KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Consider the message received loud and clear.
The Chiefs have lost two straight games in ugly fashion with four remaining in a tight playoff chase, and the donning of full pads during Wednesday’s practice made a point.
“There’s a sense of urgency around here,” defensive end Kevin Vickerson said Thursday. “I think everybody needs to be on board with it. Just trying to get back to the basics, really.
“We didn’t have the best performance we wanted to Sunday night. When you have something like that, coach wants to send his message. We want to do stuff this way and we got to get back to the fundamentals of football.”
The Denver Broncos dominated the Chiefs last week in all facets of the game en route to a 29-16 win to drop Kansas City to a 7-5 record.
And a glaring issue – not just from the Denver game – surrounds the Chiefs’ inability to stop the run in three straight games, a span where opponents have combined for 597 yards rushing.
Sloppy tackling and taking poor angles are large culprits, but it appears those area were effectively addressed on the practice field Wednesday.
“We put the pads on for a reason,” Vickerson said. “Technique, getting back to fundamentals, hitting with your hands, getting off blocks, shedding blocks and getting off and making the tackle. It’s just something we got to do as a unit.”
Wednesday’s practice also provided the reality of the Chiefs’ situation.
Vickerson said the coming weeks to close out the regular season are “crucial,” indicating the Chiefs must end the losing skid if securing a postseason berth is the goal.
“From here on out is a must-win for us to do what we want to do and go where we want to go deep in the playoffs or playoffs, period,” Vickerson said. “We got to start winning now.”
Tight end Richard Gordon agreed.
“I think everybody knows what needs to be done,” Gordon said. “It’s a physical game, definitely trying to get to the playoffs. A playoff team must be physical. It’s a big time to really get into all that.”
AVERY, AVANT ON DECK
Their production barely registered in the Week 13 box score, but Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson appreciated the efforts of wide receivers Donnie Avery and Jason Avant.
“I thought they did a nice job,” Pederson said.
Avery returned to the starting lineup at the split end position after missing seven straight games while recovering from a sports hernia procedure.
The seventh-year pro had a catch for 20 yards on two targets against the Broncos, but he also lost a fumble.
“Donnie, just getting back in there and shaking a little bit of the rust off for him and getting back into that game mode,” Pederson said, “I thought he did a good job for what we asked him to do.”
Meanwhile, the Chiefs signed Avant to a free-agent contract on Nov. 21, three days after the Carolina Panthers waived the ninth-year pro.
Avant, who played seven seasons for Andy Reid in Philadelphia, totaled two catches for 30 yards on four targets while working mostly out of the slot.
“Jason, just a savvy veteran guy that is familiar and comfortable with the things we are doing offensively,” Pederson said. “He wasn’t in there a ton, but when he was in there, he was effective and had a couple of catches. So we expect better things again this week.”
The Chiefs are likely to rely on Avery and Avant in Week 14’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Junior Hemingway, the usual slot wide receiver, missed a second straight day of practice Thursday while he recovers from a concussion suffered in Week 12.
Defensive tackle Dontari Poe played all 82 defensive snaps in Week 13, adding to his season totals of 704 defensive snaps, which is tops among the Chiefs defensive linemen.
To put Poe’s snaps in perspective, defensive end Allen Bailey is second with 641 and defensive end Jaye Howard a distant third with 334.
Potentially getting rest for Poe is on defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s mind.
“We probably should rotate a little more in there,” Sutton said, “but there were a lot of things happening in that game. We didn’t do a good job getting off the field in the first half on third down and that puts us in a little different situation. The way the game is going is important, too. As you well know we’ve got to get them stopped, we’ve got to get some plays. But looking back on it, we probably could’ve rotated a little more in there.”
The Chiefs could turn to defensive lineman Vance Walker or Kevin Vickerson to spell Poe in the middle or shift over Howard should the team choose.
Meanwhile, there is a risk of overusing Poe, who logged more than 1,000 snaps in 2013.
But Sutton offered an emphatic response when asked if Poe was wearing down entering Week 14.
“No,” Sutton said.