Down they went, the Chiefs’ offensive linemen. Guard Jeff Allen injured his ankle. Tackle Eric Fisher went down after a helmet crash with an opponent, leaving the game because of neck and head injuries. Center Mitch Morse was next to depart the game because of a concussion.
Had Allen not returned, no telling what the Chiefs would have done. There are seven offensive linemen on the roster.
But they didn’t have to find out in a 30-22 victory over the Buffalo Bills. The Chiefs pieced together their line and didn’t miss a step. Or a block.
“It was a great feeling to win this game as a team and as an offensive line with all seven getting in their work,” said right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.
Allen injured his ankle in the second quarter, and his return was announced as questionable. But he returned before the end of the half.
Fisher and Morse remained sidelined. Donald Stephenson finished the game at guard and Zach Fulton played center.
Had there been another injury?
“We would have had to forfeit,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid joked. “Yeah, we were getting down. We were down to everybody. You kind of worry about that. Jeff Allen was hurting and really had to push himself through that.”
Reid said a tight end or a defensively lineman likely would have been called upon in an emergency.
“But we were low there, too,” Reid said. “It wasn’t a pretty picture.”
Allen has been key to the Chiefs’ resurgence, replacing injured Ben Grubbs in the starting lineup for the first time against the Lions and starting ever since. The Chiefs had used four different starting offensive lines in their first seven games. They haven’t lost with the current configuration.
Morse has taken every snap at center this season until his secondhalf injury, so Fulton was something of a wild card. A guard throughout his college and pro careers, Fulton never lined up a center in an organized game until this preseason. He played the first half at center in the final preseason game against the Rams.
“He comes and plays center in a bad weather game and I thought did a heck of a job there,” Reid said.
How productive were the Chiefs up front? Running back Spencer Ware, making his first NFL start, rushed for 44 yards in the first half and 70 in the second.
Quarterback Alex Smith was sacked once, scrambling out of trouble. The Bills were credited with a sack for no loss.
Allen was happiest about a fourth-quarter drive that shaved 6 1/2 minutes from the clock and resulted in a field goal.
“It was very satisfying being able to put together the drive at the end of the game and kind of sealing it for us,” Allen said. “That’s big time. That’s what we hang our hat on as an offensive line.”
Not matter who’s in the lineup.
“We had a lot of guys move around, a lot of different moving pieces,” Allen said. “At the end of the day we got a win, and that’s all that matters.”