On Saturday, the Kansas City Chiefs began their preseason with a 19-14 loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
Kansas City’s first-team offense and defense delivered strong showings, with several depth pieces emerging as they hope to solidify spots on the 53-man roster. The Chiefs’ top teams built up a 14-0 halftime lead before the backup defense allowed Chicago to take the lead.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes finished 6 of 7 for 60 yards and a touchdown — and the key fact was that he hit six different receivers to do so. Tight end Blake Bell finished off an 11-play, 5:37 drive by catching a 5-yard touchdown. Asked what he wanted in his first preseason game, Mahomes said he wanted to get his first hit out of the way. That happened (without injury) when Bears defensive end Trevis Gipson hit Mahomes as he completed a 19-yard pass to tight end Travis Kelce.
Both veteran running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and rookie Isiah Pacheco saw touches on the Chiefs’ opening drive; Pacheco broke a tackle near the goal line to set up the Mahomes-Bell touchdown. Mahomes checked out of the game after one series. Backup Chad Henne only saw five plays before head coach Andy Reid gave the keys to third-string quarterback Shane Buechele (so much for that whole quarter each thing, Coach Reid).
A defensive overhaul in the offseason saw the Chiefs lean into several new players, including safety Justin Reid — who, like Tyrann Mathieu before him, has been asked to step in as a leader despite being a newcomer. Reid started the day with the team’s first tackle, followed by a diving tackle by linebacker Willie Gay Jr.
Much has been made about the Chiefs’ lack of sacks last season (they were fourth-worst in the league), but defensive tackle Chris Jones got to Bears quarterback Justin Fields on their opening drive for a three-and-out. On the next drive, defensive end Frank Clark looked faster as he connected on a quarterback hit — and defensive tackle Turk Wharton knocked down a ball at the line.
There were several standouts when it came to the depth of this team in Game 1, including Pacheco, defensive end George Karlaftis and wide receiver Justin Watson.
Despite being a rookie, Pacheco looked the part. His usage with Mahomes on the first drive near the goal line would give reason to wonder if the coaching staff likes that role for him. Preseason Game 1 showed that Pacheco is not only going to make this team, but may also be the No. 2 running back by the time camp breaks — if he isn’t already. We’ve noted Pacheco could spell the end for running back Ronald Jones, who did not look great running behind the Chiefs’ backup offensive lines.
It is worth noting that the Chiefs ran Andrew Wylie as their top-team right tackle. Left to right, their second team offensive line was Geron Christian, Nick Allegretti, Austin Reiter, Michael Caliendo and Roderick Johnson.
Behind Jones, Derrick Gore did not do himself many favors with at least two drops and a fumble (forced by Super Bowl champion Mike Pennel).
Much of Kansas City defensive end George Karlaftis’ success in this game came against Chicago’s reserve offensive line. Still, it already looks as though the Chiefs may have gotten a steal by acquiring him with such a late pick in the first round (No. 30). The motor that the Chiefs’ personnel staff and coaches have described was evident in his initial game play, and his unwillingness to give up on any play led to a preseason sack.
Only one of wide receiver Justin Watson’s five catches came from Henne. The rest were from Buechele — and at the half, Watson led the team with five receptions for 45 yards. He finished his day with a leaping touchdown to give the Chiefs a 14-0 lead. In early August, I described on these pages how Watson was making a case to be a lock for this roster — and it comes down to his willingness to play special teams and his sneaky offensive upside. That was on full display in Chicago — and to a lesser extent, Daurice Fountain can say the same.
Among those defensive backs involved with real regular-season snaps, L’Jarius Sneed had a tough rep against wide receiver Darnell Mooney; he did not adjust well and allowed a 19-yard gain. The same could be said for cornerback Joshua Williams (who has filled in for cornerback Rashad Fenton as he eases back from his shoulder injury). Williams covered wide receiver Tajae Sharpe well but missed a pass breakup, allowing a 19-yard gain. Cornerback Jaylen Watson, who has been next up after Williams in training camp, had an up-and-down game, compiling three tackles — but also allowing a nasty open-field cutback by running back Tresten Ebner.
Defensive tackles Taylor Stallworth and Khalen Saunders, who could be vying for the same final defensive line spot, each had key tackles. Rookie wide receiver Skyy Moore also flashed during the game by holding onto a third-down ball as he was hit — gaining a first down — and having the awareness to get both of his feet in on a catch down the sideline.
On special teams, Moore did well catching a punt in traffic (he has struggled at times in camp), and safety Bryan Cook delivered a thundering tackle in punt coverage. McDuffie, Moore and Coleman had opportunities as punt returners, while Pacheco, Moore and Coleman had opportunities as the kick returner.
…and oh yeah, the Chiefs may have themselves the best rostered backup kicker in the league. Justin Reid got his extra point.
“The backup kicker position is locked down,” said Reid during the broadcast.
After the game, the Chiefs fly home to Kansas City. It’s back to practice in St. Joseph on Monday.