Arrowhead Report: Chiefs Playoff Notebook

Posted Jan 5, 2011

A precedent for panic, first impressions and the potential impact of new overtime rules

Roughly one month ago the Chiefs raised eyebrows by promoting practice squad QB Tyler Palko from the practice squad. Kansas City’s offense had gone into 13 consecutive games with two quarterbacks on the active roster and there were no known injuries at the position prior to Palko’s promotion.

A few hours later it was revealed that Matt Cassel underwent an emergency appendectomy procedure. Suddenly, Palko’s promotion made perfect sense.

Based off precedent, it’s understandable why most fans felt uncomfortable (and media members scrambled) when hearing reports surface that WR Dwayne Bowe was missing from Wednesday’s practice. After all, the Chiefs had just signed a seventh wide receiver (Kevin Curtis) earlier in the day in a transaction somewhat similar to the Palko/Cassel scenario that unfolded several weeks back.

Take a collective sigh.

As far as anyone knows, no organs were removed from Bowe’s body. The wide receiver is simply ill. Fellow Pro Bowler Brian Waters also missed practice due to sickness as well.

“Waters and Bowe were both sick today,” Coach Todd Haley confirmed after practice.

Outside of the two absentee Pro Bowlers, the Chiefs appear to have come out of Sunday’s game against Oakland completely healthy. The only player previously listed on the injury report was DB Donald Washington (ankle). Washington was placed on injured reserve when the club signed Curtis.

All other players practiced in full for the Chiefs in Wednesday.

Baltimore was also without some notable players on Wednesday morning.

The Ravens practiced without defensive starters DT Haloti Naga (thigh), LB Terrell Suggs (knee) and S Ed Reed (chest) as well as starting center Matt Birk (knee). Left tackle Michael Oher, who left Sunday’s game with a knee/ankle injury practiced in full.

It’s been reported through various members of the Baltimore media that Reed is expected to play on Sunday despite his injury (of course, the same things were said about Antonio Gates prior to the Chiefs last meeting with the Chargers). Reed leads the Ravens with eight INTs this season.

There are plenty of statuses worth monitoring this week.

First Impressions

The majority of NFL veterans work through 17 Weeks, not counting the offseason and preseason, for a chance to play in the postseason. Of the 1,696 rostered players across the league, only 636 have earned the honor to play a second season.

“It’s why you play the game,” Ravens LB Ray Lewis said today in his conference call.

Newly signed WR Kevin Curtis is one of those players. Rostered a week ago with the Dolphins, Curtis has gone from offseason mode to four days away from potentially making his Kansas City debut in a postseason game.

“This all just happened a few hours ago,” Curtis said of his signing. “I’m focused in learning everything and where I’m supposed to be out there. What happens after that, we’ll see.”

The Chiefs had tried to bring Curtis to town for a workout earlier this season, but the situation dissolved and he ended up signing with Miami on December 13th. After that initial contact, Curtis has followed the progress of the Chiefs throughout the season and wasn’t surprised in his first impressions of a Todd Haley led practice.

“They’ve been rolling and you can see that from just being out there today in the way that they approach practice,” Curtis said. “They are serious and you can see that. I’m excited to get ready to play.”

Curtis owns five games of postseason experience, catching 23 passes for 446 yards (19.4 avg.) with a touchdown. Haley said that one of the benefits of signing Curtis was similar terminology used between the Chiefs and Dolphins offensive schemes.

Haley and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis worked with Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning while with the N.Y. Jets in the late 1990s.

Don’t Forget About OT

With the NFL’s new postseason overtime policy out of sight and out of mind for the past nine months, many fans (and maybe some players) might be left scratching their heads should a playoff game go into extra time. In March, the NFL ownership voted 28-4 to implement a new overtime policy for postseason play. Overtime rules pertaining to the regular season were left unchanged.

For a refresher course on the topic, here are the basics of the new playoff overtime policy.

• Both teams must have the opportunity to possess the ball once during the extra period, unless the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown on its initial possession, in which case it is the winner.

• If the team that possesses the ball first scores a field goal on its initial possession, the other team shall have the opportunity to possess the ball. If [that team] scores a touchdown on its possession, it is the winner. If the score is tied after [both teams have a] possession, the team next scoring by any method shall be the winner.

• If the score is tied at the end of a 15-minute overtime period, or if [the overtime period's] initial possession has not ended, another overtime period will begin, and play will continue until a score is made, regardless of how many 15-minute periods are necessary.

Essentially, the new rules protect the coin toss loser from being defeated on a first possession field goal. Touchdowns win the game regardless of when they occur.

One interesting overtime strategy might be a call that coach Marty Mornhinweg made famous in 2002 with the Lions. In an overtime game against the Bears, Mornhinweg’s Lions won the toss and opted to take the wind rather than the football. When Chicago kicked a field goal on the first possession of overtime, Mornhinweg’s decision became forever ridiculed and instantly infamous.

But under the NFL’s new postseason overtime policy, choosing to take the wind might not be as far-fetched as it once was (though it probably will be).  Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh touched on Mornhinweg’s approach during his conference call with the Kansas City media on Wednesday.

“That’s something that will be a lot more possible than it’s ever been in the past,” said Harbaugh. “Guys like Marty lost a game that way, got roasted for it, and nobody has ever tried it since. But now you have to consider it because, if a field goal is kicked on the first drive, the second drive boasts a huge advantage for the offense with four downs to convert all the way down the field.”

Still, a coach is likely to get roasted again if they decide to play defense and the opponent scores a TD on its first possession to end the game; especially if that team is Philadelphia, where Mornhinweg currently serves as offensive coordinator.

“It will definitely make things interesting,” Haley said of the new rules. “I was one of the guys that hoped this would be a year-long thing, because it is different and there are multiple variable that come into play.”

Haley has only briefly addressed the new overtime format with his staff, but plans to further discuss the strategy that his team will take during a personnel meeting Wednesday night.

“There are going to be different situations that come up. “If you move the ball down the field and you get inside maybe the 5 or 10, and you get into a fourth-and-short situation, kicking a field goal there is standard procedure in original overtime rules.

“But you could kick a field goal in that situation on fourth-and-one, then kick the ball off and they return it for a touchdown to beat you. It definitely brings up some different scenarios,” Haley continued.

My guess is that teams that win the coin toss will still choose to take the football, but we won’t know until there’s been a notable sample size. That’s something that may take years to find out.

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