The Kansas City Chiefs continue preparations for their AFC Championship matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday as both teams eye another coveted trip to the Super Bowl. This will be a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game, in which the Chiefs lost by a score of 27-24 in overtime.
The Chiefs have lost their last three matchups against the Bengals, each by a score of three points. Despite this unwanted trend, special teams coordinator Dave Toub says his unit is practicing just as hard and detailed-oriented as ever in preparation for this Sunday’s big game.
“Every game is so important, but these games and particularly this team, it’s always a close game,” Toub told reporters on Thursday. “We’re practicing hard. The guys’ attention to detail has been outstanding so far this week. We got a lot more work to do, but still, it’s been pretty awesome.”
Because of how close the margin of victory has been in previous matchups against the Bengals, every scoring opportunity will be crucial for Sunday’s game. Stealing points right before halftime have been a Kansas City specialty in recent years, but in the case of their playoff matchup against Cincinnati last year, the Chiefs’ two-minute offense failed to attempt a field goal while at the 1-yard line as time expired.
The three points ended up being the difference in the game, as Toub recalls the play vividly.
“We knew the situation then too; we just made a mistake last year,” Toub recalled. “I know that was the thing that happened last year. We were in field-goal range obviously, and we try to get one more play. Sometimes you push it a little bit too much or you make a mistake, and then you mess yourself up there, but we are always prepared for those situations.
“[Patrick Mahomes] doesn’t need a lot of time to be able to get us into field goal range, and then [Harrison] Butker can do what he does. We’re always thinking at least three points. We’re always thinking that, and I stand next to Andy [Reid], we communicate, and so that’s being done at all times.”
Sunday’s game also represents the final game at Arrowhead Stadium this season. The weather projects to be extremely cold, with temperatures as low as 20 degrees as the evening carries on.
Toub discussed how the team is compensating for the rough conditions projected for this weekend.
“The ball doesn’t fly as well in the cold weather, which we’re going to have to deal with again,” Toub explained. “So, we may have to come with a different plan. Maybe sky kick or short bloops or squibs or something to try to change up the game a little bit as far as field position goes.”
On the Cincinnati side, Toub had nothing but praise for Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons. Toub notes how experienced and well-coached the Bengals’ unit is and cautions that they can make a big play at any moment if the Chiefs aren’t careful.
“They’re very good, very well-coached,” Toub said. “When you watch them, small details that (Bengals special teams coordinator) Darrin Simmons has got them doing, it’s impressive. They’ve been together for a while, they’re an experienced group, and they make you pay if you’re not careful.”
Although special teams have been a weak point for the Chiefs this season, it’s hard not to be excited every time wide receiver and punt returner Kadarius Toney has the ball in his hands. Toney’s speed, shiftiness, and strength are highlighted whenever he has the ball in open space.
Toub believes it’s only a matter of time before his unique skill set results in what would be the Chiefs’ first special teams touchdown of the season.
“I think the thing that kind of goes unnoticed — I mean, it’s being noticed now — is how strong he is,” Toub said. “Guys get ahold of him, they get a grip on him, and he can run through tackles. He’s a tough runner. So, I know when he gets a chance, when he gets a breakaway run on a punt return, he’s going to make somebody pay. I just feel like it’s coming.”