Considering all that was going on with the Kansas City Chiefs roster shuffles, perhaps fans should not be so shocked about the team’s 30-12 loss to the Minnesota Vikings Saturday night at Arrowhead Stadium.
Still, personnel aside, the Vikings laid an old-fashioned butt-whipping on the Chiefs in the second half – when the starters were still in the game and beyond – and the 20 second-half points the visitors scored somehow seemed more like 50 to the disappointed home crowd.
A late fourth quarter touchdown from Chiefs QB Tyler Bray to wide receiver Albert Wilson couldn’t dress up a poor performance by the team in every phase of the game.
Offensively, the Chiefs first unit still hasn’t found the end zone during the entire preseason and quarterback Alex Smith might have played his most frustrating half of football in a Chiefs uniform. Smith (14/24, 140 yards, 2 interceptions) has been one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks at avoiding turnovers for the past three seasons but had two costly interceptions in the red zone Saturday night, costing the Chiefs two potential touchdowns.
At the least, Kansas City would have probably converted both chances for short field goals, which would have possibly given them an 11-10 halftime lead. Watching the uncharacteristic throws makes one wonder if possibly there were slight miscommunications between Smith and Frankie Hammond on the first interception and Travis Kelce on the second? Only Smith and the coaching staff would know for sure but both Smith and Reid took responsibility for the mistakes.
“Yeah, it hurts,” said Smith in the post-game press conference about his turnovers. “You’d love to get down there and score touchdowns every time. With that, I think they are things we’ll learn from. Mistakes I don’t think I’ll make again.”
“In a game like today … the field goals would’ve helped … especially going there into halftime” Smith added. “Going into halftime would’ve been a much different game if we could’ve walked away with points.”
The Chiefs were missing starters Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles on offense nursing injuries that wouldn’t have kept them from playing in the regular season. Worse yet, head coach Andy Reid had to virtually reshuffle his offensive line for the game because he has to find someone to replace right tackle Donald Stephenson for the first quarter of the season from a league suspension.
Left tackle Eric Fisher and center Rodney Hudson were in the normal spots, but Jeff Allen – normally the starting left guard – was playing at right tackle for Stephenson. Allen was replaced by Jeff Linkenbach at guard and rookie Zack Fulton was playing in only his third NFL game. Not surprisingly, there were several miscommunications and breakdowns in the blocking schemes that doomed the Chiefs to three-and-out series.
It wasn’t much better on the defensive side of the ball for Kansas City on the opening drive for Minnesota. Former Chiefs quarterback – and fan whipping boy – Matt Cassel justified his coach’s decision to name him the starting QB for the Vikings opener on the
Cassel led the Vikings on a 97-yard touchdown drive which culminated – much to the chagrin of the hometown crowd – with a picture-perfect 53-yard touchdown strike to receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who got behind the Chiefs secondary rather easily for the catch.
But then Cassel reminded Chiefs fans of the old days on the Vikings next drive, when he fumbled out of the end zone after a sack by Chiefs defensive tackle Jaye Howard. The safety gave the Chiefs their first points of the game. A second quarter field goal by kicker Cairo Santos were the only other points for the Chiefs in the half.
Still, despite all the problems in the first half, Minnesota held just a 10-5 lead over Kansas City.
However, things really deteriorated in the third quarter when the Vikings took advantage of Kansas City turnovers, mistakes, and breakdowns in special teams and scored 17 points, putting the game safely out of reach.
The Chiefs will wrap up their preseason Thursday in Green Bay in a game where the starters normally sit and prepare for the regular season. With the problems in the offensive line, don’t be shocked if the Chiefs’ coaching staff takes advantage of the extra time and plays their offensive players much more than normal.
This line needs every game snap they can get to get ready for the season opener on September 7 against Tennessee.
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