Vahe Gregorian

Preseason has little correlation to prime time, but Chiefs offer hope

Updated: 2013-08-10T05:07:37Z

By VAHE GREGORIAN

The Kansas City Star

— By any cold, sober, rational, reasoned measure, the Chiefs’ 17-13 loss to New Orleans in the preseason opener for both on Friday night at the Superdome means nothing much and will have little-to-no bearing on the season ahead.

What happens in the preseason stays in the preseason, glorified scrimmages that offer just fleeting views of the most prominent players, the most vanilla repertoires possible and put a premium on sorting out which 53 of 90 players to keep come late August — a particularly consuming task for a Chiefs team that in fact, has 53 new faces among its current 90.

To some degree, it’s as if preseason games never even happened — unless key players suffer a season-ending injury, of course.

Try finding those faux game results on a team website, and you’ll need to scour a bit since any relationship between the preseason and regular season is purely coincidental.

Consider that last season the Chiefs won their preseason opener, which turned out to be half the number of games they’d win in 16 chances when it counted.

In 2012, Andy Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles were 4-0, the only time in his 14 years there that that happened and, for that matter, one of just two times he ever had a winning preseason record. The other was 2011, when they went 3-1.

Reid’s 2011 Eagles went 8-8, and his 2012 Eagles went on to be his worst team, finishing 4-12, which is what got him fired and got him to Kansas City.

His 12 other Eagles teams were 18-31-1 in preseason games — and those teams went 118-73-1 in regular-season games and made the playoffs nine times.

So there are no conclusions to be drawn, only snippets and potential hints of what may be to come, much of it open to interpretation as the new regime takes root.

That being said, what wasn’t to like or didn’t bode well about the one-and-only drive of the night engineered by new quarterback Alex Smith and the first-team offense?

So what if the Saints were the worst defense in NFL history last season?

This was no less a fresh start for them, too, with new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan roaming the sideline and head coach Sean Payton back for the first time since his season-long suspension for a bounty scandal.

In the rapid-fire, largely no-huddle sequence, Smith completed seven of eight passes for 68 yards, his lone incompletion thrown away on the 14-play, 80-yard drive.

“I think we all draw them up that way — not that they all turn out that way,” Reid said, smiling.

Smith also had the presence of mind and was nimble enough to veer to the sideline to salvage just a 1-yard-loss after rookie right tackle Eric Fisher was, uh, outmaneuvered.

Also flashing what will be a crucial component of the West Coast offense, the drive was capped by a 13-yard catch by running back Jamaal Charles, his third of the series, to set up his 1-yard TD run … that was in part cleared by Fisher.

And, presto, that was it for Smith and Co., capturing the essence of showmanship by leaving on a note that hardly could have been more perfect.

The same essentially could be said for the first defensive unit, with the tone set on the first play of scrimmage by nose tackle Dontari Poe, suddenly svelte at 346 pounds and in the middle of mucking up things for the Saints.

That unit allowed a first down but forced the Saints to punt from their own 36 to set up a 55-yard punt return by Dexter McCluster — more than double the length of the Chiefs’ season-long punt return of 27 yards last season.

Ryan Succop in short order made it 10-0 Chiefs with a 42-yard field goal, and the Chiefs had another gleaming special-teams moment when Knile Davis had a 79-yard kickoff return — 38 yards longer than any one that the Chiefs had in 2012.

None of which means any of that necessarily will hold up to further exposure or the reality of the regular season.

And there is the rather substantial matter of cultivating depth on both sides of the ball, but perhaps particularly on defense, which gave up 335 yards and 21 first downs through three quarters.

That included being shredded for 216 yards and two touchdowns by reserve quarterback Luke McCown, who has all of nine touchdowns to go with 14 interceptions in a nine-year NFL career with five different franchises.

Those numbers, of course, are from real games, unlike the one Friday.

Just the same, prime time was nothing but encouraging for the Chiefs amid their ambitious makeover — and that beats the alternative.

To reach Vahe Gregorian, call 816-234-4868, send email to vgregorian@kcstar.com or follow twitter.com/vgregorian. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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