When the Kansas City Chiefs faced off against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 10 of the regular season, Jacksonville caught Kansas City with its pants down by attempting an onside kick to start the game — and recovered the ball.
Asked what fans should expect when the teams meet Saturday for their Divisional Round matchup on GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson drew a laugh from reporters.
“Yeah,” he joked, “we’re going to onside kick again to start the game.”
While there is often some truth in a joke, Kansas City special teams coordinator Dave Toub wasn’t buying it on Wednesday afternoon.
“I’d be really surprised if they came out with a surprise onside kick again,” he told the local media. “I mean, that would be something.”
But Toub still thinks Jacksonville could have some sort of trickery up its sleeve.
“We know that they will do anything,” he noted. “So you know we are ready for everything — and anything.”
Being ready to defend against a sucker punch like an onside kick or a fake punt can be the difference between winning and losing a game. Toub knows that for the Chiefs to be successful, taking care of special-teams business will be important.
But he also thinks his unit’s performance against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 18 was among the cleanest of the season.
“I would say last week was solid,” said Toub, “and that’s a good thing that it was right before the playoffs. That’s a good way to go in. That was our goal: to be solid and clean in that game — and that’s how we ended up.”
The weather forecast for Saturday's game calls for a better-than-even chance for a mix of rain and snow — with a high of 37 degrees at kickoff. Toub acknowledged that could have an impact on how both special teams units approach the matchup.
“There might be a situation where it’s so windy or wet that you just tell them, ‘Hey, we’re going to line up out there but we’re not going to field [the ball]. We’re going to get the ball back.’ That could happen. That’s happened before with us — and with me.”
Just the same, Toub said that given the opportunity, Kansas City wouldn’t shy away from trying to make a play.
“Most of the time,” he said, “if the ball is kicked right to us, we’re going to field it. [But] we’re professional athletes. We’re going to try to make a play right there.”
The biggest factor could be the kicking game. In the playoffs, that can be the difference between moving on or going home. While placekicker Harrison Butker has been struggling with back spasms over the last couple of weeks — enough so that the Chiefs signed backup kicker Matthew Wright to the practice squad and elevated him for the Raiders game — Butker ended up playing anyway.
“He responded well,” noted Toub. “You know, his back, he had the spasms. He didn’t have any issues on the last day of practice during the week, so we felt pretty good about it.
“But we still brought Matt with us — just in case — but you know it was a long shot that he wouldn’t kick. And then [Butker] kicked great. [He] had a great warm-up and good pregame. No issues.”
Butker, holder Tommy Townsend and long snapper James Winchester were five-for-five in Las Vegas.
The team’s longtime placekicker wasn’t listed Wednesday’s injury report. The expectation is that he’s ready to go — and that despite Saturday’s messy weather, the Chiefs can get another clean game from its special teams.