KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs rookie cornerback Phillip Gaines was a busy man Sunday night against the Denver Broncos.
The 6-0, 193-pound Gaines started and logged a season-high 82 snaps on defense, making him one of eight Chiefs players to play all defensive snaps.
And he spent a good majority of the game shadowing 5-11, 180-pound Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, while the 6-3, 218-pound Sean Smith covered the 6-3, 229-pound Demaryius Thomas.
“Emmanuel is a really shifty guy, really fast,” Gaines said in the locker room after Sunday’s game. “And Demaryius, he’s also really fast, but he’s also bigger. Sean is a really big corner, so it just made sense to put Sean on Demaryius and me on a speedy guy.”
The results appear to slant in Gaines’ favor.
Sanders entered Week 13 with two straight 100-yard receiving games, but finished with six catches for 73 yards on 11 targets, mostly with Gaines in coverage.
Of course, Sanders made plays, including a 23-yard reception on a back-shoulder throw from quarterback Peyton Manning early in the fourth quarter.
But Gaines’ ability to bounce back impressed Chiefs coach Andy Reid.
“I think Phillip had some good snaps,” Reid told reporters during Monday media session. “We look at that last third down, the back-shoulder throw, that’s tough, he had pretty decent coverage. He came right back is what I look at. He got beat on that one, but then he came right back with a couple of nice plays, had an opportunity for an interception.”
Reid also indicated there’s more to come from the Chiefs’ third-round pick of the 2014 NFL Draft.
“I think for a young guy, you saw some positives,” Reid said. “Can he get better? Yeah, absolutely. He’s made some strides here through this rookie year.”
Gaines finished the game with four solo tackles and a pass defensed.
While the rookie cornerback enjoyed a solid outing against one of the NFL’s top downfield wide receivers, the Chiefs ultimately lost 29-16 against and AFC West rival.
And the defeat stuck with Gaines the most.
“We didn’t win, so obviously not good enough,” Gaines said of his performance. “We just got to go back to the film, watch it and go from there.”
MAYS ON DECK?
The Denver Broncos totaled 214 yards rushing against the Chiefs and that gaping hole in the defense is magnified by the past three weeks where Chiefs have allowed 597 total yards rushing (199 yard per game).
With Josh Mauga and James-Michael Johnson dealing with back spasms Sunday night, addressing the run defense takes on importance with four games remaining on the regular season and the Chiefs in the playoff chase.
Kansas City has an option in the form of veteran linebacker Joe Mays, who was activated from injured reserve in Week 10 following wrist surgery to repair torn tendons in August.
Mays, who projected as a starter before suffering the wrist injury during the second preseason game, has played mostly special teams since his return.
But the door could be open for him to return his natural position.
“We started working him in a little bit more last week in practice at the linebacker spot,” Reid said. “Some of it was using the hand, that’s the issue. He’s got a wrist. Part of tackling, you’ve got to be able to grab and do all that.”
Reid said there are no issues with Mays’ conditioning, but the team needs to ensure the seventh-year linebacker is physically ready.
That scenario could occur in the coming days as the Chiefs prepare for Week 14.
“It’s just making sure that he is right to put in that position,” Reid said. “And then we’ll work him in. He’ll get more work this week and as we go here.”
STEPHENSON SEES ACTION
Offensive lineman Donald Stephenson was set to open the season as the starting right tackle before serving a four-game suspension to start the season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing substances.
The third-year pro returned to the team after Week 4, but found himself buried on the depth chart behind Ryan Harris and virtually relegated to special teams or seeing action with the offense as an extra lineman.
Stephenson had his chance on offense late during Sunday night’s game late and logged 11 snaps.
While Reid said the move was to get Stephenson work, the head coach left open the possibility of changes on the offensive line, a unit that allowed six sacks against Denver.
“We’ll see,” Reid said. “We’re looking at everything. We haven’t made any decisions on any of that right now.”
Twitter follower Brent Ross asked this question for a recent mailbag:
— Brent Ross (@Brent102Fire) November 22, 2014
Catching up with wide receiver Dwayne Bowe during the week in the team’s training facility locker room can be difficult.
An opportunity to find the answer, however, presented itself in the Arrowhead Stadium locker room after Sunday night’s game.
“It’s bigger than the game,” Bowe explained. “Everyone that’s playing this game is God’s child. If you get hurt playing this game, I’ll just ask God for quick recovery for that player who got injured. Say a quick prayer for him and hope they get healthy soon.”
Bowe’s sign of respect for a fallen player dates back to before he entered the professional ranks as the Chiefs’ first-round pick (23rd overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft.
“It’s something I’ve been doing since college and high school,” Bowe said with a smile.
NOTES: Reid did not have a information on strong safety Eric Berry, who is currently in Atlanta undergoing tests for possible lymphoma … “We don’t have any updates for you right now,” Reid told reporters. “When we get them though, we’ll get them to you right away.”