Coaches hate injuries, not so much dealing with them but talking about them. The NFL requires a level of disclosure or else a coach might never discuss the walking wounded.
So it was Monday when Chiefs coach Andy Reid devoted less than a minute to the topic that had a major impact on Sunday’s 19-17 home loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs.
“I expect the other guys to step in a do a good job, that’s how I look at it,” Reid said. “Anything less than that is wrong. You have an opportunity to get in there and play. You challenge and challenge and challenge.”
But depth charts exist for a reason. And Sunday the Chiefs were without three players who are the best at their position group: wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, cornerback Marcus Peters, and for the second half, outside linebacker Dee Ford.
As for the prospects of their return for Sunday’s game at Denver, Reid only said “we’ll probably get a couple of the guys back this weekend,” but wasn’t more specific.
Maclin missed his second game because of a groin injury that occurred early in the Nov. 6 victory over Jacksonville. Maclin played only two snaps in that game.
Peters sustained a hip pointer in the previous week’s game at Carolina before his takeaway of a Kelvin Benjamin reception that set up the Chiefs’ game-winning field goal. Peters, a second-year pro, missed his first game. Reid said he sent Peters home Sunday to stay off his feet.
Ford played the first half Sunday, logging 36 of the team’s 77 defensive snaps, but not the second.
Reid said what coaches must say. It’s about the next man up.
“I’m OK with the guys that get in,” he said. “It’s an opportunity, and in life you only get a few of those, man, so you take advantage of it.”
But the injuries to primary players weakened the Chiefs. Even with the return of Justin Houston, playing for the first time this season after recovering from knee surgery, the Chiefs turned in one of their worst pass rush games of the season.
Ford is the team’s biggest surprise with his development into a speed pass rusher who has recorded 10 sacks. The Chiefs posted one sack Sunday, getting credit for one when Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston fumbled on their first possession.
Peters’ 13 interceptions are the most in the NFL since the beginning of last season and he’s come up with three fumble recoveries this season. The Winston fumble was the lone takeaway for the Chiefs, who lead the NFL in the department with 23.
Maclin has been the team’s top wide receiver since arriving from Philadelphia last year, although his 2016 numbers were off last year’s pace before the injury.
But Maclin’s absence removes a reliable target for quarterback Alex Smith, and in the two games Maclin has missed the Chiefs’ offense has produced one touchdown.
With Maclin out, Albert Wilson has stepped in, and although he’s caught a touchdown pass in two of the last three games, he hasn’t caught a pass for more than 10 yards among his eight receptions in two starts.
Kenneth Acker made his first start for the Chiefs at cornerback Sunday and came up with six tackles. He missed a chance to corral an interception at the goal line on a possession that resulted in Tampa Bay’s go-ahead field goal in the third quarter.
The Chiefs have dealt with injuries to top line players all season. Smith missed an entire game and half of another with head injuries with Nick Foles stepping in.
Foles started against the Jaguars along with running back Charcandrick West, who replaced the injured Spencer Ware.
The Chiefs survived that game. But injuries to three critical pieces could not be overcome on Sunday.