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What we learned about the Chiefs in Week 15

Taking a look at the week of December 14 on Arrowhead Pride...

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NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs-Dolphins rapid reaction: A tale of two questions

After the Kansas City Chiefs won a 33-27 dogfight against the Miami Dolphins, our coverage included the Arrowhead Pride Nerd Squad’s concerns about the Chiefs continuing to dominate only for small stretches of their games and Matt Stagner’s customary list of the game’s winners and losers. John Dixon marveled at the Chiefs’ ability to win a game in which they had a -3 turnover ratio. And Pete Sweeney’s rapid reaction posed some questions.

Who can stop a Tyreek Hill sweep or a 44-yarder through the air in stride? How does a defense account for Travis Kelce — knowing that Mahomes will find him in a soft spot in the end zone? How can a quarterback operate when Jones, Clark, Tershawn Wharton and Alex Okafor are making him so uncomfortable — and with Tyrann Mathieu ready to collect?

There are no answers to those questions — and that is why the Chiefs won on Sunday, despite losing the turnover battle 4 to 1. Usually winning with a minus-three ratio in that department is unheard of — but the Chiefs managed to pull it off. Mahomes had one of his worst games as a pro, throwing three picks for the first time since 2018, but he still had over 390 yards and two touchdowns.

File it under a cliché we know and love — that great teams find a way to win when they don’t have their best day.

Chiefs-Dolphins snap counts: Willie Gay sees little use with Wilson out

On Monday morning, we found a surprise in the snap count data from Sunday’s game.

But perhaps the biggest surprise was at the defense’s second level. We had expected rookie Willie Gay Jr. to get most of Damien Wilson’s snaps while he sat out of Sunday’s game with an injury, but instead, it was Ben Niemann who got most of the extra work. Anthony Hitchen’s use was actually down.

Andy Reid roundup: Four takeaways from the Chiefs head coach

Speaking to the press on Monday, the Chiefs’ head coach was asked about why the Chiefs have had so many close victories in recent weeks.

“I think that team [Sunday] was a good team,” started Reid, talking about the Dolphins. “I think Brian Flores has done a heck of a job down there and they’ve got good players. So, we’ve got to take care of a few of the little things there, but I appreciate the effort. The mistakes that we’re making are guys trying to make that extra play, you know, just that extra little inch to be even better than what you are. So, sometimes you can go a little too far with it, but that’s easier to back down when you don’t have the juice.

“When you’re trying to muster up juice, that’s not always a good thing, so this is probably just the opposite of that. So, we’re close. We’ve got a few games here, or a couple games here at least, to get ourselves right where we’re really hitting that thing full-speed.”

Chiefs waive wide receiver Marcus Kemp; roster stands at 51

On Tuesday, the Chiefs parted ways with one of their special teams' aces.

The Kansas City Chiefs are waiving wide receiver Marcus Kemp, according to the NFL’s official transaction report. Friend-of-the-site Matt Derrick of Chiefs Digest notes that Kemp is likely to re-join the Chiefs’ practice squad if he clears waivers.

Kemp, 25, has been up and down the Chiefs’ active roster in 2020, as they navigate fielding a team during the coronavirus pandemic. His most recent move up came on November 28 after the Chiefs placed Byron Pringle on injured reserve. Now that it has been three weeks, Pringle is eligible to return.

Film review: A closer look at Mike Danna — and why he’s earned a more significant role

Matt Lane also took a look at Sunday’s film for Kansas City’s fifth-round rookie defensive end.

While he may not have the highest upside as a pass rusher, he showed how he can be utilized as a tertiary rusher to clean-up quarterbacks escaping Frank Clark and Chris Jones. He really makes his mark on the game as a run defender, where he simply outperforms every defensive end not named Clark.

His ability to play assignment-sound football while putting himself in position to make plays at the point of attack is not something the Chiefs have gotten out of the left defensive end position.

Chiefs find themselves in a pickle on the offensive line

Once we learned that both of the team’s offensive tackles were held out of Wednesday’s practice, we examined the options the Chiefs will have if they can’t play against the Saints.

During Sunday’s game, undrafted rookie Yasir Durant came in for Mike Remmers at right tackle — just as he did for brief periods in the games against the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers. So Durant is certainly someone the Chiefs could use at tackle against the Saints.

Martinas Rankin is also on that list. The former third-round pick actually started five games at left guard early in the 2019 season before he was injured in November and placed on injured reserve. It was a full year before he could make it back to the active roster, but he has been inactive on game day for two of three weeks since his return. Yet the Chiefs do list him as a tackle, so we’ll have to consider him to be in the mix on the outside.

Andrew Wylie also has experience at tackle but is currently starting at right guard. An interesting remark that Reid made on Monday seemed to suggest the Durant could move inside, which would leave open the possibility the Chiefs could kick Wylie out to tackle.

Former Chiefs wide receiver signs with Dolphins

It had been reported that the Chiefs intended to put Marcus Kemp back on the practice squad after his release — but on Wednesday night, the Dolphins had another idea.

The Chiefs had waived Kemp from the active roster on Tuesday — presumably to make room for the return of wide receiver Byron Pringle from injured reserve. Pringle was back at practice on Wednesday and is expected to be activated soon — likely in time for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.

As Derrick noted, Kemp (who was signed to the Chiefs practice squad on October 8) was elevated to the active roster for three games this season — once designated as a reserve/COVID list elevation and twice as a standard elevation — before being activated to the active roster on November 28. The Dolphins — who are currently thin at wide receiver — will be likely to elevate him for a couple of games this season.

Despite occasional play-calling criticism, Chiefs 12-1 for first time

On Thursday, John Dixon noted that between their Super Bowl wins, Chiefs teams had displayed plenty of flaws — and that the team’s current head coach has some, too.

But in the eyes of many, Reid also has a fatal flaw: his penchant for getting “too cute” with his offensive plays. Widely regarded as one of the most creative play designers in the game, Reid does indeed bring plays to the field that other coaches cannot imagine. But when one of those plays goes wrong, Reid is the one who gets the blame.

And that’s OK with Reid, who consistently directs the greatest criticism at himself.

“I think we all need to do that,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “That’s part of it. That’s something that most people don’t do. I think you better look in the mirror before you criticize others. So it starts with me and I’ve got to make sure that I do that — sincerely do that, not just say it. I’ve tried to always be that way — and I expect the guys to do the same, the best they possibly can.”

Report: Drew Brees to start for Saints vs. Chiefs on Sunday

All week, we had figured that Drew Brees would not be ready to play the Chiefs. But on Friday, the situation changed.

Brees had missed the Saints’ last four games due to suffering 11 broken ribs and a collapsed lung in New Orleans’ Week 10 game against the San Francisco 49ers. But the Saints designated him to return on Wednesday, and he looked to be moving well in video out of New Orleans.

“He’a a great player,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said of Brees on Friday. “I figured he would [play] — I read somewhere that Taysom Hill was in the special teams meetings, so I figured that Drew was probably healthy and ready to go. We’ve got a ton of respect for both guys, but Drew is a future Hall of Famer and well deserving. He’s tremendous for this league, he’s tremendous for the position and I look forward to the challenge of playing against him.”

Chiefs vs. Saints final injury report: Michael Thomas ruled OUT against Chiefs

Then we got two pieces of news: the Saints’ most talented receiver would not play, and there was a chance that at least one of the Kansas City’s offensive tackles could play.

Chiefs running back Darwin Thompson (illness) and linebacker Damien Wilson have officially been ruled out for the game. Right tackle Mike Remmers (back) is doubtful. When Remmers was hurt last week, rookie Yasir Durant checked into the game at tackle.

With the additional news that left tackle Eric Fisher (back) is officially questionable, head coach Andy Reid was asked about the potential impact on the offensive line.

REID: “One of the good things, if there is a good thing—the way it’s set up now is you can have these veteran players in on your practice squad, so you’ve got enough people here. I think it’s kind of a neat deal. It’s a little bit of a storage area or farm system, whatever you want to call it, but it’s good to have those guys and we were able to bring a couple of those types of players in at different positions. So, it helps you in this type of situation. If Remmers can’t go, then we’ve got guys that have played in the league and can step in and play.”

Fisher practiced with a full designation on Friday, a good sign for his availability; Damien Wilson will miss his second game in a row with the knee issue.