Considering the result of the Chiefs’ season-opener, a disappointing 26-10 home loss to Tennessee, it’s not a surprise that Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe had a tough time watching his teammates play without him.
Bowe couldn’t help but wonder what kind of lift he could give his team had he been out there.
“If you’re a playmaker, you want to make plays whenever the ball is being thrown,” he said. “When I was home watching, I saw myself making some of the plays that weren’t made.”
Bowe was serving a one-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy after being arrested last November for possession of marijuana. He pleaded guilty to amended charges of defective equipment and littering.
For all the criticism Bowe received for his statistically underwhelming 2013 campaign — which came on the heels of a five-year, $56 million extension — there’s little doubt he was missed against the Titans.
Without his No. 1 target, quarterback Alex Smith completed only 19 of 35 passes for 202 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. It was the most interceptions he’d had in a single game since he joined the Chiefs last year.
“As a quarterback, you kind of like to have your guys there, guys in particular that you’ve had reps with,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “They (Bowe and Smith) have seen all the looks that you could see.”
All three of Smith’s interceptions, by the way, were the result of targets to Donnie Avery, who was targeted 13 times and caught seven passes for 84 yards while assuming Bowe’s alpha-dog receiver status at receiver for a week.
“I think the biggest thing with Dwayne being back is he and Alex’s rapport, that continuity,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. “Alex has that trust in Dwayne being out there, plus just having that veteran leadership on the field with a lot of young receivers that we have. He’s a guy that the young guys look up to.”
Pederson said that means Bowe, who approached career lows with 57 catches, 673 yards and five touchdowns in 2013, will get his fair share of opportunities as the Chiefs’ offense looks for answers after a miserable opener.
“Dwayne’s going to get his, just like Jamaal (Charles) is going to get his,” Pederson said. “I look forward to some big things from Dwayne. However he’s been out a couple weeks now, so we’ve got to work him back slowly.”
Before his suspension, Bowe — who could not participate in any team-related activities last week — was dealing with a quad contusion and a dislocated finger.
On Thursday, however, he declared himself perfectly healthy, even though Reid said a month ago that the finger injury had caused him to drop some passes in training camp.
“It was just a jam,” Bowe said. “I’m good to go. … You get nicks and nacks in every game. You just move forward, get it taped up, keep making plays.”
Bowe’s return will displace young receiver Frankie Hammond from the starting lineup. Hammond, who spent all of last season on the practice squad, earned his first career start on Sunday and caught one pass for 22 yards on three targets.
“Frankie did a nice job for what we asked him to do in the game,” Reid said.
But even Hammond understands that Bowe’s return is good for the team.
“When (No.) 82 steps out there, people may more attention to him than, even, when I step out there,” Hammond said. “I’m pretty sure they’ll roll the coverage and pay more attention to 82 just because of his history in the league. They know he can make those type of plays.”
Bowe displayed that kind of dynamic big-play ability in 2010, when he caught 72 passes for 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns at age 26.
But Bowe, who turns 30 in a week, has seen his numbers fall off ever since. In hopes of reversing that trend, he hired a nutritionist and a personal trainer for the first time this offseason, and drew praise from Reid for his performance in camp.
“I’ll tell you, he had a great training camp and preseason,” Reid said. “I liked what I saw there and he came back in great shape, and I expect that he’ll have a real good year.”
That would certainly come in handy Sunday, when the Chiefs are tasked with outscoring a high-octane Denver team led by Peyton Manning, who is 11-1 all-time against the Chiefs and lit them up for 62 total points in two games last season.
For his part, Bowe is excited to come in and do his thing.
“Just be myself, come in jovial, come in picking guys up and letting them know it’s one game at a time, one play at a time,” Bowe said. “Just play with energy and play with passion. Just play your game.
“That’s what I’m preaching to everybody in the locker room, and that’s what we’ve got to bring if we want to beat the Denver Broncos.”