Thursday is always a great day; not only are we one day closer to Sunday, when the Kansas City Chiefs face the New York Giants at Arrowhead, but we also get to hear from three of the Chiefs coaches, special teams coordinator Dave Toub, offensive coordinator Doug Pederson and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, each instrumental in the team's fast start in 2013.
The Chiefs special teams unit was again productive in Week 3, including S Quintin Demps returning two kickoffs for 93 yards (46.5 avg.), with a long of 57 yards in the contest. Also in the 26-16 win, Chiefs RB Cyrus Gray recovered a fumble on a muffed Philadelphia Eagles punt return. However, regardless of those three specific plays and others, Toub is expecting an improved performance by his group on Sunday.
"We have to do a better job," Toub said. "In last week's game, they (Eagles) weren't punting the ball very well; they were struggling, so we had him (McCluster) deeper. We were prepared for a deeper game and the ball ended up hitting the ground a little bit too many times in that game. I kept waiting for the deeper kick and it never came; we couldn't put him in the right spot, according to what we did in that game."
Toub said he has complete confidence in McCluster, who like his coach, expects better results from the Chiefs special teams on Sunday.
"First and foremost, we all have to take care of the ball," McCluster said. "Catch the ball and after that, trust your guys to make the blocks and natural instincts will take over."
As for the Chiefs offense, it hasn't committed a turnover in the first three weeks of the season, owning a plus-9 turnover differential. Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson described the proper mindset of protecting the pigskin.
"It's like basketball; it's like soccer – if you're turning the ball over, you aren't giving yourself an opportunity," Pederson said. "In football, the prized possession is the football. We know, as an offensive unit, that we must protect the football; it's kind of that written rule. Our guys understand that. We don't emphasize it, but we talk about it and we bring it up."
Chiefs QB Alex Smith also spoke about his team's ability to protect the football.
"It's something, offensively, we take a lot of pride in," Smith said Wednesday. "When you look around, the statistics are overwhelming on your chances to win a football game, when you win the turnover battle."
The last phase of the Chiefs addressed on Thursday, and certainly not the least, is the team's defense, which leads the league with 15 sacks in 2013. Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton highlighted some of the many challenges his defense will face against Giants QB Eli Manning.
"Eli (Manning) has been an outstanding player there for a number of years now, with two Super Bowl wins," Sutton said. "(He's) one of the best two-minute quarterbacks in our league. There's not a pass that he can't throw. He's a very accurate deep-ball thrower; that's always been one of his greatest strengths. He's got a great touch on it and gets it there fast."
Chiefs CB Sean Smith, who earned his first INT with the team last week, described his duties, facing Manning.
"I know I have to keep tight coverage," Smith said. "I definitely think he's an elite quarterback in the NFL, who is capable of putting the ball in position and he's definitely an accurate quarterback. When I'm out there, I'm just trying to do my job and get as tight as possible to my guy."
Following Thursday morning's walkthrough and coordinator press conferences, the Chiefs finished their afternoon practice.
Friday will be the last official practice for the week, followed by Saturday's walkthrough and then the all-important game on Sunday, when the Chiefs try to do something they haven't done since 2003, start 4-0.