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Chiefs RB Isiah Pacheco officially active, LB Willie Gay Jr. out for AFC Championship Game

Posted at 1:09 PM, Jan 28, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-28 14:24:35-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Isiah Pacheco will fight through ankle and toe injuries to suit up for the Kansas City Chiefs during the AFC Championship Game at 2 p.m. against the Baltimore Ravens.

But the Chiefs’ defense will be without arguably its most-athletic linebacker with Willie Gay Jr. inactive due to a lingering neck injury.

Gay and left guard Joe Thuney (pec strain), who had already been ruled out after injuring his chest late in last Sunday’s Divisional Round win at Buffalo, are the most-significant inactives for Kansas City, which is trying to reach the Super Bowl for the fourth time in the last five seasons.

Having Pacheco should help in that pursuit. He’s become the engine for a resurgent run game, but it shouldn’t be a shock that he’s elevated his performance in the playoffs.

Pacheco has averaged 56.9 yards per game in 31 career regular-season games, but that production jumps to 76.6 yards per game in the postseason.

He’s had at least 76 yards rushing in four of his five career playoff games — all wins, by the way — and has found the end zone in three straight, including Super Bowl LVII and both postseason games this season.

The one game he didn’t rush for more than 76 yards, Pacheco had five catches for 59 yards, so he had at least 76 yards from scrimmage in every playoff game in his first two NFL seasons.

Thuney, an All-Pro performer with the Chiefs and New England in his career, represents a significant loss on the offensive-line interior, but Nick Allegretti is no stranger to the postseason.

Allegretti has appeared in 14 postseason games during his five seasons in the NFL, including starting at guard during the 2020 season playoffs en route to Super Bowl LV.

Safety Mike Edwards (concussion), who cleared the NFL’s Concussion Protocol and was a full participant Friday at practice, will suit up. He had been questionable along with Pacheco and Gay, who did not practice Friday, on the Chiefs’ final injury report.

Kansas City had previously ruled out Thuney and wide receiver Kadarius Toney (personal/hip).

The Chiefs activated defensive tackle Mike Pennel and cornerback Keith Taylor from the practice squad for the game. Pennel will have to rotate along the defensive interior with Derrick Nnadi now on injured reserve.

Taylor was inactive along with cornerback Ekow Boye-Dow and rookie defensive ends Felix Anudike-Uzomah and BJ Thompson.

Wide receiver Skyy Moore (knee) and tackle Prince Tega Wanogho (quad) remain on IR and were not activated for the game.

For Baltimore, cornerback Marlon Humphrey (calf) will play but fellow cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (knee) will not. Both were questionable along with wide receiver Tylan Wallance (knee) who also is inactive.

Linebacker Del-Shawn Phillips (shoulder), who was doubtful, also is inactive along with quarterback Malik Cunningham, center Sam Mustipher and guard Sala Aumavae-Laulu.

Josh Johnson will serve as the third QB for the Ravens, who welcome back tight end Mark Andrews after a two-month absence.