Line key to Chiefs’ offensive success in preseason opener

08/10/2013 3:33 PM

08/10/2013 11:56 PM

The fortunes of the Chiefs offense changed dramatically in Friday night’s preseason opener once the team yanked its starters in the middle of the first quarter. The Chiefs had 80 yards and had scored a touchdown with their starters in what would eventually be a 17-13 loss to the Saints in New Orleans.

Over the next 31/2 quarters, the Chiefs had just 135 yards and six points. Coach Andy Reid pointed to the relative success and failure of the respective offensive lines as the reason.

“The first group I thought handled everything the right way,’’ Reid said Saturday. “There are a couple of things we’ve got to get straightened out. … (But) other than that I thought the guys did well. The communication was good.

“As far as the (backups) go, we didn’t pass protect very well, more probably at the tackle positions than the inside. We’ve got to do a better job there. I didn’t think any of the last three quarterbacks had quite enough time when we really needed it. When you get into those crucial third-down situations, you’ve got to be able to pass protect.’’

After receiving the opening kickoff, the Chiefs went on a 14-play touchdown drive. Quarterback Alex Smith was sacked once when he was chased from the pocket and couldn’t get back to the line of scrimmage before being run down, but he otherwise stayed upright.

Rookie tackle Eric Fisher, the first overall pick in the draft, handled himself well in his first NFL game. Fisher threw the key block on the Chiefs’ longest play of the drive, a 13-yard pass from Smith to Jamaal Charles.

Charles then ran behind Fisher to score the touchdown on a one-yard run.

Fisher injured his hand in the game and at one point left the sideline with team doctors to head for the locker room. Reid said X-rays were negative and he expected Fisher to practice Sunday when the Chiefs return to training camp at Missouri Western State University.

Backup quarterbacks Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray and Ricky Stanzi were sacked a total of three times. Bray lost a fumble after being sacked.

An injury to Donald Stephenson, the top reserve at tackle, prevented him from playing in New Orleans. Stephenson recently had surgery on a finger.

His absence left the Chiefs short at tackle. Geoff Schwartz played left tackle for most of the final three quarters while Steven Baker, who is unlikely to make the regular-season roster, was the right tackle.

Stephenson probably could have helped against New Orleans. Reid wasn’t certain whether he would be able to practice Sunday or play in the Chiefs’ next preseason game, Friday night against San Francisco at Arrowhead Stadium.

“If he can play, that would be a good thing,’’ Reid said. “I’m going to listen obviously to what the doctors say. I’m not going to put him in a bad situation. We’ll see how things work out with it. He did have surgery and I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize anything. Let me tell you, he’s a good football player.”

Among the backup offensive linemen, Reid praised rookie center Eric Kush. He had been having problems snapping during camp both in the shotgun formation and with the quarterback under center.

“There were some good things,’’ Reid said. “I like the way the center played. I thought he did a pretty good job for being a rookie. He handled himself well. He kept things under control. There were no balls on the ground, which he’d had a few of those early in camp.’’

Reid said the starters on offense and defense would play more against the 49ers. He indicated the Chiefs would use the same quarterback rotation as against New Orleans: Smith followed by Daniel, Bray and Stanzi.

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