The Chiefs insist they don't particularly care who is lining up in the Dallas Cowboys backfield on Sunday, whether it's Zeke Elliott or somebody else.
There's also a good chance they're stretching the truth.
The reality is the Chiefs have been miserable at stopping the run all season, yielding more than 130 yards rushing per game.
And the prospect of facing a Cowboys offense missing one of the game's top running backs is a whole lot rosier than seeing No. 21 bearing down on them all afternoon.
"You don't have to be an extraordinary back to kill it in Dallas," said Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones, alluding to the Cowboys' highly regarded offensive line.
"But you have to give props to Zeke," he added. "He's an extraordinary back."
Elliott was suspended in August after the NFL investigated several alleged physical confrontations with his then-girlfriend. The decision set off a series of legal challenges, including a ruling Monday by a U.S. district judge that reinstated Elliott's six-game ban - starting against Kansas City.
The players' union has turned to a federal appeals court in its latest challenge, and lawyers for Elliott are hopeful the suspension is delayed until the court considers the issue.
But none of that really matters to Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who said Wednesday he is focused on dissecting the Cowboys' scheme rather than whoever might be executing it.
"I'd tell you there's certain things they're going to do," he said. "It doesn't matter the back, the concepts and schemes you kind of focus in on and work on - I don't think that will change."
Still, Elliott is the league's third-leading rusher with 640 yards, and the star running back is coming off a 150-yard, two-touchdown performance Sunday in Washington.
His replacements consist of Alfred Morris, Rod Smith and Darren McFadden - talented players, and in the case of Morris and McFadden, guys who have had success. But none of them could be considered in the same stratosphere as Elliott, who was fourth in MVP voting last season.
"I think they're deep at that spot," Reid said. "They still have a guy we're familiar with from the Raiders there hanging in the background. If there's one spot they have a little depth I'd tell you that's it. I don't think they change anything schematically. They do what they do."
The Chiefs should probably think about changing what they do.
They gave up 177 yards rushing in Monday night's win over Denver, a team that's been impotent on offense. And the only week that they have not allowed at least 100 yards on the ground was two weeks ago against Oakland, when they allowed 417 yards through the air instead.
Even standout linebacker Justin Houston, fresh off the Chiefs forcing five turnovers against the Broncos, noted the problems: "The only thing I would ask of me," he said, "is a better run defense."
In other news Wednesday, Reid disputed unsourced reports that the Chiefs were activating veteran linebacker Tamba Hali from the physically unable to perform list. Hali missed the entire offseason and training camp with sore knees, and the Chiefs have been holding out hope that Hali will be able to bolster their pass rush for the stretch run.
"We've been talking about it, (general manager) Brett Veach has, for the last little bit, when you do that or whatever," Reid said. "I guess they're still talking about it."
The Chiefs could use an extra pass rusher after linebacker Dee Ford went down with a back injury against the Broncos. Ford, who had back trouble earlier this season, was undergoing tests Wednesday and his prognosis for not only this weekend but the rest of the season was in question.
Hali is carrying a salary cap hit of more than $8.5 million this season, though it's likely to be his last in Kansas City. He becomes relatively inexpensive to cut before next season.
"I don't want to slight you guys," Reid said, when pressed on Hali's future. "It's a short week and I'm focused on the Cowboys more than that right there. I haven't spent a lot of time in that area."
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