With Jeremy Maclin Day-to-Day, the "Next-Man-Up" Philosophy May Continue for Chiefs

Maclin left in the third quarter Saturday

On an otherwise perfect Saturday afternoon for the Kansas City Chiefs, a showcase of dominance that led to the first franchise playoff win in 22 years, Jeremy Maclin laid on the field late in the third quarter, surrounded by trainers and writhing in pain due to what appeared to be a leg injury.

Though Maclin's reaction seemed telling at the time, the injury didn't look quite as bad on the replay, and early Sunday afternoon at his weekly press conference, Andy Reid explained what he knew regarding Alex Smith's No. 1 option.

"The doctors are evaluating him," Reid said. "Most of his pain is [more] in his ankle right now than the knee area, so we'll just have to see. We'll see what the result is here after the MRI and doctors have a chance to look at it."

Later on Sunday afternoon, that good sign proved to be right, as the injury was revealed to be an ankle sprain, meaning Maclin is day-to-day.


Maclin was the prized offseason acquisition for Chiefs general manager John Dorsey and his staff, and he has proved his value throughout 2015. Maclin had 8 touchdowns, was Kansas City's only 1,000-plus-yard receiver, and, as a seven-year NFL veteran, a leader in an otherwise young locker room.

"It's not just down to his physical talents," Smith explained after the game Saturday. "He rubs off on everybody, the competitor that he is, what he brings on game day, that energy, everybody kind of feeds off that. We'll find out what it is, but certainly playing without him is tough. He brings a lot."

So what does it all mean now that the Chiefs may have to continue on in the playoffs without him?

As they have consistently showed all year through their ups and their downs, the next man, or in Kansas City's case, men, must step up.

That starts with tight end Travis Kelce, who is coming off what was arguably the best game of his young career. Kelce recorded a team-high 8 receptions for 128 yards receiving against the Houston Texans.

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Asked about it after the game, Kelce predictably answered humbly.

"Big Red (Andy Reid) was dialing them up today," he said on Chiefs Rewind. "He was making sure that we were in the right positions and going out there, just playing for one another. That's the easy part, but making plays for Alex when the ball was in the air, that's when you have to come up big for your guy.

"Sure enough, Alex was on point with everything today and we got it rolling."

The longest play from Smith to Kelce helped put the game away for the Chiefs in the third quarter. Already up 20-0, the Chiefs offense faced second-and-11 at the Kansas City 39-yard line.

Kelce outran cornerback Kareem Jackson on an inside dig route and then broke a would-be tackle by Johnathan Joseph.

That allowed the athletic tight end to dash 48 yards down the sideline for a Chiefs first down, and Spencer Ware finished the drive off with a 5-yard touchdown four plays later to make it 27-0.

It wound up being the first time Kelce broke 100 yards receiving since Week 1 against that same Houston team.

"It's depending upon scheme," said Kelce, when asked about remaining patient as the year went on. "It can get difficult at times, but at the same time, it doesn't matter. Your team needs you to make plays and you have to go out there and make plays too."

Photos from Chiefs Wild Card matchup against the Texans

As the Chiefs may have to prepare for New England without Maclin, rookie wide receiver Chris Conley becomes just as important as Kelce for the offense.

Conley stepped in for Maclin on Saturday and caught a 9-yard touchdown on his only reception of the game.  As it turned out, Reid revealed Sunday that it was on a play the rookie had never practiced.

"He hadn't repped that play," said Reid. "That was something new for this week. Jeremy took the couple reps that we had in practice with it, and he stepped in and did a nice job from basically watching."

Thankfully, it wasn't the first time Conley had to step in for Maclin. When Maclin was out with a concussion in Week 7 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Conley had 6 receptions for 63 yards receiving and a touchdown.

"It means a lot to me to know that my coaches trust me enough to step up in his spot," said Conley. "From the beginning of this season, they've let it be known to me that I have to be ready in any situation and that I'm the guy who is going to play right behind him if he can't play.

"They've done a great job of preparing me and we hope that he's well and ready to go, so I can continue to learn from him."

The Chiefs should release more information regarding the status of Maclin as the week goes on, but even if he cannot go, the pieces are in place to replace him.

When Kansas City lost Jamaal Charles in Week 6, there was some understandable doubt about an already 1-4 team, but the Chiefs turned to their depth, and it eventually worked.

The same thing happened when Philip Gaines went down, when Ben Grubbs' season ended due to a neck injury and when week-to-week injuries like those to key defensive leaders Justin Houston and Husain Abdullah kept them out for five weeks straight.

The Chiefs proved in the 2015 regular season that they're deeper than the starting 22. This is a team that can sustain what would otherwise seem like season-threatening injuries.

"I keep coming back to the job that (general manager) John Dorsey has done," Reid said. "There are going to be injuries and guys have to step up with limited reps."

While the Maclin injury is certainly not an ideal situation and one the Chiefs likely wish they could have avoided, it's times like these that championship-caliber teams survive.

That's what the Chiefs continue to strive to be with only eight teams remaining.

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