They were delivered from the agony of their five-game losing streak by a couple of unlikely sources. A few weeks ago, Charcandrick West was a bit player and Chris Conley a struggling rookie. They have since been cast into major roles because of the injuries to Jamaal Charles and Jeremy Maclin.
West and Conley responded in a big way in the 23-13 win over the Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium. West rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown and Conley led the Chiefs with six catches that included a 6-yard touchdown catch from Alex Smith. Each touchdown was a career first.
West and Conley could fade back to oblivion next week against the Detroit Lions in London. Just as likely, though, Sunday’s game could be a career-changer for both players.
“It’s big,’’ Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “It’s a confidence builder for them. It’s also a confidence [builder] for those guys around them that are working hard to know that you’ve got guys that can make plays around you. That adds up in a lot of different ways.
“Most of all, it’s great for those kids. Those are young kids making plays.’’
West, who made his first career start last week against the Minnesota Vikings, said Charles had advised him to write down his goals for every game on a piece of paper. The day before the game against the Steelers he wrote, 100-plus yards and a touchdown.
He wrote the same thing before the Vikings game, so in that sense, he was a week late. But for the Chiefs, he was right on time. His 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter put the Chiefs in the end zone for the first time after they had kicked three field goals.
Then his 36-yard run in the fourth quarter set up Conley’s touchdown. That was the score that put the game out of reach, a significant feat considering the Chiefs had blown fourth-quarter leads in their first two home games this season and appeared ready to do so again.
Conley’s touchdown ended not only their despair, but his too. The Chiefs drafted the big, fast receiver in the third round, hoping he could deliver some big plays, but before Sunday there hadn't been many. He also dropped a couple of passes that could have helped the Chiefs overcome the Vikings last week. So his confidence wasn’t exactly where the Chiefs need it to be with Maclin out of the lineup because of a concussion.
“It was a rough week,’’ Conley said. “But one of the mottos coach Reid has around here is, ‘Fear nothing, attack everything.’ I had to continue to play with that mindset. I had to continue to attack the ball. It speaks volumes to them as a coaching staff and Alex to still trust me.
“The whole thing has been a learning process. Even now, there are things I can correct from this game.’’
Whether or not Conley starts again next week against the Lions -- trainer Rick Burkholder said Maclin’s availability would be evaluated as soon as Monday -- he should remain a part of the rotation. And West now appears to have a firm hold on the featured back role.
Because of that, the rest of the Chiefs’ season suddenly doesn’t look so grim.
“There’s a confidence that comes with [...] knowing that you can go out there on a Sunday and do it at the highest level,’’ Smith said. “I think for every position that’s important but certainly for those guys [...] in the skill positions.’’