He had had only two days to prepare fully for his second career NFL start, but if Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel was nervous in the season-ending 19-7 win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, his teammates sure couldn’t tell.
“You could feel his confidence,” center Rodney Hudson said. “His command was good. … We communicated well. That’s always better at home, of course, but I think he did a good job getting us in and out the huddle and just sitting back there and making some throws.”
So much of being a quarterback in the NFL is carrying yourself with confidence and leading men. And while Daniel lacks prototypical height (he’s 6 feet tall) and arm strength, he always has prided himself in getting the job done, and Sunday’s game was no exception.
Daniel, a six-year pro, started off especially hot, completing his first nine passes for 72 yards. He misfired only four times in his first 17 passes.
Though he finished the game 16 of 27 for 157 yards after a rough second half, Daniel occasionally took some shots downfield and impressed his bosses with his play in relief of quarterback Alex Smith, who missed the game because of a lacerated spleen.
“I thought Chase did terrific,” Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said. “Thinking about his two starts over the last year, both against San Diego, I thought he played well in both games. He played well enough for us to win both games. It didn’t work out that way last year in San Diego, but I was happy for him to get the victory today.”
Daniel’s performance in his previous start — a 27-24 loss to the Chargers in last year’s regular-season finale — served as a precursor to Sunday’s solid effort, one that didn’t surprise Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who called a balanced game for Daniel (the Chiefs ran 26 times and passed 27).
“Nobody is more professional than Chase,” Reid said. “Nobody loves to play more than Chase … he goes about it like he is going to start every week. He knows all the protections, he knows all the adjustments, he knows the run adjustments. So just in case something crazy like this happens, he steps in and we don’t have to flinch.
“We didn’t take a bit of the game plan out. (We) kept everything in and we just rolled. He handled it and did very well with it.”
Daniel said he was especially pleased with his start. He led the Chiefs to a touchdown and a field goal on their first two drives and 16 points by halftime.
“I thought we started the game pretty well,” Daniel said. “I thought we moved the ball, and I loved our first 15 that was scripted. … That momentum was great going into halftime.”
Daniel, who completed only three of 10 passes after the break, said the Chargers made some “excellent” second-half adjustments.
“I thought we weren’t as efficient … and quite honestly, I thought my play stunk in the second half,” Daniel said. “I didn’t play like I wanted to, and that falls on me.”
Daniel, who occasionally held the ball too long and was sacked four times, was also unhappy with the Chiefs’ red-zone issues. They were one for four in red-zone efficiency. The Chiefs entered the game seventh in the league in that category.
“Well, I’m my toughest critic on myself, so I think that’s pretty known out there,” Daniel said.
But for the most part, given the circumstances, it’s hard to call Daniel’s performance — particularly in a win — anything short of, well, a win. Smith wasn’t diagnosed with a lacerated spleen until Thursday, which means Daniel missed two full practices’ worth of repetitions this week.
Hudson said Daniel’s dedication to preparation — he made sure he got in some extra work Friday — paid off.
“Him and the receivers and myself, we stayed and threw a few balls after practice, and I stayed to get a few extra snaps,” Hudson said. “I think that helped him out. … He’s one of those guys that’s always there early and always stays late.”
And on Sunday, that trait finally paid off for Daniel, who enters the final year of a three-year deal that is set to pay $3.8 million (with a $4.8 million cap number).
“Overall, it was great,” Daniel said of the win. “It was good just to get out there, play. I felt like I took some completions early and I just couldn’t buy a couple of completions in critical moments in the second half, but like I said, what matters is that we won … that’s going to push us into next year.”