We spoke to Warpaint Illustrated's Nick Athan about the Chiefs and what we should know leading into Sunday's game.
Chris Biderman: Nick, after last season's 9-0 start, the Chiefs went 2-5 the rest of the way. In your estimation, what happened after that bye week and did that team that went 9-0 resurface in last week’s 41-14 win over the Patriots?
Nick Athan: The Chiefs were very fortunate a year ago to begin the season 9-0. They could have easily lost half those games and the story would have been written a different way on their 2013 season. Over the final seven games the Chiefs only defeated the lowly Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders. Despite the fact the offense was hitting its stride, the defense never could adjust to playing better quarterbacks. In that stretch, they lost a pair to Philip Rivers, Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning. Defensively they were no match for the upper echelon of quarterbacks they faced down the stretch.
As far defeating the New England Patriots on Monday night, the team was amped up for their first Monday Night game at Arrowhead. Though the crowd, and the fact the city has Royals fever as well, there is no question the Chiefs played their best overall football game under Head Coach Andy Reid. He has this football team believing, despite injuries, they can compete with any team in the NFL.
CB: 49ers fans are very familiar with A.J. Jenkins after he flamed out as a first-round pick before getting traded to Kansas City. How has the new environment helped his development? Is he a good fit in Andy Reid’s offense? Many around here billed him as a potential Jeremy Maclin-type, which was obviously a good fit with Reid in Philadelphia.
NA: I've always been fascinated with A.J.'s potential. I loved him at the University of Illinois and thought he was a steal as a late first round draft pick. This weekend, much like Alex Smith, he gets to come to San Francisco and prove he belongs in the NFL. He never really was given the chance to crack the starting lineup when he played for the 49ers.
In Kansas City, he has a chance to grab ahold of a starting spot. With wide receiver Donnie Avery out after hernia surgery, Jenkins will start opposite Dwayne Bowe. If the Chiefs are missing anything this season, it's that speed burner down the field. Jenkins can stretch the field and I suspect Kansas City will explore that option Sunday against the 49ers.
I'm not sure he'll be that Maclin-type for the Chiefs but Reid believes he can make contributions on offense. What's hamstrung his career so far in KC has more to do with the fact he's yet to master the Chiefs offensive playbook. Now that he has a better grasp, time will tell if he can be another weapon for the Chiefs.
CB: It seems like Justin Houston and Tamba Hali are picking up where they left off last season having combined for eight sacks to this point. Are they the best pass rusher combination in the league? Do they have weaknesses?
NA: The dynamic duo of Houston and Hali has been playing better football. They both started out slow in the season opener. Despite his age Hali is playing better than Houston. From game one, Hali has been a force while Houston, marred in a contract stalemate with the organization, he seems to have found his groove.
Opposing offenses are going to find it very difficult to move the ball on the Chiefs. That's because the success of KC's sack masters, is the recent play of the secondary. They've done a terrific job keeping receivers in front of them and are playing near perfect football the last three games. Should that continue, Houston and Hali will set career highs in sacks this season.
CB: Alex Smith reportedly got a whopping $45 million guaranteed in his new contract he signed last month. Was that a worthy investment from a Chief’s perspective? How has that deal been received in Kansas City?
NA: I think when it's all said and done the San Francisco 49ers are going to regret kicking Alex Smith to the curb. In my view, he was well worth the investment the Chiefs made in him, both on the trade and his contract extension. He's a terrific quarterback.
Even more so he's become the leader in the locker room and has shown a toughness, I didn't know existed when he was playing for the 49ers. He's taken a beating in Kansas City, thanks to a weak offensive line, but he never makes excuses. All he does is win football games.
I understand even Chiefs fans were on the fence when the front office gave him all that coin but when he guides them to their first playoff win since Joe Montana was KC's quarterback, they'll be in unison singing his praise.
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