Kansas City, Mo. The Chiefs didn’t take any chances in a regular-season finale that had no bearing on their playoff situation, resting virtually all of their starters in an overtime loss to San Diego.
Now, it appears the Chiefs will be near full strength for the first time in weeks when they visit the Indianapolis Colts for an AFC wild-card playoff game on Saturday.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Monday that wide receiver Dwayne Bowe was going through the protocol to clear him from a concussion that he sustained against the Colts two weeks ago, while outside linebacker Tamba Hali is making progress from inflammation in his knee.
Fellow linebacker Justin Houston, who’s been out because of a dislocated elbow, and left tackle Branden Albert, who has had a hyperextended knee, are also expected back against the Colts.
“It’s the start of a new season. That’s how the playoffs work,” Reid said. “You’re in the dance, as they say. It’s another phase of the season. You’ve worked very hard as a team to get into this position. Now it’s important that you exhaust yourself to make sure you’re right.”
At least in terms of health, the Chiefs are getting right at the right time.
Bowe would not have been cleared to play in the 27-24 loss to the Chargers, but Reid sounded optimistic Monday that Bowe will be ready to go against Indianapolis. The Chiefs’ top pass-catcher was hurt late in a 23-7 loss to the Colts at Arrowhead Stadium when he landed on his neck.
Hali, meanwhile, developed some tenderness in his knee against the Colts, and the team’s leading pass-rusher was held out of practice last week. Reid said Monday “the inflammation in his knee has gone down, and we’ll just see how he does tomorrow.”
The Chiefs are scheduled to have a full practice today.
Houston and Albert both practiced fully last week, only to sit out Sunday with a slew of other key players. Houston hasn’t played since hurting his elbow against San Diego on Nov. 24, while Albert hurt his knee the following week against Denver.
Reid also said that cornerback Sean Smith, who hurt his knee Sunday, was doing fine when he arrived to the team’s practice facility Monday. Right tackle Eric Fisher, who left the game and has been dealing with shoulder injuries, is also expected to be ready for the Colts.
“Obviously, guys are going to be feeling pretty fresh, so that’s a good thing,” said quarterback Alex Smith, who was among seven inactive for the Chargers game. “It will really help us as far as the week goes, having a great week of preparation.”
After going just 2-14 last season, the Chiefs fired coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli and overhauled most of the front office. Reid was brought in along with new GM John Dorsey, and in short order they managed to change the entire culture of the franchise.
Kansas City raced to a 9-0 start fueled by an opportunistic defense and spectacular special teams, only to struggle down the stretch. The Chiefs will head into the playoffs having lost five of their last seven games, including their first meeting with the Colts.
Reid was quick to point out that several of those were narrow defeats, including a last-second loss to the Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium and the overtime loss Sunday.
If that’s cause for concern, Reid wasn’t letting on. And in any case, the fact that the Chiefs are headed on the road for their wild-card game could be reason for optimism. They went against conventional wisdom by going 6-2 on the road this season.
“I think the team has confidence they can go into another stadium, loud — we faced Denver and it was loud — this will be loud, and play good, solid and productive football,” Reid said.
Reid acknowledged speaking to his team on the plane returning from San Diego on Sunday about the urgency that comes with the postseason. The Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game since the 1993 season, and 25 players on the 53-man roster have never participated in a playoff game.
“The biggest thing you notice in the playoffs is everything is a little bit faster, every step you take for some reason, it’s a little faster,” Reid said, “and I think both teams know it’s single-elimination. That’s why the games are that way.”