Once again, the Chiefs’ defense prepared for an unknown quantity at quarterback.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Thad Lewis missed his second straight day of practice on Thursday because of sore ribs, and the Chiefs don’t have much game film on backups Jeff Tuel or recently acquired Matt Flynn.
It’s a situation the Chiefs faced last week against Cleveland and the week before against Houston when those teams made quarterback changes the week of a Chiefs game.
“We’re not sure which one (will play),” Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “It doesn’t dramatically change what they do. There’s always a little slant to what they think whoever the quarterback is going to be does maybe something better or is more comfortable than one of the other quarterbacks.
“But I think we have a good chance to get (Lewis). He’s a tough guy on video. He stands in there in the pocket. I can’t imagine, unless he’s in really bad shape, him not playing on Sunday against us.”
Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (knee), wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (groin) and tight end Anthony Fasano (knee/ankle) went through a limited practice on Thursday. Backup defensive end Mike Catapono (ankle) has already been ruled out for Sunday’s game at Buffalo.
It’s not unusual for Charles, the AFC’s leading rusher, to miss a day of practice each week as he did on Wednesday, or be limited because of blisters or a knee contusion.
“Every team is going through the same thing,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. “Every team is beat up, players are banged up. We understand as coaches we need to give them a day, and not practice them, rest ’em; we’ve been able to do that. We just need them all for Sunday, and (Charles) he’ll be one of those guys ready to go.”
Besides Lewis missing practice, the Bills listed as limited: wide receiver Stevie Jackson (hip), quarterback E.J. Manuel (knee), running back C.J. Spiller (ankle), linebacker Manny Lawson (hamstring), and cornerback Brandon Smith (illness).
The Bills’ 27 sacks this season rank second in the NFL to the Chiefs’ 36, and it’s no coincidence. Buffalo defensive coordinator Mike Pettine came from the same New York Jets staff as the Chiefs’ Bob Sutton and has installed a similar, attacking defense.
The Chiefs surrendered a season-high six sacks to Cleveland last week, and Pederson knows what his offense is in for against the Bills.
“There are a lot of similarities with the structure, with the style, the scheme,” Pederson said. “They’ve got some great players in Buffalo, and he’s using them just like Sutton uses him here.”
Pederson said there are some tactics he can use to pass protect against a unit that includes Mario Williams, who is tied with the Chiefs’ Justin Houston for second in the NFL with 11 sacks.
“You can ask your tight ends to help, you can ask your backs to chip …” Pederson said. “You can use play-action passes to show run … you can dial up some three-step, quick throws to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands.
“The one thing that ultimately is geared to pass protection is the ability to run the ball. If you can run the ball, that sets up other things.”
Collecting misplayed punts
The Chiefs’ recovery of a muffed punt in the fourth quarter against Cleveland last week was their third of the season, and all three proved critical in wins at Philadelphia, Tennessee and against the Browns.
The secret to the recoveries?
“This is what I tell our guys,” special teams coach Dave Toub said. “When you play fast … the faster you play, the luckier you get. It really holds true. When guys are playing fast, whether they make a block … they get down the field and are around the football … you have a chance if the ball is out, to get it back.
“Call it luck … but our luck gets better, the faster we play, and that’s something we emphasize.”
Toub credited running back Cyrus Gray’s bearing down on Cleveland’s Davone Bess, who coughed up the punt as well as the difficulty of fielding Dustin Colquitt’s left-footed kick for the muff.
“(Gray) was the first one down,” Toub said. “(Bass) had to catch it, look, and if you see Cyrus there, playing fast, we like to believe that has a lot to with it.”