Arrowhead Report: Chiefs Adopt Single-Game Mentality

Posted Dec 22, 2010

In the thick of the AFC's playoff picture, Kansas City sticks to script

What a difference a year makes.

Semi-frozen practice fields and sub-freezing temperatures weren’t enough to chill the Chiefs spirits. Despite undesirable conditions in practicing outdoors this time of year, the same competitive atmosphere (along with a few extra layers of clothing) accompanied practice drills Wednesday afternoon. December football means something once again for the Chiefs and players are clearly embracing the team’s current situation.

“It’s great to be in the mix,” LB Derrick Johnson said. “This is something that you prepare all year for; to play after the regular season. That’s what we’re aiming to do.”

A year ago, there wasn’t a post-season carrot dangling over the Chiefs as they practiced in cold temperatures. If anything, players were practicing for their 2010 jobs. That’s one way of motivating a 3-11 team during Christmas week, but this season there isn’t any need for an extra push.

This year, the Chiefs hold a slim lead in the AFC West and control their own destiny with two games remaining in their own backyard. The ramifications of Sunday’s game give the team all the motivation it needs.

“It’s just bringing up the intensity,” DT Ron Edwards said. “In the players’ mind, we’ve got to keep getting up in order to get to the next week.”

The Chiefs road to a division title is easy to understand; win the two remaining home games and the AFC West title returns to Arrowhead for the first time since 2003. The circumstances have changed, but Kansas City’s approach to their season has not.

It’s still a “one game at a time” mentality for the Chiefs as they aim to win their second game of the fourth quarter. The ending goal, as it is with all quarters of the season, is winning three of the quarter’s four games.

Three wins in the fourth quarter, of course, would make Kansas City a division champion.

“We are in Tennessee Titans mode,” DE Wallace Gilberry said. “In order to get to where we want to go we have to take care of business on Sunday. That’s our mindset and that’s what we’re aiming to do.”

For the Chiefs, each game has felt like a playoff contest down the stretch. That will continue again this week. It’s what playing football this time of year is all about.

“It’s going to be a playoff feel for these next two weeks,” LB Derrick Johnson said. “This game is a must-win; this week and next week. There is a lot at stake on the line.”

Cassel Feeling Good

Matt Cassel looks to be in the clear following his first game back from an emergency appendectomy procedure. The Chiefs officially removed Cassel from the injury report on Wednesday.

“There was no residual pain and no soreness,” Cassel said. “I feel good.”

Jamaal Charles also stayed off the team’s injury report. Trainers had originally checked on Charles following an 80-yard fourth quarter run that essentially clinched victory in St. Louis.

Two players were listed on Kansas City’s injury report: Donald Washington (ankle) and Cory Greenwood (illness). Neither player practiced.

Tale of Two Teams

With the Titans making their first trip to Arrowhead since October of 2008, Sunday’s game offers a look at just how significant the overhauling of Kansas City’s roster has been these past two seasons.

For starters, 10 players listed as first-teamers on the Chiefs depth chart for that 2008 meeting with Tennessee are no longer part of the organization. Add specialists into the mix and the number increases to 12. Three players who were listed as starters at the time remain with the Chiefs, but no longer play starting roles.

As for the back-end of the roster, the turnover has been even more incredible.

Only six reserves from the 2008 Chiefs/Titans matchup are still part of the team. Two of those players are on injured reserve this season (Brad Cottam and Maurice Leggett), making just four of those reserves part of the 2010 edition of Chiefs vs. Titans.

Here’s what the Chiefs depth chart looked like heading into the 2008 matchup against the Titans:

WR 82 Dwayne Bowe 85 Will Franklin 83 Mark Bradley

LT 76 Branden Albert 75 Herb Taylor

LG 54 Brian Waters 74 Wade Smith

C 64 Rudy Niswanger 74 Wade Smith

RG 73 Adrian Jones 74 Wade Smith 60 Brian De La Puente

RT 77 Damion McIntosh 75 Herb Taylor 67 Barry Richardson

TE 88 Tony Gonzalez 87 Brad Cottam 84 John Paul Foschi

WR 81 Devard Darling 80 Jeff Webb 83 Mark Bradley

QB 12 Brodie Croyle 11 Damon Huard 4 Tyler Thigpen 15 Ingle Martin
FB 42 Mike Cox

RB 27 Larry Johnson 25 Jamaal Charles 21 Kolby Smith 29 Dantrell Savage

LE 90 Turk McBride 70 Alfonso Boone

LT 93 Tank Tyler 95 Ron Edwards

RT 72 Glenn Dorsey 99 T.J. Jackson

RE 91 Tamba Hali 97 Brian Johnston

LOLB 53 Demorrio Williams 52 Erik Walden 59 Donnie Edwards

MLB 55 Pat Thomas 50 Napoleon Harris 57 Weston Dacus

ROLB 56 Derrick Johnson 53 Demorrio Williams 52 Erik Walden

LCB 39 Brandon Carr 23 Patrick Surtain

RCB 24 Brandon Flowers 22 Dimitri Patterson 31 Maurice Leggett

SS 49 Bernard Pollard 38 DaJuan Morgan

FS 44 Jarrad Page 47 Jon McGraw

P 2 Dustin Colquitt

K 9 Nick Novak 2 Dustin Colquitt

KO 9 Nick Novak 2 Dustin Colquitt

PC 51 Jean-Philippe Darche

KC 51 Jean-Philippe Darche

H 2 Dustin Colquitt

PR 29 Dantrell Savage 25 Jamaal Charles

KR 29 Dantrell Savage 25 Jamaal Charles

Titans Will Play Starters

Technicalities and realities are much different. Though technically still alive in the playoff hunt, Tennessee’s 6-8 record leaves them with incredibly slim chances of winning the AFC South.

To qualify for the postseason, Tennessee must win their remaining two games, and hope both Indianapolis and Jacksonville lose their remaining two games. Even with the long odds, the Titans aren’t ready to sit their starters in favor of young players just yet.

“Last week we moved some people around and tried to get a little more playing time at a couple more positions, but we’re playing our guys,” Titans head coach Jeff Fisher said. “For the most part we’ll play our starters in an effort to win the football game.”

Honors Keep Rolling

Derrick Johnson was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week following his 17-tackle performance in St. Louis. His award marks the Chiefs eighth in-season individual honor of 2010. Last year, Chiefs players took home just four in-season awards.

“This year has been tough catching-wise,” Johnson laughed. “Generally you have a sack or an interception in there (to win the award), but I gave great effort the entire game and obviously my teammates helped me out.”

“That was a true All-Pro effort,” Haley added regarding Johnson’s performance.

Kansas City’s in-season individual award total has a chance to climb into double digits on Friday with Jamaal Charles up for NFL Ground Player of the Week honors (VOTE HERE) and Kendrick Lewis in the running for the NFL Rookie of the Week award (VOTE HERE).

As for Pro Bowl voting, closed its polls today with a record 98.59 million votes cast. Patriots QB Tom Brady received 1,877,079 votes to lead all NFL All-Stars in fan balloting for the 2011 Pro Bowl. No Chiefs were included in the top vote-getters by position, but player and coach ballots have yet to be cast.

“It means a heck of a lot to the players,” Haley said of the Pro Bowl. “On teams that are having success and when players are recognized off of those teams I think it’s a good thing. These guys work so hard all year and to be recognized by their peers, the fans and the coaches is a great honor.”

Players and coaches from all 32 teams will send their 2011 Pro Bowl ballots to the league office today and tomorrow.