Un­known stars take cen­ter stage for K.C.

The Denver Post - - SPORT - By Dave Skretta

K A n SAS CI T Y, M o.» The two trans­ac­tions that the Kansas City Chiefs made be­fore the start of the sea­son came with lit­tle fan­fare, mostly be­cause ca­sual foot­ball fans prob­a­bly had never heard of ei­ther of them.

Jor­dan Lu­cas was drafted in the sixth round out of Penn State by the Dol­phins, and had spent most of his ca­reer on their prac­tice squad.

But when it be­came ev­i­dent in late Au­gust that Kansas City might need help at safety, gen­eral man­ager Brett Veach sent a sev­enth-round pick to Mi­ami for him.

Char­var­ius Ward went un­drafted this past April, over­looked by ev­ery team sev­eral times. He signed with the Cow­boys as a free agent, then was shipped the Chiefs for of­fen­sive line­man Parker Ehinger when Dal­las de­cided it needed some help up front.

Two play­ers, ac­quired one day apart, just may have turned a shoddy Chiefs de­fense into one that could carry the fran­chise to its first Su­per Bowl ap­pear­ance since Jan­uary 1970.

Lu­cas and Ward be­came de­pend­able pieces in the Chiefs’ de­fen­sive back­field the fi­nal two weeks of the reg­u­lar sea­son. And on Satur­day, they helped shut down An­drew Luck and the In­di­anapo­lis Colts in a 31-13 vic­tory that sent the fran­chise to its first AFC ti­tle game in 25 years.

“I think some of the young guys are ma­tur­ing right in front of our eyes,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid, whose team will face the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots at Ar­row­head Sta­dium next Sun­day.

His de­fense had been seen as the big­gest vul­ner­a­bil­ity all sea­son, par­tic­u­larly as the Chiefs’ of­fense shat­tered all kinds of fran­chise records. The only games they lost came in shootouts against the Rams, Pa­tri­ots and Sea­hawks — on all three oc­ca­sions their de­fense giv­ing up a boat­load of points — and when Kansas City couldn’t stop Philip Rivers and the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers in the fourth quar­ter.

It was after that game against the Charg­ers that Reid made a bold per­son­nel move: He benched cor­ner­back Or­lando Scan­drick and safety Ron Parker, a pair of veter­ans that had started all sea­son, in fa­vor of Lu­cas and Ware, a pair of rel­a­tively untested young­sters.

They had some grow­ing pains the fol­low­ing week in Seat­tle, but Reid stuck with them, and they showed sig­nif­i­cant growth the fol­low­ing week. The Chiefs shut down Derek Carr and the Oak­land Raiders in a Week 17 vic­tory that they needed to wrap up the AFC West and No. 1 seed.

Their growth con­tin­ued in leaps and bounds against the Colts.

Ward was picked on early and came up with sev­eral big breakups, and Lu­cas pa­trolled the mid­dle of the field like a savvy cen­ter fielder. To­gether, they helped the Chiefs hold Luck to 203 yards pass­ing, and kept In­di­anapo­lis from scor­ing an of­fen­sive touch­down un­til late in the fourth quar­ter.

“At the end of the day, this is some­thing we love to do, some­thing we get paid to do,” Lu­cas said.

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