Just before the Kansas City Chiefs defense took the field for the first time against the New York Giants on Monday Night Football, the offense had turned the ball over in the end zone. Then — on only the Giants’ second play from scrimmage — second-year linebacker Willie Gay Jr. intercepted a Daniel Jones throw and ran the ball back to the New York 13-yard line. Gay’s interception set up a Chiefs first touchdown just a few plays later.
“Just doing your job,” Gay said of the play. “Once you do your job — plays come to you. And it was something as simple as just [working] through the passing lane and [the] quarterback’s staring down a route — and he just threw it right to me. When you do your job, that’s what happens.”
It was Gay’s second interception in as many games. Over the last two weeks, the team has had good returns from second-round picks in the last two drafts: Gay and rookie Nick Bolton.
“Nick as a rookie — he’s just so good,” Gay said of his teammate. “This time last year when I was a rookie, I couldn’t even do half of what he’s doing. I love playing with him. Love watching him play. He’s smart, he can get everybody lined up. We’ve just got to keep doing that — and that room can get better each and every week.”
Gay also made a big play on the Giants’ first drive of the second half, stopping Jones on a short-yardage carry. “I did my job,” Gay repeated. “I blitzed and I didn’t get through. So I look over left and I see he’s carrying the ball out. I [saw] him trying to turn it up the field — and I just made a tackle, dog. It was perfect timing — perfect place.”
The defense as a whole played considerably better against a two-win Giants team that was missing several key offensive starters. Gay stressed the importance of continuing to play with good fundamentals against the Chiefs’ next opponent: the 7-1 Green Bay Packers.
“Of course they’re a good team — they won without three of their starters on offense,” Gay observed of the Packers’ recent win over the previously undefeated Arizona Cardinals. “We’ve just got to do our job. Can’t give up crazy deep balls. Can’t jump offsides. Just basic Football 101. Can’t hurt yourself — and can’t let them just take the top off of the defense.”
Due to his injury — and reduced-capacity crowds in 2020 — Monday night’s 20-17 victory was the linebacker’s first win in front of a full crowd at Arrowhead Stadium.
“It’s special,” Gay said of the home atmosphere. “Since I was in high school, I felt like when you can interact with the fans and get them involved in the game, I feel like it’s special. They bring energy to the game. Last year was hard. A guy like me — I like to be juiced up. To have the fans involved in the game like that and be juiced up the whole fourth quarter — it’s big.”
And once again, Gay addressed his social media posts that have alluded to his mental health.
“I’m doing pretty good,” Gay reassured his listeners. “Every day is not going to be easy. I’ll have probably three good days in a row — then next week on Monday I’ll probably have the worst day ever.
“It’s a journey. I just got to keep my head up and keep pushing forward — just take it one day at a time. I’m doing a lot better than I was then. I can focus a little bit better with football; I had a lot going on outside back then. [I] just keep my head down and keep working.”