Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid spoke to the press on Monday in the wake of his team’s 31-13 defeat of the Indianapolis Colts last Saturday — the game that propelled the Chiefs into the AFC Championship this Sunday against the New England Patriots.
Here are some key takeaways from Monday’s session:
Reid reported no new injuries after the Colts game, and no changes in the status of previously injured players.
“As far as injuries go,” he said, “the guys that have been day-to-day are still day-to-day: Eric Berry, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Spencer Ware and Dorian O’Daniel. These guys are still day-to-day as we go, and we’ll just see how it goes as they work through the next couple of days.”
Reid was then asked specifically about Duvernay-Tardif, whose deadline for activation after being designated for return is on Tuesday.
“We’ll see how he does throughout the day, and then Brett and I will get together and talk about it.”
Reporters also wanted to know if Reid had been disappointed by Berry’s absence from the field against the Colts.
”I’m not disappointed. We’ve had great communication through the process. It’s most important that when — and if — he can play, that he can protect himself and play at the level he wants to play at. He didn’t feel like he was at that level, which he’s been great at communicating. One of those deals. If he can go, he’ll go. If he can’t, he can’t.”
”I think he’s doing OK,” Reid said of Watkins. “He felt good after the game. He felt pretty good yesterday. He’s sore just from playing, but the foot feels good.”
On the subject of Watkins, the press made another valiant attempt to find out “what Watkins brings to the offense.”
”He’s a very good football player, first of all,” Reid responded. “He’s physical and strong. He’s tough. So [you’re going to say], ‘We’re going to go man-to-man on this guy — and do it consistently?’ He’s got good quickness, size and strength. And he can catch.“
Reid’s comments made it clear that the he sees the Patriots as more than just another football team on the schedule.
It’s routine for Reid to include in his opening remarks with a standard statement that says something like, “We’re looking forward to the challenge of playing a good football team in the [upcoming opponent].” But for the Patriots, his opening statement about the opponent had quite a bit more — and somewhat revealing — detail than usual.
“We look forward to the challenge of playing the Patriots this week, he said. ”We know the Patriots. They’re very well coached. They’ve got good players, and this isn’t their first rodeo — they’ve done this a few times. And they’re arguably the — if not one of the — greatest dynasties in the history of the game. Our players will through the process this week of getting ready to play a good football team, focus in on what we need to do to do that, and get going. It’ll be a team effort. It will take a team effort. It always starts up front with the offensive and defensive line. When you go through the playoffs, that’s magnified [in] every level you go to and go through.“
Reid spoke in glowing terms about Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
”Well, he’s a friend, plus he’s a phenomenal football coach,” Reid said. “He knows both sides of the ball, and he loves doing what he’s doing. He’s got me by a couple of years — I’ll remind him of that. We’re not getting any younger — hopefully wiser — but not younger, for sure. I think we both enjoy doing what we’re doing, and then we have an opportunity to have our teams go against each other. We’re not playing, but our guys enjoy that competition as much as we do.”
Reid was 1-4 against Belichick while head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles — including a 24-21 loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl after the 2004 season — but is 2-2 as Chiefs head coach, including a divisional round loss in Foxborough in the 2015 season. Reid is happy this one will be at home.
“It’s great to have [the game] here at Arrowhead, he said. “There are a lot of things that go in to that — from the head coach’s standpoint and the player’s standpoint. There are going to be all kinds of little distractions as you go on. So you focus in on the job at hand, working through the process. [It’s] never more important than now to be able to do that.”
Reid isn’t concerned about the effect of the very cold weather now being predicted for Sunday’s game.
Although the forecast could change a lot before then — this is the Midwest, after all — current predictions are calling for temperatures near zero or below during the game.
”Little chilly, and that’s OK,” Reid said of the forecast. “We’re at that time of the year. You go play. I don’t think it will be an issue. It wasn’t [an issue on Saturday]. I thought the people took care of the stadium did a great job with it — whether it was the grounds crew taking care of the field itself or the people working to make sure they got the majority of the snow out of there so fans could sit if they wanted. They didn’t do much sitting, but they could if they wanted.”
Reporters asked if the cold weather last Saturday — or the even colder weather on Sunday — would have a significant effect on players’ ability to handle the ball.
”It’s just a focus that you put on whether you’re receiving the ball, throwing the ball or carrying the ball. You make sure that you focus on that and take care of it, and then you go. We’ve had enough practice. We continue to practice outside when it’s cold, so it’s all part of it. You just kind of adapt.”
Unsurprisingly, Reid was asked a whole bunch of questions about the improved defense.
”It’s the young guys — the guys that are new in there — improving every week,” said Reid. “Daniel Sorensen’s back in the mix, and he’s kind of been getting his feet under him as we’ve gone. And they’re challenging. They’re communicating. You’ve heard comments from the guys — the things they’ve said about communication. That’s so important. I mentioned that early in the year. And when players are talking about that — Justin Houston mentioned it, right? — when you hear these comments coming from the guys, that becomes very important.”
Reid was asked why it has taken so long — or why it was so difficult — for the players to communicate with each other on the field. Reid sort of avoided the question.
”Listen, it’s the same thing with your offensive line. You have to kind of get everybody dancing the same dance. That becomes important. You’re dealing with a lot of different looks coming at you in space, and you’ve got to cover a lot of ground there.”
Then the reporters wanted to get down to cases. What was it that Charvarius Ward had to master before he could see playing time?
”I think he’s one of the kids that’s been improving every week,” replied Reid. “He’s had some big plays for us. And you’ve seen that — an increase in productivity there. And comfort. No bigger test than we’ll have this week, but he’s got a big way about him, works hard, and gets ready to play.
”He’s got increased confidence,” Reid continued. “And the guys around him, likewise. They trust him in there, doing what he does.”
One scribe wanted to know if it hurt or helped Ward that his first start was against the Seattle Seahawks.
”I don’t think it hurt him. That’s not a bad way to get introduced, I guess,” Reid allowed. “But he’s improved in every game since then, and done a nice job.”
The the reporters brought up Jordan Lucas.
”He’s done a good job,” Reid said of Lucas. “He was one of the guys I was mentioning that stepped in for Eric Berry, and done well. We’ve been lucky to have Ron Parker in the mix, who knows every in and out of this defense, so he was a good teacher from a player’s standpoint to a player. [Parker] helped him along the way.”
Other notes from Monday’s press session
Reid was asked about the possibility that the Chiefs might finally win a Lamar Hunt Trophy of their own: ”I’m sure that’s a big, big thing. Who wouldn’t think it would be? I think it’s big for our fans, and obviously big for the family. They’re not going to throw that on you as a coach or a team. They know we’re all going to give the best effort to get that here. I mean, when you have something named after your dad, that’s a pretty big deal. Pretty neat.”
After reporters had asked their weekly question about what goes into a decision to go for it on fourth down — and Reid gave his weekly answer about going by the “feel” of the game — someone asked him if the advanced analytics now being employed by so many NFL teams make a difference in how he approaches the game: ”I’m sure it does. I meet with Mike Frazier, and we talk through different things. He gives me reports every week that are extensive — not that I memorize every one of them. I joke with him all the time about that. There’s only so much capacity [in my head]. He does a great job with narrowing it down, and making it usable, which becomes important.”