Injury Update: CB Sean Smith suffered a knee contusion during Sunday's game and is day to day. Smith, LB Tamba Hali (knee), DL Allen Bailey (calf) and OL Ben Grubbs (neck) did not practice. CB Tyvon Branch (foot) was cleared and practiced.
Head coach Andy Reid
The Chiefs take on the division rival San Diego Chargers Sunday in the first of two matchups. Reid talked about how the Chargers are coming off a bye week and what that means for the Chiefs.
"We look forward to the challenge of playing San Diego," Reid said. "We understand they're coming off a bye week and they had had some guys banged up, so I'm sure they're going to get a few guys back. Whoever plays, we're going to get ourselves ready for. Most of all, we're going to concentrate on the game plan and make sure we get ourselves right. We know we're playing one of the best offenses in the National Football League and they've got a defense that's going to give you a ton of different looks and can be very explosive, and a special teams, that again, does a good job. We know they're well coached and they've got good players and we've got to prepare ourselves.
"You want to kind of focus on the scheme and make sure that you've got down what they do and then master the game plan, get enough film work in and then get yourself ready to play. That part doesn't change week in and week out whether a team has a bye or not. You've got to go through the whole process here. It's day by day, play by play today, and we'll knock out today and then get ready for tomorrow after we're done today."
San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers has helped skyrocket the Chargers passing game to first in the NFL. Reid spoke about the challenges of facing a high-powered offense twice a year.
"Yeah, you play the game for that reason," Reid said. "You spend so much time doing this, you want the challenge and you kind of thrive on that part of it. He's going to give it to you. He's going to present you a lot of different looks, and so you've got to be sharp in your preparation, you've got to spend time not only as a coach, but also as a player there.
"I mentioned I think he's had thirty-plus different offensive linemen since we've been here as a staff. He's got a variety of receivers and they've had some injuries there – and he just keeps going. I mean, he's a very good football player and playing at a very high level right now."
Reid also touched upon how the Chiefs defense can continue to improve after five weeks of continued success.
"There are individual things that we can all get better at, right?" Reid said. "So, I would tell you, we can do that [with] communication. This group here is going to test you on a lot of different formations and looks and the ball is going to come out quickly. It's another test that's going to be presented to you and how well you prepared. He's going to study your technique and your fundamentals, have you worked on those? How sharp are you against the different looks they're going to give you? Each week, you can grow and get better at those things, and it kind of goes that way throughout your career as a player. You're never satisfied and you've never perfected the thing all the way down until you retire, then you become an expert (laughing)."
Reid believes the defense is doing a "very good job" improving its communication on and off the field to become more of a unit.
"It will be important again this week," Reid said. "They spend a lot of time together. They meet with the coaches, then they go meet as a group and they make sure that they've got all the lingo down and where they need to be and that's an important thing. We're asking them to do a few things from a defensive standpoint, so you've got to spend that extra bit of time and this group is willing to do that."
Reid touched upon the offense's improvement and the success of screen passes.
"Well, we spend time on it," Reid said. "We spend a lot of time and effort in that area. It's always been a big part of this offense, all the way back to the Bill Walsh time, Paul Brown, so it allows your back and receivers to get involved in a short passing game with big fellas out there down the field. The main thing is, we spend a lot of time on it, and if you're going to do it, you've got to invest in it with reps.
"It involves a lot of people – on the move – so it's as close to special teams play as you're going to get. You've got to get it all synchronized and everybody's got to be dancing the same dance."
And because of the success of such screen passes, the Chiefs interior offensive line is given more of a chance to show its full ability.
"Sure, they can get out and roll," Reid said. "You saw Jah [Reid], the one he had. One of the tougher things to do. You play the position so you know when you're a big guy, you get out and you run to block a little guy because they're a little more athletic than you are. So, if you time this thing up, you invest in that time, that guy getting the ball helps you with that. He kind of feeds you that defender. Takes time, patience and reps to get that down."
In three weeks, the Chiefs have morphed from a 1-5 to a 4-5 team and a chance to break even with the playoffs looming. Reid credits this to his players.
"I mentioned I personally have never been 1-5, whatever we were at that point, but that really doesn't matter," Reid said. "You've just got to continue to prepare, and the guys have done that, and we're still not there. We've got a ton of work to do, but this group is willing to work. They don't get caught up in all that other stuff. When I tell you that I like this team, you know it's kind of the substance of the team and some good people on it, but it's important that you keep doing this and you do it week in and week out. And preparation, preparation, preparation."
"I think we can continue to get better. We've had some young guys playing, really on both sides of the ball, and they're getting better every week. That's what you want to see throughout the season, you want to see constant improvement as you go. I think we can do that. I believe the players believe that too."
Quarterback Alex Smith
Smith discussed how each opponent has presented and will continue to present its own challenges coming into Week 11.
"The challenge, week to week, changes with the opponent," Smith said. "So obviously the matchups change [and] in some weeks, the matchups just really fit favorably with what you do and some weeks they don't and the challenge is more difficult. But that aside, I think you're steadily trying to move week to week in the right direction.
"I do think it's tough – you're not going to make sweeping changes – but yeah, there are little things that you continue to build and grow on and keep in and things that maybe go out and go away because they weren't working. But that stuff's more gradual as the season goes on, for sure. But certainly the challenge, week to week, does change dramatically – just in the opponent, you're changing personnel, their scheme and how all those things mesh with ours."
Smith credited the three-game winning streak to playing through "four quarters of play."
"These last three weeks – especially in the second half of games – offense, defense and special teams have all made plays that have helped us put these games away," Smith said. "And it just wasn't the case early on in the season. I don't know if that's directly because of good weeks of practice. I think we've had great weeks of work, intense weeks of work. Great practices, they've been intense, they've been fast, game-like, that's prepared us for those Sundays."
After ending the five-game losing streak, Smith explained how the attitude at Arrowhead has changed.
"I think it's two things," Smith said. "For one, when you're winning three in a row, collectively, there's that confidence in the way we're doing things and believing in it and buying in, how you go about your business.
"The other way, you a little bit have blinders on because we're in the middle of the season. You get a big win last week and you give yourself a little bit of time to enjoy it, but it's quickly on to San Diego. You're kind of keeping your head down and going to work. We're in the middle of the season. Just because you've won three in a row, there's no time to pause and celebrate. We have another big game coming up, a division game on the road and it's going to take the same focus that we had last week to go get a win."
Smith also talked about the San Diego defense and going up against a versatile defense for the first of two times this season.
"I think, for one, they do a lot," Smith said. "They've had a ton of injuries early on in the year, so they've played a lot of different guys. But here, coming off the bye week, I think they're going to get a lot of guys back and be healthy. They've been in a bunch of close games, a lot of close games, came out on the wrong side of them. I think they're better than their record. This is a division game, there's a lot on the line at their place. It will be a good test for us." Center Mitch Morse
Morse spoke about the changes he's seen in the team from the beginning of the season up to Week 11.
"I just think dedication," Morse said. "Not saying we weren't dedicated before, but we knew it was going to take some time and we kept our nose down and we weathered the storm. We're still focusing on one game at a time. And it's going to hopefully keep helping us out in these upcoming games.
"We're just taking it one day at a time, and I think the last few weeks we've been doing that. And focusing on what we can do that day to become a better football team and it's been showing up on Sundays, so I think we're just going to continue doing that and increasing our film study and the little intricacies of the game. And we've been focusing on that and competing and it's helped out the last few games."
Fullback and running back Spencer Ware
Ware talked about how he kept his confidence in his abilities even when his future was not a sure path.
"Yeah, it's pretty hard but that's for anybody," Ware said. "But in this business you can't be content and you just have to strive to be better at something each and every day. So that was kind of my mindset going in and I let things play out on their own.
"[The coaches trusting me] actually means a lot because in this game the biggest thing is having trust. And that's having trust in a particular player, the coaching staff and trust their game plans and things like that. Like I said, I've come a long way as far as the trust thing but to this day it's still getting better."