a huge part of our team. I think I mention him about every week just because the other guys are getting the credit. We have confidence that he can step in and play. That’s how things roll sometimes, so for him to do what he did yesterday, once he hit that son of a gun nobody was going to catch him.”