As KC Chiefs react to abrupt schedule change, they lean on unusual thing: the pandemic

Jill Toyoshiba/

Late Sunday night, several hours after a loss in Cincinnati dropped the Chiefs from the AFC’s No. 1 seed to No. 2, the NFL announced a change to their schedule.

Ready to bounce back in seven days?

Make it six.

The Chiefs and Broncos will meet at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Denver — rather than their originally-scheduled Sunday afternoon kickoff — as part of a new NFL format to place two games as standalone features on Saturday.

Some Chiefs players didn’t even catch the change immediately, with the modification announced so late Sunday that they learned of it the following morning.

Suddenly, a short week will require an adjustment. But the short notice of it? That becomes the most difficult piece.

“It just affects a lot of people,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “I’m talking about from (team president) Mark Donovan on down to all of us. Everybody’s got to move things around and organize.”

Most notably, though, the players’ game-planning becomes cramming for the final regular season test. The Chiefs were on the field for a light practice Tuesday in what’s often a scheduled day off.

Yet while it seems like last-minute maneuvering — and in most cases, it is just that — the Chiefs do have some preparation for it.

The pandemic has necessitated the ability to adapt and adapt quickly inside NFL facilities. In back-to-back weeks against the Chargers and Steelers, for example, the Chiefs made late changes to game plans because some players were unexpectedly unavailable.

One year earlier, the Chiefs had games moved days because of COVID-19 outbreaks among opposing teams.

It’s not as unfamiliar as it might have been just two years ago.

“I guess COVID has helped us in that area — being able to hang in the box and swing at a curveball and not bail out,” Reid said. “So we’re a little bit used to the sudden change.”

And if there was going to be a week in which this change would fall, the Chiefs might catch the benefit on the back end. Unless they hop the Titans this weekend — which would require a Chiefs win against the Broncos as well as a Titans loss to the Texans — they’ll be opening their playoff schedule one week later. They now have an extra day to prepare for a game of significant consequence.

So that’s one advantage.

There’s one more.

“We lost; I’m kind of glad we can get back at it real quick and we can get rid of that loss and turn the page,” linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. “It’s football. You have to be able to adjust this day and age — whether it’s COVID issues or whether it’s flexing games and switching games.

“We’re ready. Coach Reid has done an amazing job taking care of our bodies the second half of the season, so when Saturday rolls around, we’re going to be ready to roll.”