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Chiefs rely on great field position

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Friday, Sep. 27, 2013, at 7:39 p.m.

— Much of the credit for the Chiefs’ 3-0 start deservedly has been heaped on a ball-hawking defense that leads the NFL with a plus-nine turnover margin and has a league-high 15 sacks.

But the Chiefs’ special teams merit a mention as well.

Kicker Ryan Succop and punter Dustin Colquitt have been instrumental in helping the Chiefs consistently win the field-position battle.

“I’m stating the obvious, but field position is important in the National Football League,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “That’s proven year in and year out, and those guys have done a nice job with it.”

The average starting field position for opposing offenses through three games is the opponents’ own 20-yard line, while the Chiefs’ drives start at their own 37 on average — a pretty significant advantage.

“At no time in football is that more important than today,” Reid said. “I think (field position) has been important for a lot of years, but even more so with these explosive offenses.”

Succop has placed 11 of 17 kickoffs in the end zone for touchbacks, a 64.7-percent clip. That ratio ranks in the middle of the pack statistically, but it’s a marked improvement from last season, when only 46.6 percent of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.

“Working with (assistant special teams coach) Kevin (O’Dea) and (special teams coordinator) Dave (Toub), they’ve helped me tweak a few things and that’s been huge,” Succop said. “I’ve learned a lot from them and been able to go out and hit it really well so far.”

Colquitt continues to pin opponents deep as well. He was second in the NFL last season with 45 punts inside the 20 and leads the league with 13 through three games this season.

“What Dustin’s been able to do is pretty unbelievable week in and week out,” Succop said. “It seems like every year, he’s at the top of the league in inside-the-20s and, obviously, that’s huge for our defense — and, in return, it’s huge for our offense.”

It’s just another reason the team has started the season so strong.

“All three phases have really been able to complement each other, and that’s what it takes,” Succop said. “Hopefully, we can continue to do that and I can keep getting a lot of touchbacks and pinning them deep.”

Flowers sidelined — Cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee) returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis, but he was back on the sideline Friday and is officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s home game against the Giants.

“Brandon Flowers was out here but didn’t do much,” Reid said.

At least, not after the warm-up.

There is good news in the secondary, though, as Kendrick Lewis (ankle) is participating almost fully in practice. He’s also listed as questionable, but seems much more likely to suit up than Flowers.

“I’m happy to be back out there and things worked out good as far as treatment and everything,” said Lewis, who had been sidelined because of what he termed a “mild sprain.”

If Flowers can’t go, the Chiefs are confident 10-year veteran Dunta Robinson can adequately fill in.

“We’ve got a solid, core group of guys, so we won’t miss a beat whoever goes down,” Lewis said. “That’s what we practice for and why we work so hard together. Whoever lines up on Sunday will do a good job.”

More injury news — Tight end Anthony Fasano returned to practice Friday, but rookie tight end Travis Kelce (knee) remained sidelined and has been ruled out for Sunday.

Fasano (ankle/knee) was limited along with Flowers and right guard Jeff Allen (groin).

Sean McGrath will continue to fill in at tight end, while Geoff Schwartz would be in line to start if Allen is unable to answer the bell.

“This is why they brought me in, to fill these roles, so I’ll be ready to go Sunday if they determine that’s what’s going to happen,” Schwartz said. “I welcome any time I get to play. It’s unfortunate if it’s because of injury, but I can’t complain. I enjoy playing in games.”

Right tackle Branden Albert (shoulder) and defensive lineman Mike DeVito (neck) were full participants for the first time this week along with fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) and linebacker Frank Zombo (elbow).

Meanwhile, the Giants will be saddled with an inexperienced offensive line after veteran guard Chris Snee (hip) and center David Baas (neck) were officially ruled out Friday.

With another veteran, David Diehl, listed as doubtful as he recovers from Aug. 21 thumb surgery, the Giants will be digging deep down the depth chart to stop the Chiefs’ pass rush.

Defensive back Corey Webster (hip) and tight end Adrien Robinson (foot) are also out, while Jacquian Williams (knee) and safety Cooper Taylor (shoulder) are questionable.

Linebacker Spencer Paysinger (hip) cornerback back Terrell Thomas (knee) and defensive end Justin Trattou (ankle) are probable.

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