From Arrowhead Stadium
This was not the start that Scott Pioli, Todd Haley or Matt Cassel envisioned for the new era of Chiefs football.
On a rainy Saturday night and in front of one of the smallest crowds that Arrowhead Stadium has seen in some time, the Chiefs dropped pre-season game No. 1 to the Houston Texans, 16-10.
Tape study may produce some positives from this game for Haley and his coaching staff, but they will be few and very hard to find.
OK, how about the best player wearing red on the field was P Dustin Colquitt, who averaged 48.2 yards on six punts. If that sounds familiar it should; that’s been part of the plot line for the Chiefs over the previous two seasons.
“I think we made too many mistakes to think we would have the chance to win the game,” Haley said.”You can’t expect to win games converting 23 percent of your third downs, which was a major problem for us. You can’t expect to win a game with the penalties we had and the situations we had them in (eight penalties walked off for 65 yards.)”
And you can’t expect to win when you go minus-three in the turnover ratio.
“We played very good defense and we didn’t turn the ball over that is why we won the game,” said Houston head coach Gary Kubiak said. “It was a very sloppy night weather wise and whoever plays the best defense and whoever doesn’t put it on the ground usually finds a way to win in this game.”
The Chiefs offense struggled all night, catching fire only in the fourth quarter when QB Tyler Thigpen turned in a couple of playground moves that actually moved the chains. The Chiefs defense actually did not play that poorly, giving up just a single touchdown and forcing Houston to kick a pair of field goals after recovering Kansas City fumbles.
“We did OK,” said SS Bernard Pollard of the Chiefs defense. “It was a good start. We came out and played hard and we all responded.”
Overall, it was a performance very similar to how the team has practiced during training camp in Wisconsin: the defense is ahead of the offense and the No. 1 offense is really struggling to create an efficient and productive passing game.
Cassel worked the offense for four possessions, but was able to complete just two of five passes for 15 yards. A dozen of those yards came on his first pass as the K.C. franchise quarterback; he hit WR Terrance Copper.
Here’s how those four possessions Cassel directed went down for the Chiefs offense:
- Six plays for 24 yards, but failed to convert a 3rd-and-3 play.
- Three plays for seven yards, with a 3rd-and-11 pass gaining three yards.
- Three plays for nine yards, as a 3rd-and-1 pass to TE Sean Ryan was dropped.
- Three plays for seven yards, with Cassel losing a snap from C Rudy Niswanger that was recovered by the Texans.
Houston has revamped their defense and what they put on the field was more than enough to stifle the Chiefs. Larry Johnson got four chances right off the bat, but gained just 12 yards before he sat down for the rest of the night. Cassel wasn’t sacked, but he was harassed several times and hit after the throw.
“I thought Matt was OK,” said Haley. “We played it pretty close to the vest with him in there. We ran the ball a bunch. We weren’t winging it around a whole bunch. I need to see the tape but he was OK.”
The Chiefs aren’t paying Cassel all that money to be just OK. And, why so close to the vest with the offense? Would Cassel have preferred a more open attack to start the game.
“I don’t call plays and I got out and try to execute the plays that are called,” said Cassel. “We executed some, we didn’t execute some others and we’ll just keep moving forward from there. We were trying to find out some things about different people and what our identity is going to be. That’s why we have pre-season. That’s what we are working on.”
Defensively, the Chiefs came out and picked up a sack on their first series of the pre-season. Remember, they had but 10 sacks during the entire 16-game regular season in 2008. CB Maurice Leggett got Texans QB Matt Schaub to the ground on a third-down blitz.
The Texans were able to dent the scoreboard first on this rainy night and they were able to do it under difficult circumstances. Colquitt’s punt was downed at the six-yard line by the Chiefs. RB Chris Brown came into the game for Houston and provided a spark. Brown ran the ball four times for 22 yards and caught a screen pass for 16 yards. Tack another 15 yards on to that catch thanks to a penalty against DE Alex Magee for a horse-collar tackle and the Texans moved 31 yards, from their own 37 to the Chiefs 32-yard line.
Five plays later, they punched in the score on Brown’s two-yard run. The PAT kick gave Houston a 7-0 lead that they never lost.
After Houston recovered Cassel’s fumbled snap at the Chiefs 24-yard line, the Texans put together a six-play, 19-yard drive with backup QB Dan Orlovsky directing the attack. Kris Brown ended up kicking a 23-yard FG.
On the Texans next possession, they got another FG on the board, this one from 42 yards. A couple of nice plays by CB Brandon Flowers forced Houston to go for the three points.
The Chiefs got off the field at half-time with some points as rookie K Ryan Succop hit a 48-yard FG as time ran out, ending a drive engineered by Croyle who was four of seven on the drive.
At half-time the rain really picked up and neither team got much going offensively. When RB Dantrell Savage was ruled to have fumbled at the end of a run, Houston got the ball at their 38-yard line. Backup QB Dan Orlovsky led them 50 yards on eight plays, before Brown hit a 30-yard field goal to make the score 16-3.
Thigpen had the fourth quarter and he did what we saw him do last season. It was typical helter-skelter fourth quarter pre-season football. But with his arm and his legs, he grove the offense 76 yards o n 10 plays ending with a one-yard TD pass to TE Brad Cottam. The PAT kick made the score 16-10, and there was still five minutes, 15 seconds to play.
The offense got two more chances, but they only picked up one first down and Thigpen’s last pass was picked off by Houston CB David Pittman.
And thus, began the Pioli/Haley/Cassel Era. The Chiefs can only go back to work and hope the nights like this one are fewer and farther between.
“We’re back to work on Monday,” said Haley. “I told the team, we’re in training camp mode and we’re back in the pads.”