KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The way the Kansas City Chiefs shuffled different groups along the offensive line in training camp inevitably drew comparisons to the game of musical chairs.
The only problem is the music didn’t stop when camp did.
The Chiefs tried their fourth different combination in their first seven games last weekend against Pittsburgh, and finally appeared to strike a chord with it. They protected Alex Smith as well as they have all season, and pried opened enough holes for the Chiefs to run for 138 yards – their second-best total of the season, even without star running back Jamaal Charles.
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”I thought the offensive line did a pretty good job, and I say that telling you that I think Pittsburgh has a pretty good front,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. ”They gave us a few different looks. So the thing I saw, and again, it wasn’t all pretty, but the effort there was.”
Reid has been searching for that effort, more than anything else, all season long.
The new-look lineup had Eric Fisher, the left tackle a year ago, back on that side for the first time this season. Ben Grubbs remained at left guard and rookie Mitch Morse at center, but the right side changed once more, with Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff back at guard and Jeff Allen moving into the tackle position for the first time in 2015.
And for the first time this season, Reid finally saw a five-some with a mean streak.
”I’ve said this from Day 1: that’s where it starts on the offensive side,” said Reid, an old offensive line coach. ”I liked the way the guys handled themselves. Are there things we can get better at? Yeah, we’ve got to keep improving there, but the effort definitely was there.”
Reid expects the same group to take the field against Detroit on Sunday in London, although Grubbs was held out of practice Wednesday with some neck stiffness.
The biggest bright spot on the line may have come on that volatile right side, where there have been two different guards and three different tackles starting through seven games.
Duvernay-Tardiff in particular caught Reid’s eye. The medical student from McGill University in Canada is happy-go-lucky in the locker room, but he displayed the kind of mean streak that most good offensive linemen have when he stepped onto the field.
At least, that was Reid’s take.
”Oh, he said that? That’s cool!” Duvernay-Tardiff said. ”That’s just the way I always played football in the past. I didn’t really realize how much of an advantage it was until I got here. I wanted it to be my trademark – when I go out there, I try to give my maximum effort.”
But can he sustain it for 60 minutes on Sunday?
”Maybe I get more tired after one play,” Duvernay-Tardiff said, ”but the defensive lineman is going to get a lot more tired, because he’s working his (butt) off. That’s the way I look at it.”
Make no mistake, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith loves to see that attitude. He was sacked 23 times through the first six games, a remarkable rate of hitting the turf. But Smith only went down twice against Pittsburgh.
Given a bit more time in the pocket, he wound up throwing for 251 yards and a touchdown.
”Everybody has their own personality, especially those guys up front, and the close combat up there,” Smith said. ”I’ve played with a lot of different guys – some guys are the nicest guys ever and you get on the field and something just switches. You like to see it, you see the confidence they get, especially young guys like Larry, to get out there and play the game.”
NOTES: WR Jeremy Maclin returned to practice Wednesday after missing last week’s game with a concussion. DT Mike DeVito (concussion), LB Tamba Hali (knee) and LB Ramik Wilson (high ankle sprain) did not participate in the workout. … The Chiefs will practice at home again Thursday before boarding a plane for Sunday’s game in London.
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