Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes had their regular day-after-game press session on Monday.
By the time he talks to the media the day after a game, Reid has had a chance to see the game film. So sometimes the points of emphasis change subtly from those he has given after having only seen the game from the sidelines. That happened again on Monday.
“I thought the team played well collectively,” he said in his opening statement. “Offense, defense and special teams. I thought the coordinators had a good plan. Oakland, I felt, was a team on the rise. They’ve been strong here [in] the latter part of the season. Jon Gruden has done a good job [with] that. We had to come in with the right attitude and I thought our guys did that.
“[This] is a good stepping stone into the playoffs,” Reid continued. “We know our work clearly isn’t done. I’ve been through this a couple [of] times, and it is important how we handle this next week. We will work some of the week, and take a couple days off to heal up and get ourselves ready. But we will continue to work and get ourselves ready for whoever we play.”
Reid said that even though they don’t yet know whether they will play the Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers or Indianapolis Colts a week from Saturday, they already have a good picture of two of their potential opponents.
“Logically, two of the teams you have played against,” he explained. “So, you have spent the hours on those two teams. The other one you haven’t played. So — just logically — you go back and look at that team. But you also stay fresh on the other ones.”
Mahomes was asked about that, too — and agreed with the head coach.
“Luckily we’ve already played two of the teams we could play, so we know we have a generalization on those guys,” he said. “[On] the other team, you don’t necessarily want to look too early, but at the same time you want to make sure you have a generalization of what they do. For me, it’s all about perfecting my craft — and this team’s craft — while we are preparing, and then when the time comes to prepare for [a specific] team we will be ready for that.”
The press wanted to know if there was a specific reason the Chiefs haven’t been able to win close postseason games on Reid’s watch.
“It would probably be similar to the games during the year that you might not come out on the right end on,” he replied. “You go back, and you have to coach better. I have to coach better, and then [the players] have to play better. And that is normally what goes into losses. The further you go into the playoffs, the more you [have to] minimize those mistakes. Whether it is scheme or penalties — or whatever it might be — the errors. And then your intensity level also goes up.”
Mahomes expanded on that idea.
“I mean, there’s definitely an intensity that you don’t have during the regular season,” he said. “But preparation-wise, you are still doing the same things that [have] gotten you here. You still prepare: watch the film, game plan and do those things that you’ve had success with during the season. And [you] try to maximize those.”
Reid flatly denied that luck was a factor.
“I don’t get caught up in all that bad luck,” he said. “You create your own deal and you go play. We don’t worry about all that stuff. Just go play. Get yourself ready, go through the process, and get yourself ready to go.”
Reid was asked what he thought had made the difference in the team’s improved defense against the Raiders.
“I thought we tackled better and I thought we rallied to the ball,” he responded. “We attacked — even if we got beat. You’re going to get beat in the National Football League. That happens. No one is 100 percent in whatever area you play in in this league. You have to have a short memory, and then you have to stay aggressive. Our guys did that. I was proud of them for that. They kept bringing it and bringing it. Whether someone made a play — or didn’t make a play — they didn’t care. They kept bringing it. That normally brings you into a really good position.”
And how could the Chiefs be sure to maintain that aggressiveness and mindset into — and throughout — the postseason? Reid said the answer was to continue to work on fundamentals — and that with an extra week of preparation, they’d also able to improve the level of competition in practices.
“I think you go back and you focus in on the fundamentals,” Reid said. “Some of [the] base things that you do. You tighten them up. It will be good work because we will get to work ones-versus-ones as we go. It will be good, solid work as we go through the week. There are certain things that you have an opportunity — with time — to work them.”
Reporters also wanted to know if the changes in the defensive secondary over the last two games of the season would become the norm in the postseason.
“We have some flexibility there,“ Reid said. “I’ll tell you, Charvarius Ward — I thought he did a nice job [on Sunday]. Some of the things we talked about — just challenging him, stripping the ball, working up through the ball — the things that are important as a cornerback. I thought he took a step forward. That was good to see. He played physical. I thought the other guys did a nice job, too. Dan Sorensen had a huge play for us. That was big.”
Reid said that the youth of players like Ward is a big factor — but the team still depends on veteran leadership.
“Young guys bring a lot of energy,” he said. “Then it is just a matter of making sure we are doing the right things. You saw the enthusiasm and effort. I don’t want to take anything away from the old guys because they are all behind that. They’re in there coaching and helping out. They have a great attitude — the two veterans I am thinking of there. They have been phenomenal, and they ended up playing in the game, so they were a part of it.”
Reid was also asked about another big difference in the game against the Raiders: the complete absence of costly penalties — especially on defense.
“Again, I am not going to tell you that we don’t always make that an emphasis, but it worked out right,” Reid replied. “Again, [as] I go back, a lot of these penalties are fundamentals and techniques. You have to go back and work those things. Every opportunity you have to do that, there’s got to be a certain urgency there to get that accomplished. I just thought our guys had a nice focus going in [with] working on that. Not that they haven’t in the past, but there are just some things you have to get yourself in the right position, or you are going to get called.”
Reporters were also curious about the head coach’s reaction to Justin Houston’s postgame speech to the team — the one Pete Sweeney related in this week’s Re-Up column:
“All the time you got, dog, please put it in this, dog,” he yelled as his eyes traced the room. “We only got three weeks to give it all we got. That’s all, brother! You got the rest of the offseason to do whatever you want. Three weeks to give it all you got. All your time dedicated to this, man. Let’s go get this thing, dog. Let’s go get it.”
“Yeah, Justin is one of the really good leaders we have there,” Reid said of the speech. “Justin stood up and talked after the game. You heard it. You heard what he said, and that’s how he feels. He’s been one of the guys that has been around, and understands that urgency that it takes. You have a nice mixture of young and old guys. The young guys have to keep that in mind — the guys who haven’t been through it. They have to stay focused. You have a lot of things happening between New Year’s and everything going on right now during the holiday season. You have to keep your focus.”
Mahomes was also asked for his reaction.
“I think we feel that. You feel that in the locker room. You feel that from the leaders of this team. We know it’s going to take full effort the whole entire way. You can’t be satisfied with just being here, we want to capitalize on the opportunity to be here and having the number one seed, so we are excited for the opportunity. We really are. Everyone is pumped up and we are ready to go.”
Finally, Mahomes was asked about his plans for Wild Card Weekend. Is he planning to watch any of the games?
“All of them,” he replied. “You’re lucky enough they’re all at different times, so you can see everyone playing and how they’re playing against each other.”
And Mahomes said that he enjoys watching them a lot more than he used to — now that he knows what it’s like to be an NFL quarterback.
“I think it’s even more fun to watch football games now because I understand what is going on,” he said. “It’s kind of like when you see Tony Romo calling the plays before they happen. I can see that stuff. It’s more fun. Now that I understand why quarterbacks are doing things on the field, being able to have that understanding makes it a lot more fun to watch.”
Here’s to hoping it’s a very long time before Mahomes auditions for Romo’s job.