The Kansas City Chiefs didn’t exactly take Matt Moore off the streets and insert him at quarterback. Moore was working on a football field, but as a high school assistant coach when the organization called last month.
Yet in the last three games, two as a starter, Moore did everything necessary against stout rivals to keep the Chiefs atop the AFC West.
The reasons? Well, first credit Moore for adapting. Then credit the explosiveness Kansas City (6-3) maintains as it prepares for a matchup Sunday against the Tennessee Titans (4-5) at Nashville, Tenn.
“With our playmakers,” said Chiefs offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz, “you don’t ever take your foot off of the gas pedal.”
The quarterback accustomed to pressing that accelerator remains in limbo. Patrick Mahomes missed the last two games after dislocating his kneecap on Oct. 17. That’s when Moore was first summoned as a backup at Denver, and he performed admirably in a 30-6 romp.
Mahomes practiced in full on Wednesday for the first time since the injury, though Chiefs coach Andy Reid still deemed his standout QB day-to-day and said, “We’re not going to put him out there unless it’s safe.”
In Mahomes’ absence, Kansas City continues to display big-play production. Touchdowns last Sunday off a 40-yard bomb to Tyreek Hill and a 92-yard rush by Damien Williams keyed a 26-23 win over Minnesota, which also required a walk-off field goal.
“Can’t nobody overthrow me,” stated the speedy Hill, though Williams countered with this rejoinder: “We just can’t try to airmail it every time.”
Injuries have dogged the Chiefs since virtually the beginning of the season, though the return of their best defender, tackle Chris Jones, helped that unit maintain steady progress it has shown of late.
“We have been doing a lot of good things defensively,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said of a unit that ranks 29th against the run (139.6 yards per game) but 14th in yards per play overall (5.4). “We have been trying to see those things stack up and carry over.”
Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill will test the Chiefs after passing for 300 yards in two of three games since replacing Marcus Mariota.
Poor starts have plagued the Titans. A 17-0 deficit in last week’s loss to Carolina marked the fourth time this season they were blanked in the first half.
“I don’t think we’re playing clean football right now in the first half, and that has come back to haunt us,” Tannehill said.
When Tennessee does not get behind the chains, it can make Derrick Henry a more viable weapon in the run game. Henry ranks 10th in the NFL with 644 yards.
The Titans’ losing record demands improvement, even in the kicking game, where Tennessee has missed nine attempts on the season and is just 7 of 15 on field goals. Back from injured reserve on Sunday, Ryan Succop missed all three of his field-goal attempts, including tries of 43 and 44 yards.
“No one is playing well enough. That’s how I look at it,” said Titans coach Mike Vrabel, emphasizing the collective effort needed.
Cornerback LeShaun Sims will replace Malcolm Butler, who was placed on injured reserve after he injured his wrist in last Sunday’s loss to Carolina. Center Ben Jones sat out that game and must still progress through concussion protocol.
Kansas City defensive end Frank Clark (neck) and left tackle Eric Fisher (groin) remained out of practice Wednesday. Cornerback Kendall Fuller (thumb) and right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (ankle) returned to a limited practice.