Tue Jan 19 1:59pm ET
By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Chad Henne throws a pass during the second half of an NFL divisional round football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. The Chiefs won 22-17. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The 35-year-old journeyman quarterback that made the two plucky plays in the final minutes of regulation that helped get the Kansas City Chiefs into the AFC championship game was fortunate to even be on the team.
Chad Henne had spent nearly a decade with Miami and Jacksonville, where his career could best be described as the essence of mediocrity. He was 18-35 as the starter for two franchises perpetually rebuilding, and upon his release from the Jaguars in 2017, he found himself in a competition with another veteran, Matt Moore, to be Patrick Mahomes' backup.
''It was almost a flip of the coin,'' Chiefs coach Andy Reid said this week.
Henne got the job. And three years later, he had the opportunity to reward the Chiefs for their faith in him. Mahomes left in the third quarter of their divisional-round game against the Browns because of a concussion, and Henne calmly stepped into the huddle and led them to a field goal on his first drive to push the lead to 22-10 late in the third quarter.
Those two plucky plays came in the fourth, when the Chiefs were clinging to a 22-17 lead and trying to run out the clock.
The first came on third-and-14 deep in their own territory, when Henne got his creaky old legs going so fast that it even surprised his teammates. He was flushed from the pocket and scrambled to his left, his eyes trained downfield until he had crossed the line of scrimmage, at which point he tucked the ball and took a bit of a shot as he dived for the first down.
He came up inches short, leading to the second play. Reid had gone over the scenario with Mahomes and Henne the previous night - fourth-and-1 with a chance to win the game - and they had a call they liked, so the Super Bowl-winning coach sent his backup quarterback onto the field. Henne was so calm that it appeared he was trying to pull Cleveland offside and that Kansas City would otherwise punt, but then he called for the snap and snapped a pass to Tyreek Hill in the flat.
It went for a first down. The Chiefs ran out the clock.
Mahomes got the Chiefs fans everywhere tweeting ''HenneThingIsPossible.''
''I talk to Chad basically every morning, I think. We're usually in there pretty early,'' Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu said. ''He is a true professional. If you were able to watch this guy every single day, Monday through Saturday, he has the same routine.
''Any given moment you need to be prepared to play at a high level, and it was good to see him make some plays.''
So what kept Henne going all those years, when the Dolphins no longer wanted him and the Jaguars let him go? What gave him the humility to accept a job as the backup to a young hotshot, uncertain he would ever step on the field again?
''I think my personality,'' Henne said. ''I'm always a competitor, throughout the years, if it went my way or didn't go my way. I just felt like I loved the game still. I loved the locker room and coming here just enlightened me. Coach Reid and his staff and the players here brought a lot out of me, and seeing Patrick and his success, he's helped me out more than I feel like I helped him out. It's just a pleasure being here. This is why I play.''
Henne fractured his ankle in the preseason last year and again could have hung up his cleats, especially when Moore was signed and proved successful when Mahomes had a knee injury. But he instead went through grueling physical therapy, ultimately returning to the team for the postseason.
The Chiefs thought so highly of him that they gave him a two-year, $3.25 million contract last March.
''You never want to see a guy like Patrick go down, one of the best players in the league,'' Henne said. ''That's why I'm here, come in prepared. There's a lot of great players around me that make me feel confident.''
There are signs that Mahomes will be cleared to play against the Buffalo Bills in Sunday's conference championship game, at which point Henne will once again be at the ready as the backup. But if concussion symptoms linger and Mahomes is unable to step on the field, the Chiefs have confidence that Mahomes can carry them back to the Super Bowl.
''All the guys have confidence in Chad if he has to be in there, you know, just like they did with Matt the year before,'' Reid said. ''It's the way those guys handle themselves. So you know, I don't think anything would change if he has to play. I don't think we think twice about that. If Pat can't go, then Chad jumps in and rolls.''
Interview with a Champ
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) is likely to have surgery on the torn deltoid and other ligaments in his ankle this offseason, according to a source. Thomas knew it was likely quarterback Drew Brees' last year and didn't want to miss out on a possible Super Bowl run. A high-ankle sprain limited the All-Pro wideout to just seven games this year. He often was playing at far less than 100 percent, catching just 40 passes for 438 yards and no touchdowns during the regular season. The 27-year-old did find the end zone in the wild-card win over the Bears, but he was a massive fantasy bust as the first receiver off the board in the first round in most drafts after his 149-catch, 1,725-yard season in 2019. Thomas should be a top-10 wideout, if healthy, in 2021, but losing Brees will also be a downgrade for his overall outlook moving forward.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (knee) did not suffer a serious knee injury in the Divisional Round win over the Saints, according to sources. Brown is considered day-to-day after undergoing an MRI exam on Monday. The 32-year-old should have a chance to suit up in the NFC Championship against the Packers on Sunday, but we'll keep a close eye on his practice participation throughout the week. If Brown is unable to go or is limited, Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson could see more opportunities in the passing game behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Brown played only 27 offensive snaps last weekend, missing most of the second half with his injury. He caught one of three targets for 10 yards against the Saints. Brown will be a touchdown-dependent fantasy option if he plays against Green Bay.
The Atlanta Falcons officially named Terry Fontenot as their new general manager on Tuesday. Fontenot spent the last 18 years of his career with the New Orleans Saints, most recently completing his first season as the team's vice president/assistant general manager for pro personnel. He initially got his foot in the door as a marketing intern with the Saints. New Orleans won Super Bowl XLIV in 2009 and has claimed seven NFC South titles in the last 15 years while Fontenot was around. Fontenot will now move to a Falcons team that has not been to the playoffs since 2017. He will be replacing Thomas Dimitroff, who was fired during the 2020 season. Fontenot will be working with new head coach Arthur Smith, with one of the main priorities being to figure out whether quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones are part of the organization's immediate future.
The Washington Football Team is finalizing a deal with Marty Hurney on Tuesday to be its new general manager, according to sources. The move should be officially announced later in the day. Hurney will be reunited with head coach Ron Rivera after the two worked together in the early part of the last decade with the Carolina Panthers. Hurney will join the team with hopes of improving a team that released first-round quarterback Dwayne Haskins after less than two full seasons. With Alex Smith potentially retiring, Washington faces plenty of uncertainty at the position in the short and long term. But Washington's defense proved to be a force in 2020 after the team finished 7-9 with a playoff berth.
Ohio State star quarterback Justin Fields announced on Twitter his intentions to forego his remaining eligibility and enter the 2021 NFL draft. He is considered one of the nation's top prospects after leading the Buckeyes to the national championship game, where they fell to Alabama. Fields beat Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the semifinals by throwing six touchdowns despite suffering a hip pointer in the game. The 6-foot-3, 228-pounder was 20-2 in his time as the Ohio State starter while completing 68.4 percent of his passes and a 63:9 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his two seasons with the Buckeyes. Fields also ran for 867 yards (4.0 yards per carry) and 15 touchdowns. Lawrence is projected to go to the Jaguars at No. 1 overall, but the Jets could snag Fields with the No. 2 pick this April.
Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff's recent inconsistent play has left his status as the starting quarterback for the 2021 season in the air and may lead the team to bring in someone who can push him, according to comments made by the NFL Network's Steve Wyche. 'The people I've spoken to said basically at this moment the relationship with Goff and (head coach Sean) McVay: not great. They need marriage counseling is what one person said to me. I think this is something that they're going to be able to work through, but there's got to be some healing and that's not just with Jared Goff's injured thumb,' Wyche said.
Fantasy Spin: Goff was very good in McVay's first two seasons (2017 and 2018), but it would seem that once opponents figured out how to slow down Todd Gurley late during the second half of the 2018 campaign, Goff started to get exposed. It's also possible that the defections of Sammy Watkins and Brandin Cooks have given defenses less to worry about vertically or that he is feeling the pressure of playing under his four-year, $134 million contract that he signed in September of 2019. Whatever the reason(s), fantasy owners should expect him to compete for his job in camp this summer.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Deone Bucannon, DB Javon Hagan and OG Ted Larsen were restored to the practice squad Monday, Jan. 18.
Green Bay Packers DT Brian Price and DB KeiVarae Russell were restored to the practice squad Monday, Jan. 18.
Los Angeles Rams cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant, Chicago Bears safeties coach Sean Desai and Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Raheem Morris are most likely candidates to replace Brandon Staley as the Rams' defensive coordinator, according to Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic. Rodrigue is reporting a decision to fill the vacancy could happen as soon as Tuesday, Jan. 19.
New England Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore has forced 37 incompletions since 2018 - tied for the second-highest total in the league - according to Pro Football Focus.
New York Giants CB James Bradberry has forced a league-high 42 incompletions since 2018, according to Pro Football Focus.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis has forced 37 incompletions since 2018 - tied for the second-highest total in the league - according to Pro Football Focus.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Vita Vea (ankle) will return to practice this week, and the team hopes he will be available for the NFC Championship game.
Dallas Cowboys DE Tyrone Crawford (foot) underwent surgery last week and showed his right foot in a cast after the surgery.
Denver Broncos impending free-agent S Justin Simmons is a player that head coach Vic Fangio wants to return next season.
The Baltimore Ravens will release veteran running back Mark Ingram II on Tuesday, according to league sources. The move will save the Ravens $5 million against the 2021 salary cap and will allow Ingram to get an early jump on free agency. Ingram was a healthy scratch in five of the team's final six games to close out the season, but he insists that he's healthy and has plenty to offer a team in 2021. The 31-year-old was a first-round pick out of Alabama back in 2011, but he's unlikely to be anything more than a backup if he lands with another team on the open market this offseason. J.K. Dobbins took over as Baltimore's lead back in the second half of the 2020 season, and Gus Edwards should continue spelling him next season. Ingram, a three-time Pro Bowler, had 72 carries for 299 yards (4.2 yards per attempt) and two touchdowns in 11 games (nine starts) in his second year in Baltimore.
Baltimore Ravens RB Mark Ingram has been informed that he will be released Tuesday, Jan. 19, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: Ingram may not be able to find a starting job this offseason but can be part of a running back committee for a team. Fantasy players can monitor the situation because Ingram can have fantasy value depending on his situation.
Free-agent CB Davontae Harris (Ravens) may re-sign with the Baltimore Ravens this offseason.
The Baltimore Ravens waived quarterback Robert Griffin III, defensive back Davontae Harris, wide receiver De'Anthony Harris and defensive back Tramon Williams on Monday. Griffin played in four games in his third season with the Ravens and made a start in place of Lamar Jackson after he contracted COVID-19 in the Week 12 loss to the Steelers. RG3 went just 7-for-12 for 33 yards and an interception in that start, also running the ball seven times for an additional 20 yards. The No. 2 overall pick might've played in his last NFL game, but he could also return to the Ravens if he goes unclaimed on waiver. The 30-year-old started just two games in three years for Baltimore and declined after he was named a Pro Bowler in his rookie season with Washington.