What a difference a year makes.
Semi-frozen practice fields and sub-freezing temperatures weren’t enough to chill the Chiefs spirits. Despite undesirable conditions in practicing outdoors this time of year, the same competitive atmosphere (along with a few extra layers of clothing) accompanied practice drills Wednesday afternoon. December football means something once again for the Chiefs and players are clearly embracing the team’s current situation.
“It’s great to be in the mix,” LB
A year ago, there wasn’t a post-season carrot dangling over the Chiefs as they practiced in cold temperatures. If anything, players were practicing for their 2010 jobs. That’s one way of motivating a 3-11 team during Christmas week, but this season there isn’t any need for an extra push.
This year, the Chiefs hold a slim lead in the AFC West and control their own destiny with two games remaining in their own backyard. The ramifications of Sunday’s game give the team all the motivation it needs.
“It’s just bringing up the intensity,” DT
The Chiefs road to a division title is easy to understand; win the two remaining home games and the AFC West title returns to Arrowhead for the first time since 2003. The circumstances have changed, but Kansas City’s approach to their season has not.
It’s still a “one game at a time” mentality for the Chiefs as they aim to win their second game of the fourth quarter. The ending goal, as it is with all quarters of the season, is winning three of the quarter’s four games.
Three wins in the fourth quarter, of course, would make Kansas City a division champion.
“We are in Tennessee Titans mode,” DE
For the Chiefs, each game has felt like a playoff contest down the stretch. That will continue again this week. It’s what playing football this time of year is all about.
“It’s going to be a playoff feel for these next two weeks,” LB Derrick Johnson said. “This game is a must-win; this week and next week. There is a lot at stake on the line.”
Cassel Feeling Good
“There was no residual pain and no soreness,” Cassel said. “I feel good.”
Tale of Two Teams
With the Titans making their first trip to Arrowhead since October of 2008, Sunday’s game offers a look at just how significant the overhauling of Kansas City’s roster has been these past two seasons.
For starters, 10 players listed as first-teamers on the Chiefs depth chart for that 2008 meeting with Tennessee are no longer part of the organization. Add specialists into the mix and the number increases to 12. Three players who were listed as starters at the time remain with the Chiefs, but no longer play starting roles.
As for the back-end of the roster, the turnover has been even more incredible.
Only six reserves from the 2008 Chiefs/Titans matchup are still part of the team. Two of those players are on injured reserve this season (
Here’s what the Chiefs depth chart looked like heading into the 2008 matchup against the Titans:
|WR||82||85||Will Franklin||83||Mark Bradley|
|RG||73||Adrian Jones||74||Wade Smith||60||Brian De La Puente|
|RT||77||Damion McIntosh||75||Herb Taylor||67|
|TE||88||Tony Gonzalez||87||Brad Cottam||84||John Paul Foschi|
|WR||81||80||Jeff Webb||83||Mark Bradley|
|QB||12||11||Damon Huard||4||Tyler Thigpen||15||Ingle Martin|
|RB||27||Larry Johnson||25||Jamaal Charles||21||29|
|LE||90||Turk McBride||70||Alfonso Boone|
|LT||93||Tank Tyler||95||Ron Edwards|
|LOLB||53||52||Erik Walden||59||Donnie Edwards|
|MLB||55||Pat Thomas||50||Napoleon Harris||57||Weston Dacus|
|ROLB||56||Derrick Johnson||53||Demorrio Williams||52||Erik Walden|
|RCB||24||22||Dimitri Patterson||31||Maurice Leggett|
|K||9||Nick Novak||2||Dustin Colquitt|
|KO||9||Nick Novak||2||Dustin Colquitt|
|PR||29||Dantrell Savage||25||Jamaal Charles|
|KR||29||Dantrell Savage||25||Jamaal Charles|
Titans Will Play Starters
Technicalities and realities are much different. Though technically still alive in the playoff hunt, Tennessee’s 6-8 record leaves them with incredibly slim chances of winning the AFC South.
To qualify for the postseason, Tennessee must win their remaining two games, and hope both Indianapolis and Jacksonville lose their remaining two games. Even with the long odds, the Titans aren’t ready to sit their starters in favor of young players just yet.
“Last week we moved some people around and tried to get a little more playing time at a couple more positions, but we’re playing our guys,” Titans head coach Jeff Fisher said. “For the most part we’ll play our starters in an effort to win the football game.”
Honors Keep Rolling
Derrick Johnson was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week following his 17-tackle performance in St. Louis. His award marks the Chiefs eighth in-season individual honor of 2010. Last year, Chiefs players took home just four in-season awards.
“This year has been tough catching-wise,” Johnson laughed. “Generally you have a sack or an interception in there (to win the award), but I gave great effort the entire game and obviously my teammates helped me out.”
“That was a true All-Pro effort,” Haley added regarding Johnson’s performance.
Kansas City’s in-season individual award total has a chance to climb into double digits on Friday with Jamaal Charles up for NFL Ground Player of the Week honors (VOTE HERE) and
As for Pro Bowl voting, NFL.com closed its polls today with a record 98.59 million votes cast. Patriots QB Tom Brady received 1,877,079 votes to lead all NFL All-Stars in fan balloting for the 2011 Pro Bowl. No Chiefs were included in the top vote-getters by position, but player and coach ballots have yet to be cast.
“It means a heck of a lot to the players,” Haley said of the Pro Bowl. “On teams that are having success and when players are recognized off of those teams I think it’s a good thing. These guys work so hard all year and to be recognized by their peers, the fans and the coaches is a great honor.”
Players and coaches from all 32 teams will send their 2011 Pro Bowl ballots to the league office today and tomorrow.