Chiefs RB Spencer Ware on first game without Kareem Hunt
Less than 48 hours after the appalling video of Chiefs star running back Kareem Hunt shoving and kicking a woman became public and compelled the team to abruptly release Hunt, more questions than answers still were bubbling as they took on the Raiders on Sunday at the Oakland Coliseum.
No matter how much the Chiefs wanted to frame it otherwise and move on right after the 40-33 victory.
“We put out a statement to explain that situation … We handle it within, and we handle it with the person that has been affected,” coach Andy Reid said. “So we’ve done all of those things, and I’ll leave it with you with that.”
Which did little to clarify what exactly the Chiefs had known about the February incident before TMZ Sports obtained and published the video on Friday. Or how the dynamics of the NFL investigation affected the way the Chiefs could go about it. And what concerns they might have about the victim.
To say nothing of questions we should all have, including why doesn’t owner Clark Hunt have anything to publicly say about this, what more there may be to hear about Kareem Hunt and what sort of rehabilitation he should be getting — something that at least teammate Chris Conley was willing to address.
“I’ve reached out to him, hoping that he gets the help that he needs and that he can grow as a man. And, really, the focus is on Kareem as a person, not the football player right now,” said Conley, whose 2-yard touchdown reception from Patrick Mahomes with 1 minute, 57 seconds left proved to provide the game-winning points.
Added Conley, “I didn’t think about football and how it would have an impact on this locker room or on our season at all, because obviously this is secondary and life is first.”
That’s exactly right — and it’s also a reminder that despite Hunt’s awful behavior there was an acute sense of loss here for teammates who considered him family.
But for all the other more meaningful questions and issues looming, the subordinate part of this mattered, too: The game itself on Sunday — and what it might suggest about where this promising season is going now that the Chiefs have lost one of their handful of game-breaking players.
The broader answers, of course, remain to be seen. But the Chiefs made a statement on Sunday:
Coming off a 54-51 loss to the Rams and a bye week and a discombobulating two days and playing without two of their key offensive players (receiver Sammy Watkins missed the game because of a foot injury), they were off-kilter all day against an Oakland team that had been 2-9.
Then … they won, with Mahomes shrugging off some lapses and Travis Kelce catching 12 passes for 168 yards and Spencer Ware stepping up as a sturdy, if not quite spectacular, replacement for Hunt.
Ware just doesn’t have Hunt’s amazing athleticism, it’s true. But he is good enough to rattle off a 17-yard run here or there and carry three or four Raiders with him and barge through a few into the end zone on a direct snap.
“I mean, get it in — don’t be denied,” Ware said.
Which was about what he said when asked about trying to concentrate after the loss of his friend Hunt.
“It’s no try,” he said. “You’ve just got to do it.”
In essence, that’s what the Chiefs did Sunday. A trap door fell before them … and they averted the invitation.
“It was a little bit of shock with the things going on; it came at us pretty fast here,” Conley said. “But life moves fast, and it doesn’t wait for anybody.”
So they showed something of their defining makeup by gritting it out on a day they weren’t remotely at their best.
And now they get to regroup and reset in earnest for life after Kareem Hunt.
“Things in life are unpredictable at times, but that doesn’t change that we’re flying out to Oakland and we play the Raiders,” punter Dustin Colquitt said. “Whenever you have a bomb kind of dropped in your locker room like that, I think the biggest thing is how … (are we) going to respond? Can we push through it? And we did.”
So what if it wasn’t dominant? And that the defense gave up 33 points, and Mahomes was just plain off a lot of the day (while still throwing for 295 yards and four touchdowns to give him 41 for the season) and if the Raiders hadn’t lost three fumbles, the Chiefs probably would have lost.
In the end, ho-hum, it was more of the same: The Chiefs won for the 20th time in 21st games against the AFC West, maintained their season-long streak of scoring 26-plus games and flexed when they had to with Mahomes leading a 10-play, 75-yard drive to effectively put it away.
This was a find-a-way day to get to the rest of the season in a game that Colquitt said Reid set up like this: “‘Every game starting with this one is a playoff game for us.’”
So they cut through the fog, and here’s betting they will be far more in synch next week against Baltimore with time to scheme up within the new normal instead of adjusting on the fly after all the week’s preparations had been set.
Maybe it wasn’t the “gell win” where you’re “rolling on all cylinders,” Colquitt said. But when they look at the schedule later, what they’ll see is just another one in the W column.
And one that answered some questions about resolve and resilience … even while others questions remain to be answered.