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Arrowheadlines: Kicking balls underinflated during Chiefs-Patriots’ first half

Chiefs headlines for Thursday, December 21.

Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The latest

Sources: Kicking balls weren’t inflated properly for Patriots vs. Chiefs | MassLIve

Following their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Patriots special teamers were visibly upset in the locker room on Sunday due to an error by the officiating staff. According to multiple sources, the footballs that are meant for each team’s kicking units were underinflated by two pounds.

After team complaints, officials took the ‘K-Balls’ into the locker room at halftime where they were discovered to weigh 11 pounds per square inch instead of the legal limit of 13.5, per sources.

The underinflated footballs didn’t travel as well in the Foxborough weather on Sunday and sources indicated that’s why Patriots kicker Chad Ryland and Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker missed field goals in the first half. Sources noted that the footballs traveled farther in the second half once inflated to the proper 13.5 PSI.

Patrick Mahomes is well aware of Chiefs’ playoff-clinching scenarios on Christmas | Kansas City Star

Receiving the same present every Christmas may not sound optimal, but there’s one that Chiefs fans will be happy for again this year.

There are two ways for the Chiefs to secure their spot in the postseason on Christmas Day. They can clinch their eighth straight AFC West championship on Monday with a win over the Raiders. Should the Broncos lose to the Patriots on Christmas Eve, the Chiefs would merely need to tie Las Vegas to win the division.

So it could be a very merry Christmas for the Chiefs and their fans.

During his weekly chat on KCSP (610 AM), quarterback Patrick Mahomes was asked about possibly clinching the AFC West on Christmas Day. He knows a victory over the Raiders will get the Chiefs in the playoffs as division champions.

“That’s always our first goal is to win the AFC West,” Mahomes said. “We understand how hard that is to do. You have to come in with that mentality of every single year, you’ve got to play your best game .... (have) your best practice, your best film study, whatever that is, in order to win the AFC West.

3 Players Chiefs Must Target in Offseason to Maximize Patrick Mahomes’ Potential | Bleacher Report

Sign: WR Marquise Brown

The Chiefs receiving corps has been frustrating, but it does look like they have found a future No. 1 receiver in Rashee Rice. The SMU alum is third among all rookie receivers in yards (758) this season and tied for second in touchdowns with seven.

Rice has looked particularly good over the last four weeks, averaging 9.5 targets per game with 32 catches, 334 yards and three touchdowns. Extrapolated over a 17-game season that would be 136 receptions, 1,419 yards and nearly 13 touchdowns. That’s a pretty far leap, but it shows just how good he’s been recently.

What the Chiefs really need in free agency is a receiver with experience who can be the No. 2. Releasing Marquez Valdes-Scantling would free up $12 million in cap space, which opens the door for the Chiefs to get a little bit aggressive.

Targeting a No. 1 receiver like Tee Higgins or Mike Evans might be a bit aggressive, but going down a tier to get Marquise Brown would make a lot of sense. The 26-year-old could play a similar role to MVS as the vertical threat with the speed to get behind defenses, but a better track record of coming down with them.

Brown has tried and failed to be a top option. Despite opportunities to be the top receiver in Baltimore and Arizona he has just one season with more than a 1,000 yards. Still he would be a high end No. 2 for the Chiefs and give them the vertical threat they don’t have right now.

Best NFL players at 101 different skills: Top QBs, WRs, CBs | ESPN

Most instinctive passer: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

It’s the anticipation and second-reaction throwing ability that stands out for me here. Mahomes has a rare feel for finding open receivers late in the play. His 77.0 QBR outside the pocket speaks to his ability to rely on his instincts and make things happen.

2023 NFL Week 16 QB Power Rankings: Bills’ Josh Allen pushing for top spot; Browns’ Joe Flacco leaps again | CBS Sports

6 - Patrick Mahomes

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS QB

Every week, a headlining miscue from his supporting cast muddies up the groove, though he’s also contributed to the hiccups with lackadaisical heaves of his own. At the end of the day, to have K.C. at 9-5 is still a credit to his poise.

Chiefs hosting ‘Mama Kelce’s Cookies’ fundraiser during Christmas Day game | KCTV5

Aramark is teaming up with Travis Kelce’s mom, Donna, to sell her famous chocolate chip cookies to fans attending Monday afternoon’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Proceeds from “Mama Kelce’s Cookies” sales will benefit Operation Breakthrough in Kansas City. Aramark said it plans to match the money raised through the cookie sales.

Chiefs fans will find the cookies for sale inside Arrowhead Stadium at Kingdom Lodge. The location is in Section 136.

The cookies will also be sold during the Philadelphia Eagles game on Christmas Day. Proceeds raised in Philadelphia will support the Eagles Autism Foundation. Aramark will also match the donation to that organization.

Around the NFL

Falcons to start Taylor Heinicke over Desmond Ridder for final three games of 2023 regular season | NFL.com

Atlanta Falcons coach Arthur Smith has made his third QB change of the season, benching Desmond Ridder for the second time in favor of backup Taylor Heinicke.

Ridder opened the 2023 regular season as the starter, and despite struggles, Smith spent the bulk of the early part of the campaign rebuffing calls for a QB swap. Then, before Week 9, Smith made a signal-caller change, handing the duties to Heinicke for two weeks. After Ridder replaced an injured Heinicke to close out a near comeback in Week 10, Smith flopped back to Ridder.

At the time of the change, Smith indicated the job would be Ridder’s for the rest of the season. But following a dismal performance in Sunday’s 9-7 loss to Carolina, Smith reversed gears again.

Like he did after Ridder re-entered the lineup, Smith said the plan is for Heinicke to start the rest of the season.

Jets to activate Aaron Rodgers off IR to allow QB to continue to practice with team | NFL.com

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh announced on Wednesday that the team is activating Aaron Rodgers off injured reserve even though the veteran QB will not play again this season.

Saleh added that the decision was made in part to allow Rodgers, who tore his Achilles just minutes into the Jets’ regular-season opener, to continue to practice with the team.

“It’s all part of his rehab,” Saleh told reporters on Wednesday. “Just having him on the field is a plus for everybody, for him and his teammates.”

Wednesday’s news comes roughly 24 hours after Rodgers indicated that he would not play again this season during his Tuesday appearance on The Pat McAfee Show.

There is little value in a return to game action for Rodgers in 2023. New York’s disappointing season cleared an undesirable checkpoint when they were officially eliminated from playoff contention with Sunday’s 30-0 loss to Miami.

Tommy DeVito makes unpaid appearance at pizzeria after tiff | ESPN

Tommy DeVito made good on an apparent agreement with a New Jersey-based pizzeria to make an appearance on Tuesday after the restaurant announced it had to cancel the event because the New York Giants quarterback doubled his appearance fee.

Coniglio’s Old Fashioned pizzeria in Morristown announced on social media Sunday that it would no longer be hosting DeVito after the restaurant “received word from his agent that his appearance fee would be doubling” from $10,000 to $20,000. According to an Instagram post by Coniglio’s, DeVito’s representatives raised the appearance fee after DeVito led the Giants to a comeback victory over the Packers on “Monday Night Football” last week.

However, after the story gained traction on social media, DeVito made an unpaid appearance at the pizzeria Tuesday afternoon, according to sports business reporter Darren Rovell.

Chargers RB Austin Ekeler says he’s ‘still painting my resume’ for 2024 free agency | NFL.com

Much like the Chargers coaching staff, running back Austin Ekeler plans to polish his résumé in the final three games during a lost season in L.A.

“I’m a free agent after this year, and so I’m still painting my résumé,” he said on Tuesday, via Kris Rhim of ESPN.

Ekler and the Chargers were in a contract stalemate this offseason, which included a trade request and the running back receiving permission to see a swap. Nothing materialized, and sides ultimately agreed to add $1.75 million in incentives to his existing contract — of which he’s falling short with three games to play.

In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride

Chiefs-Patriots snap counts: Chamarri Conner steps up

Running backs

In Week 14 against the Buffalo Bills — the first game that Isiah Pacheco missed with his shoulder injury — Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerrick McKinnon got an almost equal percentage of offensive snaps. In Sunday’s game, however, Edwards-Helaire was on the field for 61% of the reps, while McKinnon had 36%. This may have been because McKinnon was shaken up during the Chiefs’s final first-half drive. While he was back on the field in the third quarter, the team may have chosen to use him a bit less often. In any case, the Chiefs did not give any offensive snaps to Deneric Prince, who had been elevated from the practice squad for the third time. La’Mical Perine has also been elevated for the maximum of three regular-season games, so it’s a good thing that Isiah Pacheco is expected back for Week 16.

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