The Kansas City Chiefs will play their first home game of the 2013 season Friday night (7 p.m. CDT, KCTV5 television broadcast) against the San Francisco 49ers, but to listen to national media, only current Chiefs #1 quarterback – and former 49ers QB – Alex Smith will take the field.
Seriously? It’s the second PRE-SEASON game and all Chiefs fans have seen are countless “Alex Smith excited/unexcited/scared/anxious/comatose about playing his former team” articles. Smith, to his credit, isn’t playing games with reporters. “It’s a preseason game and it’s just another step” Smith said earlier this week, but then added, “It’s another preseason game … and then again it’s not.’’
“They [the 49ers] have given me a couple of opportunities over the years there, Coach Harbaugh and that crew, especially over the last couple of years. Obviously, we disagreed with what happened last year, but you move on from it.”
Again, Smith isn’t dodging the issue, but he insists it’s not about him, it’s about the team getting prepared for Jacksonville when the season opens September 8. That being said, the second pre-season game is where many fans expect to see some positive results on the field. For the Chiefs, training camp in St. Joe is over, RB Jamaal Charles’ foot injury does not appear serious, and the starters hope to extend the good times they had last week in New Orleans where they played well across the board.
Here are three things Chiefs fans should be watching Friday against San Francisco:
QUARTERBACK: No, not just Smith against his former team although Smith is human and wants to play well against the team that let him go. Starters usually play a little longer in the second game, so it’s possible that the first string will still be in the game in the second quarter. The other three Chiefs QBs that played last week all looked terrible, so fans will hope to see better results out of back-up Chase Daniel, especially, and rookie Tyler Bray.
The 49ers are a solid favorite to repeat as NFC champs this year and as much publicity as QB Colin Kaepernick gets, this team goes as it’s top-rated defense goes. Even under “vanilla” schemes, this will be a terrific test for the Chiefs quarterbacks to see how much of Coach Andy Reid’s offense they have absorbed.
When the 49ers #1 defense is in, it would be foolish to take too many shots downfield in the passing game, so look for Reid and offensive coordinator, Doug Pedersen, to keep it conservative. Daniel and Bray will probably get the calls to take it deep.
DEFENSE: The reason the 49ers felt comfortable trading Alex Smith to the Chiefs in February – other than the two second-round draft picks the Chiefs gave up – was the skills of Kaepernick at quarterback. When he is “on”, he has breath-taking talents of a strong arm, a quick release, and near-sprinter speed in his legs. Fortunately for the Chiefs, it’s doubtful much of that will be on display Friday at Arrowhead. Kaepernick might already be the best at the read-option offense that is the latest fad in the NFL, and the Chiefs will play three more teams this season (Philly, Buffalo, and Washington) that will use a form of this offense. If the Chiefs vanilla defense can keep a vanilla Kaepernick bottled up a little bit, that will be a good sign for future games. If Kaepernick bolts downfield for 70+ yards rushing and a touchdown (or two), the defense will know it needs to do some more work.
THE CHIEFS RUNNING GAME/OFFENSIVE LINE: If Jamaal Charles steps foot on the field against San Fran after suffering what looks to be a minor foot injury earlier this week, just fire Reid now, because he obviously lost his mind. If I were the coach (and if I WERE the coach, KC would be coming off its 14th consecutive Super Bowl Championship, naturally!), the next time Charles touched the football in a game would be against Jacksonville. I would give Knile Davis all the touches he can handle to work out the kinks in his game, as well as giving significant playing time to Shaun Draughn and Cyrus Gray.
Against New Orleans, the 2nd and 3rd-string offensive line barely got any kind of a push at the line of scrimmage, so they need to step up big time Friday night. With Donald Stephenson back from injury (he missed the Saints game) there should be better depth along the line and our 2nd-string must play better. Otherwise, the “Ryan Lilja going to the Broncos when he wanted to play for the Chiefs if they would have only asked” story line could mean thousands of dented living room walls this fall as fans bang their heads in frustration about the paper-thin offensive line the Chiefs have.
Prediction: San Fran is the much, much, much better team and truly is the favorite to be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl. Other than the hated Denver Broncos, this is by far the best team the Chiefs play in 2013. KC will probably lose by 10 points, but hopefully will play well enough that fans can breathe easier going on the road to Pittsburgh next week for the pivotal third preseason game.
IMPORTANT REMINDER!!! Remember that the new Chiefs “Bag Ban” is in effect this year. So if you’re going to the stadium with your big old purse packed with stuff, think again. Karen Dillon of the Kansas City Star has an excellent article about what fans are allowed to carry into the stadium this year. Because that bottle of Diet Mountain Dew that you ladies used to sneak in the last few years is an obvious terrorist mechanism.
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