After the Chiefs’ 17-16 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, tight ends Sean McGrath and Anthony Fasano sat next to each other in the locker room, laughing it up about who knows what.
It was a striking moment, if only because of the cutthroat nature of the NFL. Fasano, 29, had just made his return to the field after missing the Chiefs’ previous four games, all victories in which the 25-year-old McGrath, a second-year pro, had shined in Fasano’s absence.
Yet, there was no dissension between these teammates. Fasano was happy to be back on the field after the injuries that plagued him for the last month. But he insists he was also glad to see McGrath establish himself as a legitimate target for the Chiefs, who are the NFL’s last undefeated team at 7-0.
“I’m so happy that Sean and Kevin (Brock) were able to step in and do a great job and help our team win,” said Fasano, who had played 108 of 112 career games before this season. “I was in a tough situation, not being able to play. But it helps that the team is winning.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid, while careful not to slight the contributions of McGrath and Brock, was also happy to have Fasano back in the mix. Reid loves his tight ends, and at his best, Fasano is another weapon.
“That’s an important position in this offense,” Reid said. “With the exception of the running backs, it’s the closest eligible receiver to the quarterback 99 percent of the time. Normally, it ends up being your quarterback’s security blanket. To have somebody with his quality back in there, I think is important. It’s also somebody that (quarterback) Alex (Smith) trusts.”
The Chiefs used Fasano to the fullest. He’s always been a reliable run blocker, but Fasano said it felt good to get out and run routes again and become fully involved in Reid’s West Coast offense.
“It was a good mixture (of run and pass),” Fasano said. “They were really stacking the box.”
When that happens, it’s up to Smith and his receiving targets to make teams pay. Fasano showed he’s still a threat to do just that underneath, catching four passes for 27 yards on five targets.
Fasano’s return — he logged 91 percent of the Chiefs’ offensive snaps Sunday — resulted in a sharp decrease in playing time for the 6-foot-5, 247-pound McGrath, who was claimed off waivers from Seattle before the start of the regular season.
McGrath went from playing an average of 87 percent of the Chiefs’ offensive snaps in the four games Fasano missed to playing only 27 percent of the snaps Sunday, which, to McGrath’s credit, didn’t seem to bother him much.
“You prepare every week just like you’re going to start,” McGrath said. “If both of us are out there, it’s harder for the defense to recognize what the heck we’re going to do. So having him back is just awesome. The energy in the huddle, the whole deal ... he’s where I want to be as far as knowing about the game.”
Fasano came close to an even splashier return Sunday. He almost scored twice by hauling in short passes in which he was stopped at the 1. Fasano didn’t think he scored the first time, which came in the first half — “I was just trying to protect the ball down there,” he said — but the second one?
Well, that one, which came in the fourth quarter, was a little more questionable as the officials ruled the replay inconclusive.
“If they had one more camera, just one more camera angle, they would have said he scored right there,” said Reid, who punctuated the comment with “doggonit.”
After the nagging injuries Fasano has endured, Reid isn’t the only Chief who would have loved to see him score.
“I told him one more scoop of Wheaties, he (would have) had that thing in,” McGrath said with a laugh.
Fasano thought he might have gotten in, but he wasn’t about to dwell on it in the locker room. This was a time for celebrating, and besides, he was just happy to be back and contributing to the Chiefs’ winning ways after a difficult month of waiting and watching.
“I just tried to help any way I could,” Fasano said. “Hopefully (the injuries are) over for a long time.”