Chiefs

Chiefs Blitz: A look at the good, the bad and the ugly from Sunday’s win over the Chargers

People were once calling for his job, but now Cairo Santos (5) is 8 for 10 on field goal attempts this season, while the man he replaced — veteran Ryan Succop — is now 9-for-11 for the Tennessee Titans. Sunday’s game-winning kick should boost the confidence of Santos’ teammates and coaches in his ability.
People were once calling for his job, but now Cairo Santos (5) is 8 for 10 on field goal attempts this season, while the man he replaced — veteran Ryan Succop — is now 9-for-11 for the Tennessee Titans. Sunday’s game-winning kick should boost the confidence of Santos’ teammates and coaches in his ability. The Kansas City Star

Do tell the truth

1. So the Chiefs might have gotten that kicking situation right after all, huh?

Huge, huge moment for rookie kicker Cairo Santos, who made his first NFL game-winning field goal on Sunday. It wasn’t a gimme, either — 48 yards out is no joke. Don’t look now, but the kid has made his last six field goals after a rough start to his career. People were once calling for his job, but he’s now 8 for 10 on field goal attempts this season, while the man he replaced — veteran Ryan Succop — is now 9-for-11 for the Titans. The kick should boost the confidence of Santos’ teammates and coaches in his ability.

2. How did Marcus Cooper end up being benched, and how did his replacement fare?

Chiefs coach Andy Reid said it’s simple — youngsters Jamell Fleming has simply been better in practice. Cooper has had his struggles this season, but don’t count him out, yet. Chances are they’ll need him again before the end of the season. Fleming had a bit of a rough outing, as he was beaten a handful of times and was whistled twice for pass interference. Expect the battle between Cooper and Fleming to continue in future weeks.

3. Where did Phillip Gaines come from with that performance?

This was excellent effort from Gaines, a 2014 third-round pick who made his first NFL start. He played the nickel, which is a tough role, and was targeted several times, but he often had solid coverage and even made one of the game’s biggest plays on a third down in the fourth quarter, when he knocked away a pass intended for Keenan Allen — a tough cover — over the middle. It would have gone for a touchdown, but the Chargers were forced to kick the field goal. That four-point swing helped make the difference in the end.

4. So what’s the ceiling for this team?

The Chiefs have the Rams, Jets and Bills coming up, and the three have a 7-13 record, combined. This is a very winnable stretch, and the Chiefs have a chance to make some major hay, here. This team has some significant flaws, particularly at receiver and offensive line, so it’s hard to see them going terribly far in the playoffs, but if they can keep this up, they have a chance to build on last year’s organizational rebirth with yet another playoff appearance.

5. How can this team’s personnel issues come back to bite them?

Reid is a very good coach, and he hides his team’s personnel flaws well, but the NFL is still about Jimmys and Joes, not Xs and Os. There’s only so much he can do. Unless some of the young receivers like A.J. Jenkins, Frankie Hammond, Junior Hemingway and Albert Wilson step up in a significant way, there’s a good chance that if the Chiefs reach the playoffs, this group will hold them back because the opponent will be talented enough to take advantage of the flaws they find on film. The same can be said for the offensive line, though center Rodney Hudson has improved significantly since last season. It will be interesting to see if Donald Stephenson, who was one of the group’s better performers in camp, gets a chance to win his job back at some point. Stephenson was better than starting left tackle Eric Fisher last season, and if dialed in, he could easily be one of their best linemen.

The number

83.4: Philip Rivers’ passer rating on Sunday, after he’d gone an NFL record five straight games of posting a rating of 120 or more.

To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to tpaylor@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TerezPaylor.

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