KC Chiefs Win Over Buffalo May Have Come at an Overlooked Injury Price


While it’s almost impossible to play a perfect game of football, the Kansas City Chiefs won’t take much issue with their collective performance on Sunday night against the Buffalo Bills, even if one of its players was injured.

There were a few missteps on Sunday, like Mecole Hardman Jr.’s goal-line turnover, but the Chiefs stepped up when the chips were down. The offense looked in sync for the first time in a while, and the defense stepped up down the stretch.

Add a sixth-straight trip to the AFC Championship into the mix, and it was a pretty perfect night. Well, there could be a major problem buried in the celebration.

As the dust cleared, head coach Andy Reid noted that offensive lineman Joe Thuney had suffered an injury at some point during the game. And while we don’t know the full story just yet, that could be a problem moving forward.

Let’s break things down.

From left: Kansas City Chiefs players Creed Humphrey, Joe Thuney and Donovan Smith are seen at State Farm Stadium on August 19, 2023, in Glendale, Arizona. Thuney’s Sunday injury could place a damper on a big postseason win.
Michael Owens/Getty Images

What We Know About Thuney’s Injury

There was plenty to focus on after the final whistle of the Chiefs’ divisional-round win over the Bills. The game-changing missed field goal stole plenty of attention, and KC’s collective performance also took a portion of the spotlight. Taylor Swift and a shirtless Jason Kelce also made quite an impact on social media, which shouldn’t come as a surprise.

But buried among all that social media chatter was a potentially troubling update. According to Reid, starting left guard Thuney suffered a pectoral injury during the game.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, an MRI is on the cards; that scan will presumably determine the veteran lineman’s fate moving forward.

Thuney was designated as questionable to return to Sunday’s contest, so he still carried that “Q” on places like ESPN’s depth chart. As of now, though, that’s more of a placeholder than anything else.

If the veteran is unable to play, it’s likely that Nick Allegretti will slot into his place.

An O-Line Injury Isn’t Ideal Against Baltimore

Playing without a starting offensive lineman is never ideal. The potential loss of Thuney, however, could have come at an awful time.

To be clear, the veteran guard is very good at his job. The guys in the trenches don’t get the same attention as the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, but Thuney was named a 2023 All-Pro. ESPN Analytics also has him as the league’s best interior pass blocker with an eye-popping 99 percent win rate.

But his loss could be felt even more sharply against Baltimore. The Ravens may be known as Lamar Jackson’s team, but their defense was also impressive during the 2023 campaign. The top-seeded AFC club allowed the fewest points in the league across the regular season, and the trend continued in the postseason against Houston.

But that only tells part of the story.

During the regular season, Baltimore led the league with 60 sacks; Justin Madubuike had a team-high 13, while Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy had 9.5 and 9, respectively. While you could argue that the left defensive end and the strong and weak-side linebackers would test the Chiefs’ tackles more than a guard line Thuney, an injury could create a domino effect. If someone, whether that’s center Creed Humphrey, left tackle Donovan Smith or a chipping running back like Isiah Pacheco, has to help out the replacement (probably Allegretti), that could great a gap somewhere else.

Plugging holes may work in the short term, but it’s playing with fire against a pass rush like Baltimore’s.

It’s also worth remembering the role the offensive line plays in the running game. While we may think of Kansas City as a pass-first team, Pacheco has given the club a legitimate option on the ground. Even the best running back needs space to work, though, and Thuney is a key part of opening up holes for the Rutgers product to exploit.

Thuney’s pec injury could be little more than a scare; it’s possible that he’ll be sore before ultimately toughing it out on Sunday. But, by that same token, we could learn that he’ll be unable to go with a more serious problem.

And while you might not see many No. 62 jerseys in the stands, everyone affiliated with the Chiefs will be waiting with bated breath for the next injury update. At this point in the season, there’s simply no margin for error.