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Eric Bieniemy on ball security: ‘You got to protect it at all cost’

The Chiefs’ offensive coordinator discussed the recent performances of running backs Jerick McKinnon and Isiah Pacheco.

Kansas City Chiefs v Houston Texans Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

With a winter storm bringing frigid conditions to Arrowhead Stadium, the Kansas City Chiefs’ run game will look to stay hot during the team’s Christmas Eve matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. The Chiefs have seen outstanding production from their running backs in recent weeks, and that trend is expected to continue in Week 16, according to offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

“We’re going to do whatever we need to do to win, and if it means running the football, we got to run it,” Bieniemy told reporters on Wednesday.

The combination of cold weather and a Seattle team struggling to defend the run should open a plethora of golden opportunities for a Kansas City rushing attack that is heating up at just the right time. Running back Jerick Mckinnon has spearheaded the unit’s production, scoring five touchdowns in the past three games — including an overtime game-winner last Sunday afternoon.

Despite seeing low usage to start the season, McKinnon’s stellar performances in all facets of the game have rightfully earned him the trust of the Chiefs’ coaching staff as he continues to play a big role for the team in critical situations.

“Jerick is doing a great job,” Bieniemy said. “Jerick is doing everything that we expected him to do and that’s just who he is. He’s the ultimate professional [and] he does a great job of working it on the field but the thing I don’t think he probably gets enough credit for is just his leadership that he provides [and] being an example of what it takes to be a professional to all the young players in our room.”

Mckinnon’s leadership and professionalism are critical in the development of rookie running back Isiah Pacheco. Despite a solid first year where he is averaging 4.9 yards per carry, Pacheco lost his second fumble of the season in the second quarter of Sunday’s game — relegating him to the bench for the rest of the half.

Although he wanted to send a message to Pacheco that fumbling issues are unacceptable, Bieniemy made it clear that the team still has the utmost confidence in his abilities.

“You obviously want those guys to understand that there’s a great deal of confidence in them,” Bieniemy explained. “I know he didn’t go right back in after that play, but that was just because of the play that was being called. We haven’t lost any confidence in him at all. Pacheco was still Pacheco, and he understands exactly what needs to be done. But also, he understands that he has to be accountable and making sure he’s doing the little things necessary to help us to be the consistent team that we need to be.”

While it was Pacheco’s fumble that stood out the most last week, turnovers have been a constant issue for the Chiefs’ offense this season. Sunday’s game marked the ninth straight week that Kansas City committed a turnover. Because of this, ball security was a major point of emphasis throughout Bieniemy’s press conference as the team hopes to clean this aspect of their game in time for the playoffs.

“We’ve had a number of turnovers in the past how many weeks in a row and it’s been addressed,” Bieniemy stressed to the media. “Guys need to understand this. In order to be a team that wants to exceed all expectations and go out and pursue a championship, there’s certain things you can’t do. You can’t turn over the football. Right now, we got to protect the ball. We got to do a better job of understanding how important it is of possessing it and making sure that whatever individual has that ball last, their job is to hand it back to the ref.

“So, we got to do a better job and obviously as coaches, we are addressing it. But as players, we got to make sure that we’re doing all the little things necessary. You got to keep two hands on it. You got to protect it at all cost. Can’t give it up, just can’t do it.”

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