GREGORIAN

The Kansas City Star - - Sports -

at least mo­men­tar­ily rel­e­gated to their lead­ing rusher be­ing … Ma­homes, with 238 yards.

“I don’t nec­es­sar­ily like run­ning; I’m not too fast,” Ma­homes said, smil­ing, as the Chiefs pre­pared to play Bal­ti­more at home this Sun­day. “But I like scram­bling around ex­tend­ing plays.”

Which, in fact, is the first cru­cial point here: Ma­homes still will ex­tend all of this in more ways than one, as we saw in the 40-33 vic­tory over Oak­land on a rather slug­gish of­fen­sive day.

He will con­tinue to be the cat­a­lyst, and he re­mains sur­rounded by an im­pres­sive ar­ray of play­mak­ers in an of­fense that con­tin­u­ally is be­ing tweaked and con­toured to its strengths by coach Andy Reid.

Be­yond that, for a sam­ple of how the game has changed from grind to flight, con­sider that 29 of Ma­homes’ 41 touch­down passes have been in the red zone, in­clud­ing 17 in­side the 10-yard-line. That speaks to a fun­da­men­tal mod­ern change in the func­tion of the run game.

Then there is the mat­ter of Spencer Ware, who will get the bulk of the work in the wake of Hunt’s re­lease (even though here’s hop­ing there’s room to get for­mer run­ning back Hill more car­ries), with Damien Wil­liams and the re­cently re­turned Char­can­drick West soon to fill in.

No, Ware doesn’t have Hunt’s ceil­ing on the field. But Ware clearly is an as­set, not a li­a­bil­ity, as he re­minded last Sun­day when he churned to carry three or four Raiders with him on one run and bull­dozed through oth­ers for a touch­down on an­other.

That sheer tough­ness, his smarts with pro­tec­tions, knack as a re­ceiver and un­der­stand­ing of the sys­tem mean that Ware will be sturdy and re­li­able and have to be re­spected by de­fenses … even if he isn’t quite a pres­ence to be game-planned around the way Hunt of­ten was.

This means a niche of his own, un­der­stand­ing, though, that part of that is an in­di­rect ac­knowl­edg­ment that he isn’t his pre­de­ces­sor.

“We try to do that with ev­ery player, if we can, ex­ploit their strengths and then work on their weak­nesses so that maybe those can be­come strengths for them,” said Reid, who play­fully de­clined to elab­o­rate on what that might mean for Ware. “I don’t know how else to an­swer it other than give you the play­book.”

It’s also worth re­mem­ber­ing this. Just over a year ago, when the Chiefs dis­carded the in­jury-rid­dled Ja­maal Charles, they ex­pected to ride Ware, who had rushed for 921 yards on 4.3 yards a carry in 2016.

So Ware is right when he says “my film is my ré­sumé,” though as of the first drive of the 2017 pre­sea­son opener the bi­og­ra­phy also in­cluded a torn MCL and PCL in his right knee. At that point, you might re­mem­ber, many Chiefs fans fig­ured that would be big trou­ble.

Then in stepped Hunt, the sixth run­ning back and 86th pick over­all in the 2017 NFL Draft, num­bers that re­flect the di­min­ished stature of the run­ning back in to­day’s game. But he was a sen­sa­tion on the field, and in that sense the Chiefs were a bet­ter team with him.

But the deeply dis­turb­ing video of him shov­ing and kick­ing a woman in Fe­bru­ary that be­came pub­lic last week, along with other news that has since sur­faced, made him toxic.

Now, the Chiefs are ab­so­lutely bet­ter off without him in a broader sense, and his dis­missal hardly means their sea­son is sab­o­taged.

It re­mains to be seen how it will all play out, of course. But this team re­mains Su­per Bowl-cal­iber be­cause Ware is bet­ter than many might re­al­ize, be­cause this of­fense (and most oth­ers) aren’t built around run­ning backs any­more, any­way, and be­cause it has so much else go­ing for it.

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