Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe knows there’s a difference between making catches and making plays.
Bowe has caught 57 passes this season but has produced few of the signature or game-altering plays that have distinguished his seven seasons as the second-leading receiver in franchise history.
He knows it. His coaches know it. And they all realize Bowe is going to have to make an impact Saturday for the Chiefs to defeat Indianapolis in an opening-round AFC playoff game.
“Your game-changer type players have to show up and make those plays,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said.
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Bowe, who signed a five-year contract extension worth up to $56 million last spring and predicted he’d lead the league in receiving, failed to lead the Chiefs in receiving for the first time in five years.
That honor went to running back Jamaal Charles, who caught 70 passes for a team-leading 693 yards and seven touchdowns.
But Charles, called “Public Enemy No. 1” by Colts coach Chuck Pagano, will be a marked man in Indianapolis. So someone else may need to make the big plays on offense.
“I’m ready to go,” Bowe said Wednesday. “Games like this … big-time players make big-time plays, and these are games I mostly show up in … everything on the line, and great preparation all week. It’s win or go home.”
Actually, Bowe was held without a catch in his only postseason appearance, the Chiefs’ 30-7 loss to Baltimore in 2010. The Chiefs had the ball for only 18 minutes, 16 seconds and attempted just 18 passes.
Bowe figures to be targeted early and often against the Colts, as he was two weeks ago when he was targeted 10 times in the Chiefs’ 23-7 loss at Arrowhead Stadium. Bowe caught a pass for 9 yards on the first play and drew a pass-interference call on the second.
In all, Bowe caught five passes for 46 yards against the Colts and suffered what turned out to be a mild concussion in the fourth quarter when he was struck in the head/neck area by Indianapolis safety LaRon Landry.
Landry, a former college teammate of Bowe’s at LSU — where they were both first-round draft picks in 2007 — was called for a personal foul. Bowe left the game, returned for another play, and even practiced last Tuesday before complaining of concussion-like symptoms.
He was held out of last Sunday’s game at San Diego, like most of the other starters, and returned to practice this week.
“I’m fine,” Bowe said. “I had a little minor headache. It was nothing big. Coach was going to rest me anyway. I had time to rest and recover and be fresh for this game.”
The injury didn’t frighten Bowe, even in this day of concussion awareness.
“I didn’t look at like that because I didn’t feel as bad as others felt who had concussions,” Bowe said. “I felt a little tired. There wasn’t any dizziness or problems with vomit … or none of that stuff. It was mainly just fatigue.”
Nor did Bowe harbor any resentment of Landry.
“He was just playing football,” Bowe said. “I talked to him after the game. It wasn’t a dirty hit or anything like that. I was going down, and he was going down. … it’s football. Things like that happen. It wasn’t a vicious or bad hit.”
Bowe, 6 feet 2 and 221 pounds, should enjoy matchup advantages over the Colts’ smaller corners, Vontae Davis, who is 5-11, 204; Greg Toler, 6-0, 190; and Josh Gordy, 5-11, 196.
“The one thing Dwayne is really doing really well right now is utilizing his size and strength, and it’s creating some space for him,” Pederson said. “We want to get him going, get his hands on the ball as early as we can, because you know somewhere in the second half, he is going to make that clutch play and you have confidence going back to him.”
Bowe, a Pro Bowler in 2010, has accepted his role of doing a lot of the dirty work of running routes that clear space for Charles and blocking downfield on the screens that have worked so well for the Chiefs.
“Everybody has their year … and I’m just proud to be part of a team,” Bowe said. “We have a lot of guys playing the role I had previously in my career. Being an all-around receiver both blocking and receiving … to see those guys prosper … I feel good and happy to be their teammate.”
Some might interpret that as Bowe, 29, admitting he has lost a step and his ability to create separation from defensive backs. Don’t believe it.
“I still got it,” Bowe said. “I’m showing it each and every day in practice. The coaches know I got it. I’m setting up a lot of great things for the offense you see we’re doing right now.”