“With circumstances this high,” admitted Chiefs offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr., “the margin for error is so small.”
So no one would bat an eye if the Chiefs relegated Moore to the mothballs early in the season when the first-year wide receiver couldn’t even make a good catch. To be fair, Moore had never really been put in that position, but that didn’t stop fans from groaning every time he fumbled a punt.
The Chiefs eventually pulled him from return duties, at least during games. But Moore kept working in practice and it ended up paying off for him. Their new comeback, Kadarius Toney, injured his ankle against the Bengals, and his backup Justin Watson was already inactive with illness. Then, the Chiefs sent Moore back to recover the biggest punt of the season.
Not only did he field it cleanly, but he ran to the sideline to give Kansas City a chance to win the AFC title in regulation.
“I just had to remind myself who I was and why I was here,” Moore said. “I was doing something new, and I was about to get my bumps and bruises. I kept working on it. I didn’t think I’d ever get a punt return again this season. But I didn’t stop catching pounds. I was prepared for that moment and it has borne fruit.
So did the Chiefs’ decision to continue to field rookie cornerbacks Trent McDuffie, Jaylen Watson and Josh Williams together, often with rookie safety Bryan Cook, even as the wily wide receivers kept outplaying them and the flags kept flying for pass interference. Just like Moore, they got their lumps in early in the season so they’d be ready later.
In the AFC title game, Watson and Williams both picked up passes, one of which was after Cook tapped the ball in the air.