It has, for sure, been a trying year for Knile Davis.
Davis opened the year as the Chiefs’ No. 2 running back — a role he dutifully performed the previous two years — only to see that role unexpectedly shrink once starter Jamaal Charles went down because of a season-ending knee injury.
Even then, Davis still had his job as the Chiefs’ starting kick returner … at least until week 10, when De’Anthony Thomas assumed the role for the next two games before suffering a concussion against San Diego.
So , if any Chief deserved a bit of happiness — a moment of redemption, so to speak — it’s Davis, their 2013 third-round pick.
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And really, it’s hard to call Davis’ 106-yard return for a touchdown on the opening kickoff in the Chiefs’ dominant 30-0 wild-card win over the Houston Texans on Saturday anything but that — especially since it came in his hometown, against the team he rooted for growing up.
“It was just a good feeling,” said Davis, who is from Missouri City, a suburb of Houston. “This would have been my first year to not have a kickoff return (touchdown), but I actually got to get it in the playoffs. All the things I’ve been through this year, it was definitely worth it. That feeling right there, to do it in front of my hometown.”
Adding to the cool factor of the moment for Davis is that fact that someone close to him predicted he would make a big play Saturday.
“I’ll tell you what, my girlfriend told me that this is going to happen before I played — she did, she really did … she told me today, before the game,” Davis said, before lifting his phone and pointing to the screen, where his girlfriend was on the line, listening to the interview.
“Look, she’s right there,” he added, enthusiastically.
Davis grinned widely, happy as can be. Not only to make an impact, but to do so in a game that meant so much to his team. The Chiefs won their first playoff game in 22 years Saturday, and for a franchise that has had so many bad playoff losses over the past two decades, Davis’ touchdown gave his team some much-needed positive vibes from the get-go.
“It let us breathe a little bit,” said Davis, who was on the Chiefs team that blew a 28-point lead in their 45-44 wild-card loss to the Indianapolis Colts in 2014.
It also quieted the stadium, Davis said, adding that when it’s quiet, it’s a good thing.
“That was the best feeling ever,” Davis said.
Even coach Andy Reid, the man essentially responsible for Davis’ decreased playing time on offense, was happy for him.
“It’s a crazy thing, but he’s a huge part of our team,” Reid said. “I think I mention him about every week just because the other guys are getting the credit. We have confidence that he can step in and play … so for him to do what he did yesterday, once he hit that son of a gun — he’s been so close — once he hit that son of a gun nobody was going to catch him.”
Fullback Anthony Sherman was among the Chiefs who were happy for Davis.
“(I’m just) super proud, super happy for him (for) just every day, coming to work, plugging away and just doing the stuff he needs to do,” Sherman said.
Davis added that he certainly had help. Sherman, running back Spencer Ware, tight end Demetrius Harris and receiver Jason Avant were among teammates who threw big blocks on the play. Once Davis, who fielded the ball 6 yards deep in the end zone and took it out anyway, broke through the first wave of defenders, he turned on his 4.37 speed and sprinted untouched to the end zone.
“Our rule is that if we get our hands on the ball, we’re going to come out with it,” special-teams coach Dave Toub said. “Unless we’re catching the ball going backwards 8, 9 yards deep … or it’s a dribbler and they created some hang time by us not fielding it right away, we’ll stay in.
“But if we catch the ball cleanly — and you watch our tape —we’re coming out. We like to put pressure on the kickoff team, I think the opposing teams know that.”
And that’s exactly what several Chiefs said they did by taking the first play of the game to the house.
“Whoo,” Sherman said, when asked about the play. “It was just one of those things, coach Toub did a great job of game-planning, (getting us) man on a man and just win. We knew Knile was back in his hometown, so he was going to have a little extra juice — it was the playoffs. We gave him that clean seal, and he’s so fast, no one is going to catch him.”
Texans coach Bill O’Brien didn’t downplay the role Davis’ touchdown played in setting the tone.
“Just a horrible way to start the game,” O’Brien said. “We didn’t win on the back side (of the play).”
Texans running back Jonathan Grimes agreed.
“I don’t know if took the wind out of our sails, (but) it’s disappointing — you don’t want to start off like that,” Grimes said. “I didn’t really see people dwell on it. We had to keep playing, and we had plenty of opportunities to win the game … we just never bounced back.”
However, two of the Texans’ defensive leaders — end J.J Watt and nose tackle Vince Wilfork — denied that the score did anything to their team’s psyche.
“It put us down 7-0, but adversity happens all the time in this league and you have to be able to fight and come back from it,” Watt said. “Obviously, we didn’t do that.”
“It’s a long game,” Wilfork said. “I think with that play, it took 10 seconds, 15 seconds, so you’re still in a game that really hasn’t started.”
Quarterback Brian Hoyer was defiant, as well.
“That had nothing to do with our lack of success,” Hoyer said. “Really at halftime, it’s 13-0, you know what I mean? We’re two scores away. We just, really me, I just didn’t execute the way I needed to to help my team win.”
Hoyer has a point — his five turnovers Saturday didn’t help the cause. But Davis’ kickoff return was a bad omen for the Texans in what turned out to be a glorious game for the Chiefs.
And to think, Davis’ girlfriend basically predicted all of it, giving him a positive vibe he took into NRG Stadium.
“I had a good feeling about it,” Davis said, nodding his head when asked how he felt after she made the prediction. “I had a good feeling about it.”