December 9, 2013

It’s gotta be the shoes: Chiefs say longer cleats helped in win at snowy Washington

There were a record 90 total touchdowns in the 14 NFL games Sunday, six by the Chiefs in their 45-10 triumph at Washington. What made the record so astounding were the frightful weather conditions at most of the games. But footing was not an issue for the Chiefs, whose equipment manager Allen Wright changed his players’ cleats for longer ones before the game.

The Chiefs did their part to make Sunday the most touchdown-filled day in NFL history.

There were 90 trips across the end zone in the 14 NFL games Sunday, six by the Chiefs in their 45-10 triumph at Washington. What made the record so astounding was the frightful weather conditions at most of the games.

Snow, ice and bitter cold spread throughout the map, especially in the Northeast. Snow accumulated on the fields in games at Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Washington. All of them produced games where the total points exceeded 50.

Snow and sloppy tracks are supposed to impact the footing and slow the game. But the Eagles’ LeSean McCoy rushed for 217 yards against Detroit in Philadelphia and the Chiefs’ Jamaal Charles ran for 151 at Washington.

In Denver, where the temperature at kickoff was 18 degrees, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning threw for 397 yards and four touchdowns in a victory over the Titans, then took a shot at those who suggest his performance suffers in freezing temperatures.

“Whoever wrote that narrative can shove it where the sun don’t shine,” Manning told KOA-AM in Denver. “I felt pretty good out there today.”

Footing was not an issue for the Chiefs, not after team equipment manager Allen Wright took his pregame walk on the turf — in cleats. He came back into the locker room and changed the shoes’ smaller studs for longer ones.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid said the team set up something akin to an assembly line in the locker room before the game.

“He goes out there and moves around a little bit to get a feel for the turf,” Reid said of Wright. “Not that he’s Jamaal Charles out there. Then he comes back and gets with the players.

“They changed them out right before the game. They had the rivets and drills to buzz those things off, and put the new ones on. We went with a little longer cleat. I wouldn’t mention it if I didn’t think it was a factor.”

The Chiefs returned two kicks for scores, both in the second quarter: Dexter McCluster’s 74-yard punt return, and Quintin Demps’ 95-yard kickoff return.

McCluster, who cut back a couple of times on his return, credited the shoes.

“It’s all about the footing,” McCluster said after the game. “I definitely had an advantage.”

It seemed all the Chiefs had an advantage on a lousy weather day. The Chiefs outgained Washington 347-257, and the only turnover came with the game well in hand, an interception thrown by reserve quarterback Chase Daniel. Washington lost a fumble, and quarterback Robert Griffin III had a pass picked by linebacker Derrick Johnson.

Gotta be the shoes.

“It allowed us to function at a high level … on a field that, just from the weather, was a bit soft,” Reid said, “and still maintained our speed and balance and moving abilities.”

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