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The Iceberg

Posted Dec 21, 2010

Sunday's win in St. Louis provided the most public example of reserve players playing a huge role in the Chiefs success this season

As the Rams held some of the Chiefs most visible players in neutral, help arrived in the form of two reserve players; two who entered the league undrafted and have had to scratch their way for every game of employment.  These two players know that they carry very specific roles on the Chiefs roster.

Sunday performances from Wallace Gilberry and Jackie Battle provided the most obvious examples of 45-man football that the Chiefs have shown all season. Each player delivered key plays during the first 20 minutes of a lethargic start that helped change the tide of the afternoon.

Gilberry’s critical moment came shortly after Matt Cassel’s fifth interception of the season. Already leading 6-0, St. Louis took over in Chiefs territory with a chance to go up two scores. An illegal use of hands foul set the Rams back on first down and Gilberry’s third-down sack, his first of three on the day, ensured that the Chiefs deficit would stay at six points.

Donnie Jones punted from the St. Louis 46-yard line after the Rams began their possession on the Kansas City 37.

“Wallace is another great example of a guy that has bought in from day one and has worked hard, is very coachable, very passionate about being a part of this team, unselfish, kind of all the attributes you’re looking for in all of our players, Wallace has a bunch of them,” head coach Todd Haley said. “He’s developed and has gotten better; obviously he had some real big plays for us.”

Battle’s decisive moment came a few minutes later on a fourth-and-one conversion from the Kansas City 48-yard line. His seven-yard burst instantly altered the course of the game. We took a closer look at the conversion, and its aftermath, in this yesterday’s Morning After article.

Shortly afterwards, Kansas City’s regulars took full control of the football game.

“It’s a sign of good things that we’re developing players,” Haley said of the second quarter spark provided by Gilberry and Battle. “One of the things going into last week that I stressed was guys understanding their role on the team and that’s so critical to be a good team is guys really understanding their role – their role may change due to injuries and things like that but guys played their role (Sunday), really did a nice job across the board in a number of different areas, Jackie being one of them, he knew what his role was and when he was put in position to make plays, he executed.”

Both plays came in sub-packages and each provided an example of a reserve player being asked to perform a specific role; rushing the passer in Gilberry’s case and short-yardage conversion for Battle.

“We are dressing 45 guys every Sunday and for us to have a chance to continue to make progress and be in games, we need all 45 or least 44 of them contributing,” Haley said earlier this year.

Haley has repeated those words, in some form, several times since.

The Chiefs have gotten help from players on the back-end of the roster throughout 2010; it’s one of the primary reasons that the team is leading the AFC West as we enter Week 16. Sunday, however, was the most public example of the foundation that makes up the iceberg of the Kansas City Chiefs.

World English Dictionary

Iceberg

tip of the iceberg -  the small visible part of something

At the peak of the Chiefs iceberg are the players that we all see. Matt Cassel’s gutsy performance and Jamaal Charles’ 80-yard burst made headlines following Kansas City’s Governor’s Cup win. But what’s made the Chiefs rise so rapidly are the players that form the foundation. It’s the part of Kansas City’s roster that often goes overlooked and sometimes even underappreciated.

There’s little chance that the Chiefs could put together a successful season without players like Charles, Cassel, Brandon Flowers or Tamba Hali. There are several more; Derrick Johnson, Dwayne Bowe and many from the 2010 Draft Class. The players are the tip of the iceberg. They’re the ones we all see.

 But this team also wouldn’t be a division leader without players like Gilberry and Battle. There are a number of reserves players scattered throughout the roster that contribute weekly. These are the players that ultimately form the Chiefs base.

The foundation isn’t limited to reserve players. Jon McGraw was asked to perform a specific role on Sunday, playing “in the box” football much like a linebacker would throughout the game. Jovan Belcher, the former rookie free agent from Maine, has started 13 games and is quietly approaching a 100-tackle season.

Terrance Copper and Verran Tucker have stepped into unexpected offensive roles while also factoring into numerous special teams units. Shaun Smith is giving the Chiefs far more than anyone imagined prior to the season and a long-shot rookie from the Quebec University Football League (Cory Greenwood) has managed to not only stay on the roster all season, but find himself active for all 14 games as well.

“I think the more they understand their role within the team and when it’s clear to them what they are supposed to do and then they execute and put their focus into it but they have to understand the role first before they can really focus on what they have to do in that role,” Haley said. “I’m just seeing more and more guys that really get it.”

Production from the foundation is a must in order for the Chiefs to win the AFC West. Meanwhile, the tip of the iceberg must continue to shine as well.

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