Jeff Allen wanted to play, make no mistake. He rested his injured ankle most of last week hoping to get extended playing time against the Raiders last week.
Allen lasted only seven plays at left guard, but he knew the position was in good hands with Donald Stephenson.
That’s tackle Donald Stephenson, as in never-played-guard Donald Stephenson.
“That’s all right, he was ready to go,” Allen said. “And he did a good job for somebody without experience there. Still I wish I could have finished the game.”
In Sunday’s 34-20 victory at Oakland, Stephenson played 44 of the Chiefs’ 51 snaps at a position that was foreign to him.
“I’ve never played guard,” said Stephenson, the fourth-year pro who played at Oklahoma and Blue Springs High. “Not in college or high school or here. I did practice at little bit there last week though.
“We knew Jeff was hobbling on that leg, so I had to be ready.”
That’s life on the Chiefs offensive line this season, where a bit of work in practice isn’t just a precautionary exercise but a dress rehearsal.
Stephenson, who started the first six games this season at left tackle, became the fourth Chief to play two offensive line positions this season. Allen has played right tackle and left guard.
Zach Fulton, a guard who had never played center before getting reps there in the Chiefs’ final preseason game, played the entire game there Sunday. And Eric Fisher has played both tackle positions.
Injuries forced some of the moves, especially lately, coaches’ decisions others. No matter the reason, the Chiefs have made it work through a six-game winning streak that’s put the team squarely in the playoff chase.
Stephenson said the perspective and game speed are different on the interior offensive line.
“Things moved a little quicker,” Stephenson said. “Guys are on you a little faster. But I thought I did all right.”
So did Andy Reid, who broke down precisely what Stephenson was facing for the first time.
“Everything’s faster in there,” Reid said. “You’re closer to that defensive lineman in pass protection and a run-game situation where normally you can kind of skip-step to the guy, now it’s on you. By the time you set that second step, it’s in your face and right now you’re in the battle. So that takes a bit of getting used to.
“We’re doing anything live in practice so you do it the best you can as live as you can in practice, but you don’t get the full feeling until you get into the game. And even that’s different. There’s a difference in the speed of it.”
The game wasn’t an offensive masterpiece by any stretch. The Chiefs amassed a season-low 232 total yards. They lost two fumbles, their first turnovers during the winning streak.
But they also scored four touchdowns, putting together touchdown drives on their first possession of the game and second half, then punched in touchdowns — and not settling for field goals — after two fourth-quarter interceptions set them up with short fields.
The Chiefs continue to deal with injuries. Ben Grubbs, who started the first seven games at left tackle, is out because of a neck injury. Mitch Morse took every snap at center until suffering a concussion against the Bills on Nov. 29, moving Fulton to the middle. He received high marks by Reid for his effort last weekend.
“That was a heck of a game by him,” Reid said.
The maneuvering will continue as needed, but the Chiefs know they have the pieces along the offensive line to keep moving the chains, no matter where those pieces line up.