What We Learned in Thursday's Media Availability from The Mothership
Q: What's the best way to explain Cleveland's rushing yards on Sunday?
SUTTON: "Well, you have two elements obviously. That would be one, the quarterback had 111, so that's a big part of it and I think I'm going to say all but 41 of that was on scrambles. He had the run at the beginning of the second half, he had a seven or eight yard run on third down that was a run-run. It was an option play, so you've got to deal with that. He's a hard guy as everybody knows to do it. I think that bottom-line is that we didn't probably play him as well on scrambles as we would like. But what we did a great job with is plastering the receivers. It might not have been a completion on a scramble in the game, and that's challenging for those DBs and those linebackers. Because he's back there and he's a gambling guy. I think the thing that we're most concerned with always is the base runs and that's what we didn't play as well as we thought we could've played. So that gets down to the same thing that as you improve, it's technique. We got a couple where we missed some tackle, but of all the things it's technique and playing really tough, hard-nosed, aggressive run defense."
Q: In some cases was it the outside edge guys not setting the edge?
SUTTON: "No, the longest run was inside so that was the long one. We had one bounce outside where we didn't set the edge. And as in most cases, it's usually a team effort. In those efforts as well. So it starts with getting off the football, pad level low, strike - which is fast hands and fast feet and then you've got to go in there and you've got to clean things up."
Fierce Competition Taking Place Among Chiefs Special Teamers from The Mothership
"It's really a production system," Toub explained. "Like if you make a tackle, for instance, then you get three points. If you miss a tackle then it's minus three points. If we catch you loafing on tape then it's minus four points.
"I mean, we keep track of everything."
Toub brought this system to the Kansas City Chiefs, and the chart with everyone's grades and rankings is posted right in the team room where everyone can see it.
"They're competitive guys and so it doesn't take much," Toub explained of how it motivates his players. "You just set up a point chart and let them compete."
Right now, second-year safety
Daniel Sorensenis in the lead with one regular season game remaining.
Chiefs place De'Anthony Thomas on season-ending NFL list from The Kansas City Star
On Thursday, the team placed Thomas on the reserve/non-football injury or illness list, effectively ending his 2015 season. Per NFL rules, players placed on the reserve/NFI list cannot return to action for the duration of the season, including the playoffs.
Teams are also under no obligation to pay players placed on the list, but any amount they do pay them does count against the salary cap.
The move — which opens up a spot on the Chiefs' 53-man roster — brings a short-term end to the curious saga surrounding Thomas, an elusive second-year pro who has made an impact as an offensive specialist and kick- and punt-returner since his selection in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Chiefs place WR De'Anthony Thomas on non-football illness list from Chiefs Digest
He totaled 140 yards receiving and a touchdown on 17 catches, adding 34 yards rushing and a touchdown on nine carries. Thomas also had 29 punt returns for 227 yards and six kickoff returns for 138 yards.
With Thomas out, the Chiefs are likely to continue using wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr., as the primary punt returner, with running back Knile Davis handling kick returns.
That the Chiefs have been able to escape without much offensive production screams a number of things. They've certainly been efficient offensively. The Chiefs, who were outgained by a wide margin in three of the four games, are getting the maximum out of the minimum.
But they've been able to survive only because their defense has shown an uncanny knack for making the big play at the right time. If the Chiefs are counting on that to save them again in the playoffs, against much better competition than they've seen in the last month, they're destined to lose their ninth straight postseason game and extend their lengthy drought without a playoff win for at least one more year.
Safety Husain Abdullah returns to Chiefs' practice from The Kansas City Star
Abdullah suffered a concussion against the Bills.
Defensive end Mike DeVito and wide receiver De'Anthony Thomas didn't practice because of non-injury related issues.
Week 17: Thursday injury report from Chiefs Digest
Abdullah has missed four straight games, but his presence on the field offers a good sign he could be on track to return potentially for Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders.
Outside linebacker Tamba Hali (thumb, knee), outside linebacker Justin Houston (knee), and right tackle Jah Reid (knee) missed a second straight day of practice.
Reid, however, was observed on the sidelines watching his teammates go through stretching during the portion of practice open to the media.
With nothing to lose, opponents launch fake punts vs. Chiefs from The Kansas City Star
What are opponents seeing?
"The situations are long shots," Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub said. "You don't think there's going to be a fake there. In those situations we have a punt-return look."
That is, six in the box, and two each on the gunners.
"If we stop them right there, we get great field position," Toub said. "But it was a great effort by them, a good call."
The Chiefs weren't fooled by the fake against the Browns. Sorensen among others had their eyes on the ball.
"We were on it, we knew it was coming," Toub said. "We had six guys in there, three tried to make the tackle. (Poyer) made a great effort, and his second effort he got the first down."
Chiefs hit big in free-agent market with Jeremy Maclin signing from Chiefs Digest
Ultimately, Maclin signed a 5-year, $55 million deal with the Chiefs, joining offensive talents like DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy that also left the Philadelphia roster in Kelly's tenure.
In the spectrum of receiving numbers from the 2015 NFL season, what Maclin has posted with the Chiefs barely raises a ripple across the league:
- 84 catches, ranked No. 11.
- 1,034 receiving yards, ranked No. 19.
- 7 touchdown catches, tied for No. 21.
Those statistics pale in comparison to pass catchers like Julio Jones in Atlanta, Antonio Brown with Pittsburgh, Odell Beckham with the New York Giants and others. Yet, no wide receiver has had a greater impact on his franchise in the current season than Maclin.
The Chiefs had trouble catching up to Manziel. They didn't get a sack for only the second time this season, and he ran for 108 yards, becoming only the second player to rush for more than 100 yards against the Chiefs this year.
"As a rusher, we can now go," said linebacker Dee Ford, who again figures to be the Chiefs' primary pass rusher since Justin Houston and Tamba Hali have yet to practice this week. "There were a few times where I committed outside last week when I beat the guy and Manziel ran right up (between the guard and the tackle for a gain). That's hard. That's frustrating for rushers when you kind of have to control-rush the whole game.
"Now, we can pretty much go. (Carr) can scramble, too, but of course they're two different quarterbacks. We can pin our ears back now."
Woodson, who announced on Dec. 21 he will retire at the end of the season, plays his final game on the same field where arguably a Pro Football Hall of Fame career began on Sept. 6, 1998 at Arrowhead Stadium.
"I remember that one, probably more than any other game because being that it was the first game and it wasn't a good game," Woodson told Raiders beat writers Thursday. "Initially, it wasn't a good game, but yeah, I just remember going to that stadium and how live that stadium was, and it was a good introduction into the NFL."
Expect the emotions to run high as he makes a final visit as a player.
"I think the craziest thing is just watching this year and seeing how well he's playing," Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. "It's crazy (to have) that kind of longevity at a physical position, (to) play as long as he has and play at that level for so long is so rare, very, very rare. So yeah, watching it, there's for sure a big respect from anybody watching that and playing against him for what he's done in his career. Yeah, just doesn't happen often.
"I certainly don't think there's anyone that's had the longevity, that's moved around, that's played outside at corner, inside at nickel and back at safety and has just played at a Pro Bowl level everywhere you put him. He's just a football player. Yeah, special."
Key Matchups To Watch: Oakland Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs from Raiders.com
Amari Coopervs. Cornerback Marcus Peters
Sunday's game presents an intriguing matchup between two of the best players from the 2015 rookie class.
Cooper has proven to be one of the most dynamic offensive players taken in this year's NFL Draft, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark and hauling in six touchdowns with one game left in his rookie campaign.
On the other side of the football, Peters has also taken the NFL world by storm.
Five Takeaways From Ken Norton, Jr.'s Thursday Press Conference from Raiders.com
The Chiefs are effective on offense because they understand their identity.
"They understand who they are. They do it really well. Like I said, they run the ball, the quarterback, he throws very accurately and he runs the ball extremely well. The guys catch. They don't give the ball away and they play good, sound, really good defense. That all adds up to wins."
Raiders QB Carr more concerned about winning, not statistics from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Raiders' second-year quarterback is a Pro Bowl alternate, has a good chance to become the third player in team history with 4,000-plus passing yards and could set the franchise passing touchdown record with a big day Sunday.
A big game Sunday in the season finale against the Kansas City Chiefs could also offset a final month of the year that hasn't been his best.
"I just want a win," Carr said Wednesday. "My main goal is going in there and making sure we come out with the victory. I've had some big stat games that have resulted in losses, and that's not why I play this game. I just want to go in and do what I can, do my part as the leader of the offense, of the team, help us any way we can to get a win."
Three reasons why the Jets would be a dangerous playoff opponent from The Washington Post
Weaknesses to the AFC's top teams has made this a wide-open conference title race.
This week, PFF founder Neil Hornsby made the case that the Kansas City Chiefs could be the AFC team that makes the Super Bowl this season. Part of his argument was based upon how quietly dominant the Chiefs' defense has been, and the fact that Alex Smith continues to play mistake-free at the quarterback position — but just as much was based on injuries having taken their toll on the rest of the conference's best teams.
If you isolate the quarterback position, the only team with a really good situation there right now is New England with Tom Brady (assuming the Jets get in ahead of Pittsburgh), and they've been decimated at the skill positions with injuries to running back Dion Lewis and wide receiver Julian Edelman.
N.F.L. Week 17 Previews and Picks from The New York Times
Raiders (7-8) at Chiefs (10-5)
4:25 p.m. Line: Chiefs by 6.5
The red-hot Chiefs, winners of nine in a row, can clinch the A.F.C. West with a win and a Denver loss. Otherwise, they will get into the playoffs as a wild card.
What has been interesting about their winning streak is that the Chiefs have done it while the opponent has often accumulated more total yards. In Kansas City's four December games, the offense was outgained by an average of just under 70 yards a game — including by 361-232 in a 34-20 win on Dec. 6 against Oakland. It probably hasn't hurt that the Chiefs have turned the ball over a league-low 13 times.
Key matchup: Oakland's pass protection versus the Chiefs' pass rush. Derek Carr has only been sacked 25 times this season, but a season-high four of those came in the 34-20 loss to Kansas Cityback in Week 13. The Broncos sacked Carr that many times in Oakland this season as well, in another Raiders loss. In Oakland's seven wins, Carr has been sacked only nine times. NeitherJustin Houston nor Tamba Hali dressed for the Chiefs last week, and they still won. Both could return in Week 17.
Playoff implications: If Kansas City wins this AFC West game, and if the Chargers bring their best product out on the field in Denver to beat the Broncos, the Chiefs will have gone from being written off at 1-5 to winning the division at 11-5. Anyone remember Jamaal Charles? #OAKvsKC
Garceau: Week 17 NFL Power Ratings from CBS Baltimore
Kansas City: Andy Reid's Chiefs lost 5 straight and since have run off 9 wins in a row, amazing! The Chiefs are solid in all phases but spectacular in none. In the passing game Jeremy Macklin and Travis Kelce give Alex Smith nice targets. The defense lead by Justin Houston and Tomba Hali can harass quarterbacks. I wouldn't be surprised to see them win a playoff game; I would be surprised to see them win more than 1.