From Arrowhead Stadium
The struggles of August continued for the Chiefs on Friday night. They were not as bad as their first pre-season performance, but certainly not improved over their second pre-season performance.
There is no upward tick on what the Chiefs are getting done in this 2011 exhibition season, now that they are 0-3 after losing 14-10 to the St. Louis Rams, sending the Governor’s Cup back down I-70 to the Loo.
What matters most in these pre-season games is what the first units do when given their opportunity to play. It wasn’t pretty for the No. 1 offense and defense for Todd Haley. Not pretty at all.
Defensively, they got run over by the Rams, who had two first quarter possessions that produced a pair of TD passes by QB Sam Bradford. The only mistake Bradford made was an interception by ILB Derrick Johnson that gave the Chiefs offense the ball at the St. Louis 7-yard line. After a touchdown run by Jamaal Charles was pulled off the board by a holding penalty, the offense had to settle for a field goal.
Mistakes, penalties, blown assignments β there were all those things that generally point an NFL team towards defeat. Especially a mediocre team like the Chiefs.
“Slow starts (by the offense and defense) got that game going in the wrong direction,” Haley said. “Defensively, we couldn’t get settled in for the first two drives. Offense added a three-and-out on the first possession that never helps matters after a 14-play drive to start the game (by the Rams).”
It was an ugly start that improved marginally but did nothing to soothe the hearts of the 40,000 or so fans that bothered to show up for the game. Several times the crowd gave the Chiefs a shower of raspberries for poor offensive play, penalties and Haley’s decision to go for a late field goal, rather than a touchdown.
When the game was over, there was only a 12-yard difference in the offensive output of the Rams compared to the Chiefs. But St. Louis was balanced between the run and pass. The Chiefs, last year’s leading rushing team in the NFL, were top heavy on the passing game, as three quarterbacks threw for 251 yards. The running game had just 58 yards on 20 carries.
The Chiefs did not turn the ball over, but they did have eight penalties walked off against them, one that erased Charles’ TD run there in the second quarter. They were horrible on third downs (3 of 14 for 21 percent), while the defense gave up 10 of 17 for 59 percent to St. Louis.
The No. 1 offense did not play well. Same for the No. 1 defense. The kicking game was actually a bright spot, but there needs to be more than special teams to win games.
“Obviously we want to win with that first offense in there,” said Cassel, who finished a pedestrian evening throwing the ball, hitting 6 of 13 passes for 59 yards. “We want to put points on the board. I’m sure we’ll go and watch the film and learn a lot and try to build on that.”
Not sure the tape of the first quarter is going to provide much in the way of anything but embarrassment for the Chiefs on both sides of the ball. The game is won on the line of scrimmage, whether pre-season, regular season or post-season. The Rams controlled every inch of that line for the first 15 minutes of the game, when it was No. 1 units against No. 1 units.
“We came out, we executed and got two touchdowns early,” said Bradford, who threw hit 9 of 16 passes for 95 yards and a pair of touchdowns. “That’s what I was looking for, and talked about all week.”
The first quarter belonged entirely to Bradford and the Rams offense, as they ripped off 22 plays, went for 133 yards and used 12 minutes, 47 seconds of the quarter. Bradford and RB Steven Jackson were sensational in the two possessions. The quarterback hit all eight of his throws for 72 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. Jackson ran 12 times for 66 yards and caught one pass for five yards. In those first two possessions, the Chiefs defense never laid a glove on Bradford, as he threw without interference.
St. Louis’ initial scoring drive went 12 plays in 73 yards, with Bradford connecting with WR Mike Sims-Walker on a 6-yard touchdown pass. The impressive plays came on a pair of third down conversions for the Rams. On a 3rd-and-19 play β set up by back-to-back St. Louis penalties β Bradford and WR Brandon Gibson connected on a 20-yard play. Then on 3rd-and-4, Bradford threw short to WR Danny Amendola for a 4-yard completion. Five plays later, Sims-Walker was wide open in the end zone, after he got behind FS Kendrick Lewis.
The second Rams scoring drive of the first quarter used 10 plays and went 60 yards, as they converted a pair of third down plays before Bradford threw 11 yards to TE Lance Kendricks for a touchdown. With the PAT kick by Josh Brown, St. Louis held a 14-0 lead with less than a minute to play in the initial period.
Kansas City’s only first half score came after Bradford proved he was human. With the ball at the Chiefs 7-yard line, he threw a pass to his left that ILB Derrick Johnson leaped up and swatted down. Johnson then grabbed the rebound for the interception and the offense had the ball at the St. Louis 7 for its best field position of the night.
With a chance to get back in the game, Charles ran over the hole at left guard and left tackle seven yards for a nice touchdown run. But rookie Rodney Hudson, starting at LG for Ryan Lilja was called for holding, wiping out the touchdown and putting the Chiefs back to the 17-yard line. A pair of passing plays produced 9 yards and that brought Ryan Succop in to kick a 26-yard FG with just more than 10 minutes to play in the first half.
“That was an opportunity to get back in the game and we couldn’t get it done,” said Cassel. “That was disappointing.”
Cassel left the game on the next possession, as Tyler Palko came in and actually moved the ball into Rams territory before Dustin Colquitt punted it away. When the Chiefs got one more shot with the ball, Cassel came back to run the two-minute offense but ended up 2 of 4 for 19 yards and the Chiefs ended up punting the ball away again.
QB Ricky Stanzi started in the third quarter for the Chiefs and on his third possession led the offense to K.C.’s only touchdown, a pretty 32-yard pass play to TE Cody Slate. Succop’s PAT kick made it 14-10, and there was still just over 15 minutes of football to play.
Palko came back in the game late in the fourth quarter and the Chiefs offense had 1st-and-goal at the St. Louis 3-yard line. Palko’s next three throws went incomplete and rather than go for a touchdown to take the lead, Haley sent Succop in to attempt a 21-yard FG.
But in a fitting end to a night where half of the Arrowhead Stadium lights went out in the first half, Rams DE Robert Quinn blocked the FG and thus the score was set at 14-10.