“Next man up” is an easy thing for coaches to say, when inevitable injuries or bad news starts to pile up.
But the players who actually have to implement that slogan are still human beings, and sometimes it takes weeks for it to become a reality.
So the Chiefs don’t mind admitting it took them a moment to overcome the shock of losing running back Jamaal Charles to a torn ACL, or any of the other hurdles they’ve overcome along the way to five straight wins and the thick of the AFC playoff race.
“Without a doubt. You look at how much we’ve used Jamaal Charles, and he’s the focal point of this offense, it kind of left us with our palms up like, ‘Where do we go from here?’” tight end Travis Kelce said, via Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports. “But Charcandrick [West] has done an amazing job and Spencer Ware’s done a phenomenal job stepping in for both of them. It’s fun, it’s exciting when you see a guy step up into the shoes of Jamaal Charles. It just makes it that much more fun when you have success and win.”
The Chiefs were en route to a 1-4 when Charles went down with a torn ACL. But after a week for the shock to subside, they began playing the way they were capable of with one of the most dynamic runners in the game. Much of that has to do with West, but he missed yesterday with a hamstring injury and Ware ran for 114 yards and a touchdown. But it took some getting used to.
“Knowing that Jamaal isn’t back there, you start to concentrate a little more knowing you don’t have a guy as special and things like that,” Kelce said. “Not saying you don’t block your tail off for Jamaal, but there’s that consciousness in the back of your head that, ‘OK, if someone goes down, we have to make something out of it.'”
Of course, there’s also a pretty good role model for bouncing back still on the field with them as well.
“We just keep fighting,” said safety Eric Berry, who has come back after being diagnosed with lymphoma last year. “A lot of us have been through a lot of different things, on and off the field, and we just bring those experiences to the field and just keep pushing on and something is going to crack.”
So far, it’s the people the Chiefs are playing, five weeks in a row.