Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Johnson and starting defensive tackle Mike DeVito will miss the remainder of the Kansas City Chiefs' season after MRI exams confirmed that both players ruptured their right Achilles tendons in Sunday's loss to Tennessee.
Johnson went down without getting touched near the end of the first half. Eight plays later, early in the second half, DeVito went down at nearly the same spot on the field.
The blows are significant to a Chiefs team that was already missing several key pieces to injuries and suspensions, and was routed 26-10 by the Titans at Arrowhead Stadium.
"The guys that got hurt, our heart goes out to them for the work they put in," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Monday, "but we also have some good players that can step up in and do the job and that's what we expect of them."
Middle linebacker Joe Mays, who was expected to start alongside Johnson, is already on injured reserve after surgery to repair a broken wrist. The injuries leave the Chiefs with Josh Mauga and James-Michael Johnson starting in the middle of an already suspect defense. Defensive tackles Jaye Howard and Vance Walker are next in line to start for DeVito, who had rededicated himself in the offseason and was looking forward to a promising year.
"We've still got a lot of good football players on this football team, and you have the personnel department looking at options," Reid said. "We still have a lot of games left."
The Chiefs head to AFC West favorite Denver on Sunday then visit Miami before returning home for Monday night game against New England. That's followed by games at San Francisco and San Diego sandwiched around their bye week.
Four of the next five opponents reached the playoffs last year.
"Things happen. That's how this league works," Reid said. "You see it with every team. I have a lot of experience in this business and I've been on teams where things happen, and you work around it and get better. That's where we're at right now."
Johnson and DeVito weren't the only players to come out of Sunday's season opener with injuries, though none of the others was nearly as serious.
Right tackle Jeff Allen has an elbow strain, and safeties Husain Abdullah and Eric Berry have bruised quads. Outside linebacker Tamba Hali has a slight ankle sprain, and wide receiver Frankie Hammond hurt his shoulder but is expected to be available for the Broncos.
Reid said that cornerback Marcus Cooper, who missed the opener with an ankle injury, should be back, but wide receiver De'Anthony Thomas could miss another game with a hamstring injury.
"It'll be a fight for him to get there," Reid said.
Perhaps the biggest bit of silver lining for the Chiefs is the team will get Dwayne Bowe back from his suspension. The former Pro Bowl wide receiver was forced to miss the opener following an arrest last November, depriving the Chiefs of their top talent on the outside.
Of course, that won't help a defense that has been suddenly ransacked by injuries.
Photos from the Chiefs week one game against the Titans.
"It was just a freaky day," Berry said. "When you got guys like that that things happen to, everybody is going to have to up their game with a little bit more focus."
Defensive tackle Dontari Poe said he spoke to Johnson briefly at halftime Sunday.
"When you see them go down, you go and talk to him and it seems like they're kind of down and out already," he said. "What can you do about it? It's understandable for them to be in the position they're in. Like I said, we have to step up — keep their heads up, keep our heads up."
That could be difficult given what transpired in the second half Sunday, when Johnson and DeVito — both critical to stopping the run — were no longer on the field.
The Titans ran 25 times for 110 yards while putting the game away.
"You've got to be ready," Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston said. "It's a part of football. You just take injuries. You just pray they don't happen, but it did happen, so we've just got to prepare and be ready for the next day."