The Patriots hurt less than the Chiefs after New England’s 27-20 victory Saturday in the AFC Divisional playoff game — and before.
As the week unfolded, both teams had several key players listed on the injury report.
On the final list, issued Friday, 17 Patriots were listed and 12 were called their availability questionable, including tight end Rob Gronkowski, wide receiver Julian Edelman, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and defensive end Chandler Jones.
The Chiefs listed as questionable such luminaries as wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, linebacker Justin Houston and running back Spencer Ware.
Turns out, questionable carried a different meaning in New England.
“You have injuries, guys banged up, both sides are dealing with it,” Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said.
The Patriots dealt with it better. Some of the players listed as questionable played major roles in the triumph. Gronkowski caught two touchdown passes and fielded the onside kick toward the game’s end.
Edelman posted 100 receiving yards in his 10 receptions, and was critical to the Patriots’ passing attack that relies on quick releases from quarterback Tom Brady.
Jones, the center of attention for his hospitalization after reportedly having a bad reaction to synthetic marijuana, caused the fumble by Chiefs running back Knile Davis early in the third quarter that Hightower recovered.
The questionable Chiefs truly fit that status. Kansas City got few snaps from some of its key players.
Maclin was described as having a mild high ankle sprain. He tried to go, and chipped in a pair of short receptions, but the Chiefs played most of the afternoon with Albert Wilson, Chris Conley and Jason Avant as their primary receivers.
“It was tough, but I told myself I was going to do my best to go out there and help this team win,” Maclin said. “I tried to play. It was painful.”
Houston missed the final five regular-season games with a hyperextended knee but played 44 of 64 snaps against the Texans in last week’s wild card playoff victory.
The Chiefs’ pass rushing ability suffered. There was no sack of Brady from the defense that produced 47 during the regular season.
Ware had established himself as a bruising running back option that has been the ideal complement to Charcandrick West. Saturday, those attempts went to Davis, who gained 30 yards in six carries. But the fumble was a killer, ending a promising drive to open the second half.
Davis thought he was down before the ball came out but replay upheld the original fumble call.
“I was wishing they would give us the call,” Davis said. “But they didn’t and that’s how they won.”
A huge play to be sure, but from a wider perspective the Chiefs found themselves short of play-makers for the game. The Patriots did not. And that wasn’t questionable.