Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, right, and Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine meet on the field after their NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. Chiefs won 17-13. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Charlie Riedel
December 30, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Justin Houston is still recovering from a hyperextended knee. Tamba Hali is recuperating from surgery that resulted in three screws in his broken thumb.

Neither Kansas City player has a problem with their vocal chords.

So while the Chiefs were wrapping up a 17-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns last Sunday, their ninth straight win and one that clinched a playoff berth, the pair of pass rushers was chatty around coach Andy Reid.

''They were both driving me crazy on the sideline,'' Reid said, ''like they wanted to be in there.''

They weren't in there, though. And that's a problem as the Chiefs wrap up their regular season against Oakland on Sunday, and peer ahead to a postseason game the following week.

Without them, the Chiefs didn't manage a single sack against the Browns.

''I mean, you're talking about two Pro Bowl guys, best rushers in the NFL, on the same team,'' fellow Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. ''When they get back, that's a plus. But it's always the next man up. We did it last year; we're doing it this year.''

Former first-round pick Dee Ford had a three-sack game against San Diego, but he was quiet last weekend against Cleveland. Frank Zombo is a jack-of-all-trades who may be better in the middle.

Neither packs the ferocious pass rush of Houston or Hali.

Houston, who signed a $101 million, six-year deal in the offseason, has missed four games since getting hurt against Buffalo, and there have been conflicting reports about the severity of the injury. The most the Chiefs have done is acknowledge he visited Dr. James Andrews in Alabama, and that the renowned orthopedic surgeon confirmed the diagnosis of a hyperextended knee.

Houston has been off limits to reporters since getting hurt, but he walked up the stairs in the team practice facility after a morning walk-through Wednesday without a noticeable limp.

''He's day to day,'' Reid insisted. ''That's kind of how we roll.''

The same is true for Hali, Reid added, though he appears to have a better chance of getting onto the field Sunday. He got hurt two weeks ago against Baltimore and had surgery last week.

Hali did not practice Wednesday, but that has been the norm this season - the Chiefs are trying to keep the 32-year-old pass rusher healthy by limiting his practice time.

The Chiefs (10-5) are in a unique position heading into their regular-season finale.

They can still win the AFC West, but they need to beat Oakland on Sunday and hope Denver loses to San Diego. Failing that, they have already locked up a wild card. And that means Houston and Hali could rest another week if it means being closer to full-go for the playoffs.

That approach would suit Raiders coach Jack Del Rio just fine.

''Those are two really good football players,'' he said, ''so anytime you're missing really good players like that, it affects you. But as a team they continue to play good football.''

Just not quite as good. Along with not sacking Johnny Manziel last weekend, the Chiefs allowed the elusive Browns quarterback to scramble for 108 yards.

Houston has 7 1/2 sacks this season, and Hali has 6 1/2. But even when they're not getting to the quarterback, they demand so much attention that others get loose. Despite no sacks last weekend, Kansas City still has 41 on the season, tied for fourth among all NFL teams.

So yeah, Reid may have tuned out their incessant barking during last weekend's win, but the Chiefs' coach was more than happy to have them in his ear.

''It's a good sign,'' he said with a smile. ''They were into it.''

NOTES: S Husain Abdullah (concussion) and OT Jah Reid (knee) did not practice Wednesday. ... WR De'Anthony Thomas (personal issue) remained sidelined, though Reid declined to discuss his situation. He had been dealing with a concussion but was cleared to return to practice last week.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

You May Like