Andy Reid didn’t sleep Sunday night after the Chiefs’ 29-28 victory at Atlanta.
The adrenaline of the dramatic triumph, which turned on Eric Berry’s field-length return of an interception on a two-point conversion, may have had something to do with it.
But after the remarkable triumph at Denver the previous week and the incredible comebacks against the Chargers and Panthers earlier in the season, indescribable outcomes are becoming, uh, more describable.
No, Reid and his coaches burned the midnight oil at the Chiefs Training Complex because of the brevity of the work week. The Chiefs play host to the Oakland Raiders on Thursday.
“A lot of us have been here all night with players coming in today, making sure we have the game plan right for them,” Reid said Monday.
An all-nighter would have happened for any opponent, but the stakes are raised this week. First place in the division and playoff positioning is on the line. The Raiders, perhaps the NFL’s biggest surprise, lead the AFC West at 10-2, with the Chiefs second at 9-3.
The game is so big, the Chiefs are swinging open the parking gates to Arrowhead Stadium at noon on Thursday, more than seven hours of tailgating available for the 7:25 p.m. kickoff.
Plenty of fanfare will surround the game. The Chiefs will wear their all-red color rush uniforms. The organization will honor its five Walter Payton Man of the Year winners, and former Chiefs greats Willie Lanier, Len Dawson, Will Shields and Brian Waters as well as Derrick Thomas’ son Derrion, will be introduced.
The game marks the second of three games over a five-week stretch that the Chiefs will be on display in prime time. The next one is against the Broncos on Christmas night at Arrowhead.
“It’s the national stage … and you know our players want to be on a national stage,” Chiefs president Mark Donovan said. “From a brand perspective, from a business perspective, from a partnership standpoint, we are elevating our brand and our organization.
“It’s special to be at Arrowhead at night.”
But on a short week?
“They’re tough to get ready for,” Reid said. “The positive is you get a few days off afterward, but getting ready, it’s a bit of a scramble drill.
“I think it’s hardest on the players, especially the later you get in the year. Guys have some wear and tear on them. You saw us rotating a lot of guys (at Atlanta).”
Especially on the defensive side, where all six linemen got at least 17 snaps, and at outside linebacker where Justin Houston, Frank Zombo, Tamba Hali and Dee Ford ranged between 27-46 snaps.
On the plus side, the short-week preparation won’t require a crash course on the opponent. The Chiefs and Raiders are familiar rivals and the Chiefs are seeking a regular-season series sweep as well as a fifth straight victory in the series.
The Chiefs’ 26-10 triumph on Oct. 16 in Oakland may have been their most complete game of the season Quarterback Alex Smith was at his efficient best, completing 19 of 22 passes, running back Spencer Ware rushed for a career best 131 yards and Ford recorded his first multiple-sack game of the season.
Each team has lost one once since then and both appeared headed toward the playoffs. But a division championship would carry significant value. The Chiefs last won the AFC West in 2010, and the Raiders in 2002.
Also, it’s likely that the division winner will become no worse than the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs, and that would mean a bye on the first weekend and a home game on the second.
The game is that big. And as a sleep-deprived Reid would remind anyone, the week is that short.