Vahe Gregorian

Anonymous Chiefs pave way to victory with some special special-teams play

Chiefs force eight turnovers to beat Jets 24-3

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, Derrick Johnson and Alex Smith comment on Sunday's victory at Arrowhead over the Jets. VIDEO BY DAVID EULITT
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Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, Derrick Johnson and Alex Smith comment on Sunday's victory at Arrowhead over the Jets. VIDEO BY DAVID EULITT

Per postgame protocol, Chiefs quarterback and focal point Alex Smith was whisked into an interview room on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium after a 24-3 muzzling of the New York Jets.

Considering Derrick Johnson’s serpentine 55-yard interception return for a touchdown that tucked away the game, Johnson, too, was ushered into the separate area to accommodate the media demand.

Cornerback Marcus Peters was swarmed at his locker after snagging two of the Chiefs’ six interceptions, and a handful of reporters gathered around Demetrius Harris because he scored a fluky-looking touchdown that made it 17-0 in the second quarter and proved pivotal in the dynamics of the game.

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“I was just in the right place at the right time,” said Harris, who was hustling to finish a kickoff as New York’s Jalin Marshall essentially lobbed the ball to him in stride for a 27-yard touchdown.

Those are the glamour points that the eye follows and we all gravitate to, and with ample reason.

But it’s easy to forget that the result of a play isn’t the same as the story of a play — and that most anything that gets accomplished in the game is because of what’s going on in the grinding nitty-gritty of anonymity on the lines or special teams.

So it was that after many of the players had left, fullback Anthony Sherman sat out of the limelight dressing as teammate Spencer Ware passed and casually said, “Appreciate you, Sherm.”

So it was that Sherman’s collaborator on creating the fumble to Harris couldn’t be clearly discerned on replays.

In fact, he wasn’t credited with helping make the tackle even in the official postgame statistics.

For the record, the unnamed source was linebacker Dezman Moses, who just grinned at the idea few knew what he’d done.

“It’s not about the accolades or who gets the credit,” he said, his smile broadening. “But when we go and look at the film on Monday or Tuesday, we’ll get a good look at it.

“And (it will be known) amongst my teammates, my guys. That’s what’s most important.”

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Guys like Sherman and Moses are the mortar of a football team, and their contribution is all the more compelling when you realize they are players who surely would enjoy more visibility or glory of their own but find fulfillment in the mutual cause … and enabling something bigger than themselves.

“I love the fact that I can help this team in so many ways,” Sherman said. “I embrace the role of helping other guys score.”

Two weeks ago, you might not have figured Sherman and Moses would have such a meaningful influence on a Chiefs game:

Sherman played just one offensive snap against the Chargers in the opener; Moses wasn’t even on the team after having been released the day before that game.

Then the Chiefs re-signed Moses on Sept. 14 as they decided to waive 2016 third-round draft pick KeiVarae Russell.

“This is a crazy business,” Moses said.

So he has learned not to let it become too emotional.

Still, “the blood, sweat and tears” Moses has shared since joining the organization in 2013 made for relationships he wanted to keep, and a joy in returning.

Even if it’s largely in a special-teams role.

Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry said the eight-takeaway performance against the New York Jets was a group effort.

“It’s a violent, violent six seconds,” Moses said. “It’s about the guys who are tough, the warriors within the game.”

Some coaches think of special teams as a full third of the game, and you can quibble some one way or another about that.

But nearly all coaches believe any given game comes down to a few plays that affect not just the end but the tone of how it plays out.

That’s exactly what this play was on Sunday.

It provided a buffer that kept the Jets at least two touchdowns behind the final 36 minutes of a game in which the Chiefs offense mustered only a field goal and its lone touchdown in two games.

The complexion of the game would have changed if not for an apparent Kansas City touchdown subsequently overruled as a fumble by Ware … and then alchemized into a Jets ball at their 20-yard line because of the absurd rule that makes a fumble out of the end zone a touchback for the other team.

But that misadventure only reinforced the significance of Harris’ touchdown, which looked like a luxury when it happened but proved to be key.

In preparing for the game, Chiefs special-teams coordinator Dave Toub had been cognizant of Marshall fumbling a return the week before and made trying to force another a point of emphasis.

So that likely played into kicker Cairo Santos lofting the ball only to the Jets’ 4 on the play, wanting the Jets to return the ball, either believing the Chiefs could pin them deep or create a turnover.

The Jets had tried some misdirection on earlier returns, Moses said, so it was imperative on the play that the Chiefs stayed disciplined in their lanes as they ran downfield.

Then, Moses and Sherman both shed blockers to close on Marshall.

“Kind of sandwiched him in,” Sherman said, smiling and adding, “A lot of force.”

Next thing you know, Moses looked up to see Harris running into the end zone and hurried to join the celebration he helped concoct.

He helped make a difference that everyone in the locker room could appreciate — even if he was out of view and out of mind everywhere else.

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Vahe Gregorian: 816-234-4868, @vgregorian

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