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Split Second Competitor

Posted Nov 3, 2010

CB Brandon Flowers revealed another side of his game last Sunday

Just one snap following Ryan Succop’s 39-yard overtime miss, Buffalo nearly put the dagger in Kansas City. It doesn’t happen often, but Brandon Flowers got beat. What transpired on that play may have been Sunday’s most overlooked moment.

With just over three minutes to play, Buffalo’s Lee Evans gave a move and was off to the races. Flowers, who was matched up with Evans, knew he was beat down the Bills sideline, and so did QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. A connection to the open Evans would have likely resulted in yet another Ryan Lindell game-winning FG attempt or, even worse, Evans going house a la Miles Austin.

In a split-second decision, Flowers reached out and gave Evans’ jersey a pull. The maneuver, which drew a flag, allowed Flowers to recoup. The steps Evans had on Flowers had been eliminated and it was the smartest foul that Kansas City has committed all season.

“(Evans) made a nice inside move on me,” Flowers said. “I felt like if I gave him it a little tug it would be nothing but a five-yard penalty. It’s like a five-yard run rather than him making a great catch downfield. It was just making a veteran move and giving him a little tug to take the five-yard penalty and give our defense another chance.”

There isn’t much time to make the decision that Flowers did. His ability to recognize defeat played a major role in the Chiefs avoiding that same fate.

Had Flowers chosen to get into a footrace with the speedy Evans, he’d have been running an uphill race. If he’d waited just a few more yards to give the pull, Fitzpatrick’s pass would have already been in the air, and the penalty would have turned into a defensive pass interference flag rather than the five-yard hold.

“It’s something that you are taught early on,” Veteran DB Jon McGraw said. “The hard part is making that decision and being able to do it at the right time. Brandon has a really good knack for feeling the game and making split-second decisions that are normally the right ones. He’s been a tremendous asset for us back there.”

Buffalo was granted an automatic first down on the penalty, but only at their own 34-yard line. Flowers’ quick reaction helped the Chiefs live for another snap at a critical point in the game. The Bills kept driving after the flag, but eventually LB Tamba Hali forced an intentional grounding call and the rest was history. Kansas City got the football back and drove down the field in the closing minute to gave Succop a second chance at glory on the game’s final snap.

The self-awareness shown by Flowers was a difference maker in the Chiefs moving to 5-2 in 2010, but it also showed another side of the cornerback’s game. Kansas City’s third-year player isn’t just gifted physically, but he has a mental edge included in his arsenal as well.

“He is a smart player,” head coach Todd Haley said. “He made some terrific plays and at the cornerback position you are going to get beat occasionally. That happened a couple times (Sunday). On the hold, that is his decision to make but when you have instinctually-heavy players, which Brandon is, he is a football player. I talk about receivers being football players not just pass catchers; Brandon is a football player now.”

Recently, Flowers has begun to gain national attention as being among the top cornerbacks in the league. It’s something that many Chiefs fans had already believed heading into 2010. Part of the increased recognition is due to the Chiefs sitting atop the AFC West, and a lot of it is due to Flowers taking yet another step this past offseason. He’s making plays that prove he’s on the cusp of becoming a complete corner.

“I don’t know that I would take any corner over Brandon in a run support role,” Haley said. “This guy comes up and hits.”

One of those hits almost sealed Kansas City’s victory over Buffalo during the closing minutes of regulation. Following an Evans reception inside the Chiefs Red Zone, Flowers broke down for an open field tackle that jarred the football loose and onto the ground. Only after a review was LB Mike Vrabel’s fumble recovery ruled out of bounds.

“When that ball is thrown out there and it is you and Lee Evans on an island and you make the play he made causing the fumble, and we recovered it, it was just a bad break of where we were at on the field,” Haley said.

Flowers showed all three elements of his game against Buffalo.

It’s easy to see when a player makes a big hit, intercepts a pass or shuts down an opposing receiver. What’s difficult to measure is a player’s awareness. Flowers’ recognition and ability to reacting after being beat may have been the biggest play he made on Sunday.

“I think Brandon Flowers has done nothing but get better from day one,” Haley said. “I like Brandon a lot. I think he has a chance to be a great player in this league, I really do. He is another guy I am happy to have on our team. I am seeing something different in Brandon, skill-set aside, this guy is a unique, highly-competitive player.”

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