Grit, effort, determination—whatever you want to call it, the Kansas City Chiefs showed it on Sunday.
With just moments left in the game, the Chiefs came within two yards of tying the defending AFC Champion Denver Broncos on their home turf—all while missing seven projected starters.
Derrick Johnson, Mike DeVito, Jeff Allen, Donald Stephenson and Joe Mays didn't suit up and Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry left the game early with ankle injuries. But as those seven players were missing, new faces were found.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid spoke with the media on Monday about how these new faces arrived in Kansas City.
"One of the things I'll just reiterate is the job general manager John Dorsey has done bringing players in here through all the different rungs that you could build a team as far as draft, free agency [and] trades," Reid said.
The Chiefs have been dealt a pretty big blow with all of these injuries just two weeks into the season, but the team didn't blink in Denver when Charles and Berry went down. They had every reason to fold it up and pack it in—the excuse was already built in there.
But they didn't. Instead, they fought back and went toe-to-toe with the class of the AFC, and while they ultimately came up short, the distance in which they need to make up isn't out of sight.
Two of the players Dorsey picked up off waivers last year, cornerback Ron Parker and defensive end Jaye Howard, played key roles in the game.
The two starting inside linebackers, James-Michael Johnson and Josh Mauga, were both brought in by Dorsey. Johnson was also claimed off waivers last year and Mauga signed as a free agent during training camp.
Parker and Howard combined for 52 defensive snaps on Sunday, while Mauga and Johnson combined for 90.
All four helped a Chiefs defense hold the Broncos offense to just three points in the second half.
A lot of that success was due to the Chiefs offense being able to stay on the field. They dominated the time of possession and allowed the Broncos to have the ball for just nine minutes in the second half.
The Chiefs also had success on third down, converting 11 of 16 attempts, including 7 of 9 in the second half, and it was the guys up front that allowed that to happen.
Three of the faces along the offensive line on Sunday were new to the Chiefs this season, one of which was signed just two weeks ago in left guard Mike McGlynn. Starting right tackle Ryan Harris was signed in the offseason and right guard Zach Fulton is a rookie sixth-round draft pick.
"These are guys that are good, quality football players that as they get used to our system in a couple cases here, we'll be a better football team," Reid said. "That helps to be able to compete when you have a few injuries."
Reid praised the offensive line's performance on Sunday.
"I thought they played good, physical football—both in the run and the pass game," Reid said. "Is there room to improve? Absolutely. I'd tell you that about all of these guys. But they played a little bit better as a unit (than last week). I think every game that they have an opportunity to play together—they'll improve in that area."
Last year's No. 1 draft pick, left tackle Eric Fisher, was tasked with taking on one of the best pass rushers in the NFL over the last decade in DeMarcus Ware, who earned Pro Bowl honors seven times with the Dallas Cowboys.
View photos from the Chiefs week two match up against the Denver Broncos.
Ware had 117 sacks in his nine seasons with the Cowboys before signing with the Broncos this offseason.
In the Broncos opening game of the season against the Indianapolis Colts, Ware had 1.5 sacks, but against the Chiefs on Sunday, Ware came up empty.
"I thought he did a nice job," Reid said of Fisher. "Again, he'll be able to go back against a top-notch pass rusher in pass rush situations, go back and analyze his performance and see where he could even do a better job there. But again, you're talking about one of the real good pass rushers in this league, so I thought he did a nice job. We didn't worry much about the left side there."
The development of the offensive line was obvious between the Chiefs opening loss to the Tennessee Titans and what we saw on Sunday.
Offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, along with the positional coaches Andy Heck and Eugene Chung, have taken a tough situation and are improving the play up front.
In the big picture, Reid wasn't happy about the result on Sunday, but still felt that something could be taken away from the game despite the loss.
"I was proud of the effort that the players put forward," Reid explained. "There were some real good things we did and some things we can do better. I think that's maybe what I'm most optimistic about, guys battled like crazy and we have room for improvement.
"With the attitude of this football team and the personality they're building together—it gives you an opportunity for success."