KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The awards keep coming for Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston.
On Thursday, the third-year pro was chosen AFC’s defensive player of the month for the first time, after he racked up 19 tackles, 7 1/2 sacks, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble during the Chiefs’ 4-0 start.
Houston, who is tied for the league lead in sacks with Indianapolis defensive end Robert Mathis, was also chosen defensive player of the week after the Chiefs’ wins over Jacksonville and Philadelphia.
Like he did after each of those awards, he thanked his teammates for their help. But he also took the time to thank one of them, outside linebacker Tamba Hali, in particular.
“He’s the reason why my career has improved so much,” Houston said. “He taught me pretty much everything I know in the pass rushing game, he taught me how to rush the tackles, how to read the tackles. The pass rush, it was all him.… My rookie season, he taught me that pass rush was a game within the game, so once you figure that out it will help out a lot.”
Houston is just one piece of a defense that has been stingy, allowing 10.3 points per game and registering a league-high 18 sacks, but he says his hot start also reflect the improvements he’s made as a player.
“I think just understanding the game, the whole game,” Houston said. “Just reading formations, studying the tackles, just knowing the game better.”
Houston, who is the first Chiefs linebacker to win the defensive player of the month award since Derrick Thomas did it in 1997, said opposing teams have begun to take notice, too.
“I’ve seen a couple double teams, I’ve seen some attention,” Houston said. “But it’s hard to just focus on one guy when I’ve got my teammates making plays, so as long as they’re doing that I know my teammates are going to make plays.”
Backup plan — When special teams coach Dave Toub saw Pro Bowl punter Dustin Colquitt sprain his right knee during a collision in the Chiefs’ 31-7 win over the New York Giants, he admits he was a bit worried.
“It was scary,” Toub said. “That was a tough deal.”
But like any good coach, he also had a backup plan in place. Toub said the Chiefs’ kickers and punters had actually spent some time working on the others’ craft this preseason, so even though kicker Ryan Succop was never actually called upon to replace Colquitt ― who toughed it out to make the Chiefs’ remaining three punts of the day ― Toub said he was ready to go, if needed.
“When (Colquitt) first injured it, it took a period of time before the pain went away and we realized he was gonna be able to put some weight on it,” Toub said. “The good thing was we didn’t have to punt right away, but Succop was ready to go.”
Succop, who handled placekicking and punting duties during his college career at South Carolina, agreed, though he clearly ceded the Chiefs’ punting throne to Colquitt.
“It’s a situation that obviously hopefully never comes up,” Succop said. “I think everybody in Kansas City loves the way that Dustin punts the ball … it’s been five or six years since I’ve really worked on the punting so it’s been a while. But I’m confident I could get in there and get us through a game if I needed to.”
Funny, because Toub said the same thing about Colquitt as it relates to field goals, and Succop agreed.
“Dustin’s a good athlete,” Succop said. “He’s played soccer growing up and is one of the more athletic guys at the position. So if he went out there and kicked, I feel confident he can put it through.”
Though the chances of Succop punting last Sunday were real, it seems one area where Colquitt isn’t in danger of being replaced due to injury is as a holder on extra points and field goals.
“He’d have to really be hurt, like, in the hospital, probably, to be able to not hold,” Toub said. “We’re gonna roll him out there just so he can hold.”
Toub, however, said backup quarterback Chase Daniel ― who served as the Saints’ holder last season ― is also an option, if necessary.
“Chase is a good holder, and there will be some times where we’ll use him on the field too, because he can bring other fake factors in,” Toub said. “So he’s good, and Ryan feels good with him as a holder as well.”
If you believe Toub, however, these backup scenarios are just that ― backups. Though Colquitt was limited in Wednesday’s practice, he’s optimistic his punter will be ready to go Sunday vs. Tennessee.
“The fact he was able to finish the game also was a good sign,” Toub said. “So Rick (Burkholder) and the training staff, they’ll get him right. All indications are that he’s gonna be okay. We’re trying to be positive about it.”
Injury report — One day after a season-high 14 players surfaced on the Chiefs’ injury report, the news was much better on Thursday.
Three players who did not practice Wednesday — running back Jamaal Charles (toes), cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee) and safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle) — returned to the field Thursday, albeit in a limited capacity, while tight end Sean McGrath (knee), center Rodney Hudson (shin) and guard Jon Asamoah (knee) were all full participants after being limited the day before.
Tight end Travis Kelce (knee) and right tackle Eric Fisher (concussion) did not practice for the second straight day.
Punter Dustin Colquitt (knee), guard Jeff Allen (groin), tight end Anthony Fasano (ankle/knee) all practiced in a limited capacity for the second straight day. Fullback Anthony Sherman (knee), cornerback Marcus Cooper (knee/thigh) and linebacker James-Michael Johnson (thumb) were all full participants for the second straight day.
Time change — The Chiefs’ 4-0 start has the attention of the NFL’s television networks.
CBS has chosen to move the kickoff of the Chiefs’ Oct. 20 home game vs. the Houston Texans from noon to 3:25 p.m. CBS’ other game in the afternoon prime-time slot is Baltimore at currently winless Pittsburgh.
Before the change, all the Chiefs’ home games were scheduled for noon Sunday kickoffs. But if the Chiefs continue to stay at the top of the AFC West standings, their final three home kickoffs — Nov. 24 vs. San Diego, Dec. 1 vs. Denver and Dec. 22 vs. Indianapolis — could be moved to the afternoon or to NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” as part of the NFL’s flex scheduling policy.