How one Chiefs rookie impressed on sideline vs. Bengals: ‘Fellas, we’re gonna be OK’
Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy started Friday’s news conference by praising his team’s “courageous, tough team win” in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Cincinnati Bengals, mentioning that many of the team’s young players stood out.
Shortly after, Bieniemy went into specifics about what made KC’s 23-20 win possible at all when it was limited to three receivers most of the second half following multiple injuries.
A big part of the victory that sent the Chiefs on to Super Bowl LVII was the resilience of rookie receiver Skyy Moore.
“I have to talk about this,” Bieniemy said, “because this just goes to show you the growth of this kid.”
Following in-game injuries to Mecole Hardman, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Kadarius Toney, KC had only Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Marcus Kemp available as wideouts late.
That meant unanticipated shuffling. And shifting roles for each guy.
Bieniemy admitted Friday that in that type of situation, one of the biggest challenges is simply “making sure we can get lined up.” Moore, for his part, was going to be asked often to play in a different spot than normal.
On the sideline during the game, Bieniemy said he pulled the rookie to the side to explain a particular play. And as Bieniemy recalls, that’s when Moore “yelled at me and said a few words to me. I’m not gonna mumble those words.”
“It went something like, ‘You just put me in, just tell me the personnel and I’m gonna make it right,’” Bieniemy said.
The Chiefs offensive coordinator smiled while retelling the story Friday, impressed with Moore for both his fire and adaptability.
“I said, ’Fellas, we’re gonna be OK,’” Bieniemy said. “So that was good to see.”
Moore received his greatest notoriety Sunday for a fourth-quarter special teams play, as he returned a punt 29 yards in the game’s final minute to set up Harrison Butker’s eventual game-winning field goal.
On offense, though, his presence was significant too. He played 39 snaps at receiver — a season-high — with 19 of those coming as an outside receiver, according to Pro Football Focus’ logs.
For comparison, Moore hadn’t gotten more than five snaps as an outside receiver in any of his previous seven games.
“It’s tough when you’re down your main guys, but I feel like we’ve got one of the deepest receiver rooms in the league, just as far as like each man is ready to play every Sunday,” Moore said afterward. “And I feel like it showed.”
He wasn’t the only receiver who stepped up while facing a unique situation Sunday.
Kemp — he’d played 10 offensive snaps all season for the Chiefs coming into the game — was in for 11 offensive snaps during the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game. He finished with 22 offensive plays and added a 13-yard catch.
Bieniemy described Kemp as an “outstanding professional football player.”
“He helped Skyy throughout the course of the game, but then he just steps up,” Bieniemy said. “Makes a catch here. He’s getting lined up. He’s making key, critical blocks for us. So I’m not shocked or surprised.”
Valdes-Scantling, who had six catches for 118 yards and one touchdown, also was singled out by quarterback Patrick Mahomes on Thursday for helping the team’s second-half operation amid the chaos.
“He does a good job but not only running his own routes, but when he was kind of that last guy out there, he was helping other guys get in the right position,” Mahomes said. “That’s a testament to him studying the game plan and knowing the entire concept of the game plan, not just his routes.”
Bieniemy highlighted the contributions of receivers coach Joe Bleymaier as well, saying he “has done a hell of a job with those guys all season.”
The final result advanced the Chiefs to Super Bowl LVII against the Philadelphia Eagles.
With Bieniemy taking particular pride in the way these Chiefs willed themselves to get there.
“The thing that stood out was the young players that we’ve been working with all season long, just having those guys prepared to be at their best when their very best was needed due to all the injuries that took place,” Bieniemy said. “I just thought it was a great team victory.”