The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-20 in a rare preseason overtime game that gave Kansas City fans a glimpse of how good – or how bad – this team could be in the upcoming season. By the time it all ended, the Chiefs offense had racked up over 400 yards in offense, the defense forced five sacks and made just enough plays to win, and the special teams showed once again why they might be the best unit in the NFL at this point.
On the “good” side of the ledger is Alex Smith leading the offense to two scoring drives in the final five minutes of the first half after the offense struggled badly against the Steelers swarming, hard-hitting defense. After the Chiefs special teams blocked a Pittsburgh 52-yard field goal attempt that would have put the Steelers up 13-0, Smith bolted downfield on the Chiefs next play for a 38-yard scramble to the Steelers 14-yard line. It was the Chief’s longest play of the game … on offense at least.
A personal foul penalty against the Steelers for unnecessary roughness on Smith’s run gave the Chiefs a 1st-and-goal at the 7-yard line. The offense stalled at the Steelers 1-yard line before settling for a Ryan Succop 19-yard field goal to make the score 10-3 Pittsburgh.
The Chiefs defense forced Pittsburgh to punt on the next possession and that’s where Chiefs fans got another glimpse of why the Kansas City quarterback play will be vastly improved this year. Smith led the offense on a textbook 72-yard scoring drive with just one time out and 1:18 left on the clock. It ended when he hit WR Junior Hemingway with a 5-yard touchdown pass.
Smith finished the first half completing 17 of 24 passes for 158 yards and the one touchdown pass. More importantly, he was 6-for-8 on the game-tying drive with one of the incompletions occurring when he spiked the ball to kill the clock with 35 seconds left.
Also on the good side was the reappearance of the Chiefs wide receiving corps, who had been missing in action for the entire preseason. In the first half, Smith found Dwayne Bowe six times for 73 yards and Donnie Avery for 5 catches and 40 yards. In addition, Hemingway made a strong case for more playing time by having his best game as a Chief with 3 catches for 29 yards and the touchdown from Smith.
Back-up quarterback Chase Daniel, seemingly transported back in time to his days at Mizzou by the Steelers black and gold uniforms, played his best game as a Chief too. Playing almost exclusively with back-ups and guys that won’t be on the team against Jacksonville, Daniel completed 14-of-24 passes for 152 yards, but flashed is college form by adding another 45 yards rushing.
Despite a rocky end on the last series of regulation where he was sacked on three consecutive plays, Daniel shined in overtime, leading the Chiefs 71 yards for the game-winning touchdown on a 15-yard pass to someone named Ricardo Richardson.
But best of all, as has been the case all preseason, the special teams play was spectacular. Ryan Succop made both his field goal attempts (19 yds, and the 38 yarder that sent the game to overtime. Dustin Colquitt continued to punt well and the Steelers only had 3 net yards in punt returns. And the play all Chiefs fans will be talking about tomorrow was running back Knile Davis taking a kickoff 109 yards for a touchdown, which would have set an NFL record had it happened in a regular season game or the playoffs.
The special teams has scored a touchdown on kickoff returns for two straight weeks, and even in the game against the Saints, Davis broke off a 78-yard return in that game to set up a score. The special teams unit is playing scary-good right now.
The down side of the game is what may keep the Chiefs a sub-.500 team this season. They are paper-thin on defense and the back-ups keep coughing up leads and lots of points. Against Pittsburgh, they let the Steelers back-ups move down the field for a 10-point lead that would have stuck had it not been for Davis’ kickoff return.
The defense still can’t force turnovers, and they let Pittsburgh starting QB, Ben Roethlisberger, off the hook time and time again on third down. On Pittsburgh’s first-half touchdown, there was no Chiefs defender within five yards of RB Jonathan Dwyer, who strolled into the end zone after catching a 13-yard pass from Roethlisberger.
The running game for KC was abysmal, outside of the quarterback scrambles, the team totaled just 33 yards on 18 carries. Jamaal Charles returned from a foot injury and rushed for 10 yards on seven carries. Considering he gained 11 yards on one of this carries, well, you can do the math on the other nine. Apologists will point out that Pittsburgh has been the toughest run defense in the NFL for the last decade, but when the starting running backs can’t even average two yards per carry, it’s something the team will have to work on – and work on quickly.
When it’s all said and done, the Chiefs picked up a badly-needed win on the road against a team that is one of the best in the AFC. The first round of roster cuts come Tuesday when the team needs to trim 15 players to get to the NFL-mandated maximum of 75.
The Chiefs close out the preseason portion of the schedule Thursday night at Arrowhead, hosting the Green Bay Packers.
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