As the Chiefs huddled with just over two minutes left in the first half Sunday, players wondered if they should use a timeout. The question stemmed not from a dwindling play clock nor the need for a reset, but for a different reason entirely.
A snap streak.
Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz stood on the sideline, forced out of the game with a left knee injury. As a play approached, he slumped to the ground, slamming his helmet on the grass as it sunk in.
His streak was on the verge of extinction.
Schwartz had played 7,894 consecutive snaps to start his NFL career — the longest such stretch in the league — before he sat out for three to conclude the first half. Well aware of the feat, his teammates thought maybe a timeout would allow enough time for Schwartz to return and prolong the uninterrupted string of snaps on which he'd played, though he said such a decision would have been too selfish.
"It sucks," he said. "It was a pretty cool thing. Now I'm just normal like everybody else."
Schwartz returned in the second half, but his absence, even if it was brief, best demonstrated the infectious nature of the injuries plaguing the Chiefs' offensive line.
Then it continued after his departure. Like, immediately after.
On the first play he missed, the Chiefs shifted Martinas Rankin outside to fill the hole on the right edge. He suffered a season-ending knee injury on the snap. Needed a cart to leave the field. Needed crutches to leave the stadium.
One more play later, the only five healthy linemen who'd dressed for the game were all in the game, with only one of them, center Austin Reiter, lined up in the same spot at which he opened the season.
Left tackle Eric Fisher has been out since Week 2 with a sports hernia. Left guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif missed last week with an ankle injury. There's some optimism for those two, at least, with Chiefs coach Andy Reid implying each is nearing a return.
Right guard Andrew Wylie played Sunday but missed three games earlier this year. There is never a good time to lose offensive lineman, but the injuries have stockpiled as Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has returned from a dislocated kneecap and an ankle sprain.
"We had some guys get banged up," Reid said. "The guys worked there, and we were able to kind of keep it rolling there."
The Chiefs do prepare for such scenarios. Offensive line coach Andy Heck rotates the personnel throughout camp, having several practice at multiple positions, if needed.
And it's definitely been needed.
"We've played a lot of guys," Schwartz said. "It seems like everyone coming in keeps playing well, so that's credit to (general manager) Brett Veach and Coach Reid and Coach Heck. Something Heck does a really good job of, (which) we've talked about before, is cross-training guys.
"We've got good players. We've got versatile guys. Unfortunately we've had to use everybody."
Yes, everybody. The Chiefs added to that mix Monday, signing Jackson Barton off the Indianapolis Colts' practice squad.
Earlier in the day, Reid offered that first glimpse of positive news with the group in quite some time, hinting that Duvernay-Tardif and Fisher are getting close.
"There's a chance that you get those guys back in the mix," he said. "My hat goes off to Coach Heck for having to deal with that. For the guys that stepped up and in, we were still able to move the ball effectively."