KANSAS CITY, Mo. - When Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin learned he had a sprained ankle rather than a torn ACL in his right knee, folks around Arrowhead Stadium breathed a sigh of relief. Maclin ruptured his ACL in that knee two previous times during his college and NFL careers, and a third tear would be another tough rehab comeback for the 27-year old that was ending his seventh season.
The diagnosis of a high ankle sprain is likely to preclude help from Maclin in the Chiefs' divisional round game in the playoffs this Saturday against New England. The Chiefs say his ability to play is a "day-to-day" proposition, but that type of injury normally takes three to four weeks before a player is able to return.
The Chiefs have had several players deal with high ankle sprains during the 2015 season and none bounced back and played the next week, or the week after. Reid and his offensive staff will have to work around Maclin's absence against the Patriots.
No easy assignment because Maclin was the club's leading receiver with 87 catches for 1,088 yards and eight touchdowns. The stats for No. 2 receiver Albert Wilson are less than half - 35 catches, 451 yards, two touchdowns.
Reid's offense survived a regular-season game without Maclin, when he did not play against Pittsburgh as he recovered from a concussion suffered the week before against Minnesota. The Chiefs were still effective throwing the ball as quarterback Alex Smith threw for 251 yards. Wilson, tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Chris Conley all caught more than 60 yards of passes. Conley had his first NFL touchdown in that game, catching a 6-yard pass from Smith in the fourth quarter.
Almost three months later, the head coach believes his receiving group has grown to a point that they can handle Maclin's absence.
"The guys have matured," Reid said, specifically mentioning 23-year old receivers Wilson and Conley. "Frankie (Hammond) is another year older (he's 25.) I think we are OK there."
REPORT CARD VS. TEXANS
--PASSING OFFENSE: B. Quarterback Alex Smith hit 77.3 percent of his throws (17 of 22) and averaged 8.6 yards per attempt, including a 48-yard pass-and-run play with tight end Travis Kelce. But pass protection was mediocre, as the Texans had three sacks in 25 passing plays. Smith also had an interception when he threw behind wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and Houston ended up with the ball. Kelce was strong with eight catches for 128 yards. That was important after Maclin was lost to an ankle injury in the third quarter.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: A. The Chiefs only broke one long run against Houston's defense, a 23-yard gain by fullback Spencer Ware. But holding the lead in the second half, the Kansas City offense needed to run clock and they did that by moving the ball on the ground. They got the job done, running 35 times for 143 yards when two kneel downs at the end of the game are taken out of the equation. Had it not been for a holding penalty, that rushing number would have topped 200 yards, as a 64-yard scramble by Smith was wiped away.
--PASS DEFENSE: A. It can be debated how much Houston's ineffective passing game was due to the play of quarterback Brian Hoyer and how much his play was because of the Chiefs' defense. As usual, it was a little of both. Hoyer's four interceptions killed any momentum the Texans could have built, including throwing one to linebacker Josh Mauga at the goal line. The other three were off-target throws from Hoyer, both too short and too long. Coordinator Bob Sutton's scheme made Hoyer very uncomfortable and he was sacked three times. The Texans offense moved the ball through the pass only with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and his six catches for 69 yards. No pass play went for more than 17 years.
--RUSH DEFENSE: B. It's tough to hand out grades below an A for Kansas City's dominating effort against the Texans. The only area where the Chiefs did not perform at the highest level was against the run. Houston's Alfred Blue ran for 99 yards on 17 carries, with 49 yards coming on a second-quarter play that pushed the Texans drive to the Kansas City 13-yard line. That was the best scoring opportunity the Texans had in the game, but it was wiped out by an interception. Overall, the Chiefs' defense allowed 4.6 yards per carry. They did stop defensive end J.J. Watt when he came into the game in a first-and-goal situation at the 2-yard line. Watt ended up taking a direct snap and he lost a yard.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: A. When Knile Davis returned the opening kickoff 106 yards for a touchdown, the tone of the Chiefs-Texans game was set. Excellent blocking on the left side of the return team allowed Davis to sprint into the end zone without being touched. The Chiefs got other important contributions from special teams, as kicker Cairo Santos hit all three of his field-goal attempts, two of those going for 49 yards. Santos also helped win the field-position battle with all seven of his kickoffs ending in touchbacks. It was a top-shelf effort by the Kansas City kicking game.
--COACHING: A. Since the Chiefs most previous postseason victory was 22 years before, Andy Reid and his staff did something that Marty Schottenheimer, Dick Vermeil, Herm Edwards and Todd Haley could not accomplish. Reid has to be included in that group, as he directed the Chiefs team that failed in the playoffs after the 2013 season. Across the board the game plans on offense, defense and special teams were strong and effective. Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer was befuddled and the Houston defense could not consistently stop the Kansas City offense.