HOUSTON -- If Jeremy Maclin's knee injury keeps him from playing in Saturday’s divisional-round playoff game at the New England Patriots, the Kansas City Chiefs will be without their leading receiver -- and a lot more.
“It’s not just his physical talents,’’ quarterback Alex Smith said after Saturday’s 30-0 wild-card playoff victory over the Houston Texans. “He rubs off on everybody, the competitor that he is, what he brings on game day, that energy. I think everybody kind of feeds off that.
“Certainly, playing without him is tough. He brings a lot."
Maclin left Saturday’s game in the third quarter with what the Chiefs called a strained knee.
The Chiefs used rookie Chris Conley to replace Maclin. His only catch came shortly after Maclin’s departure and it went for a 9-yard touchdown.
“It was something I’ll always remember, but at the same time, it was at a point in the game where we weren’t done yet,’’ Conley said.
Conley would start against the Patriots if Maclin doesn’t play.
“Chris has stayed ready,’’ Smith said of the rookie. “He works hard. He stays after every day at practice, just working. He’s that kind of guy. We’ve got the kind of coaches that don’t blink, either. They don’t care.’’
The Chiefs played one game without Maclin this season: on Oct. 25, when they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 23-13 at Arrowhead Stadium when Maclin was inactive because of a concussion.
Conley was the Chiefs' leading receiver that day with six receptions. He caught his first NFL touchdown on a 6-yard pass from Smith.
“It [was] different,’’ Smith said. “For Chris, it was kind of his first real time [playing]. We all kind of have to pick it up. When a guy like that is missing, we all have to pick up the slack. I don’t think it’s any one person but us collectively.’’
Tight end Travis Kelce led the Chiefs with eight catches and 128 yards against the Texans.
“We’ve got some guys in that wide receiver room that can make plays,’’ Kelce said. “If Jeremy isn’t able to go, we’re going to be expected to come up big. I’ve got full confidence and I’m sure everybody else does that they’re going to be able to do that.’’