Tyler Bray showed everything that has come to define the Tyler Bray experience during his run in Kansas City.
Tasked with starting the Chiefs’ final preseason game – a 17-7 win over Green Bay on Thursday at Arrowhead Stadium — the fourth-year pro picked up where he had left off following his last appearance in the Chiefs’ preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks, a game in which he generally struggled with the strike zone and completed only 3 of 9 passes.
And once again, Bray — a 6-foot-6, 215-pound gunslinger with a knack for throwing the deep ball — opened Thursday night’s game by missing high, and missing low. He also missed left, and he missed right. He misfired on six of his first seven passes, and thanks to a blocked punt which led to a 5-yard touchdown pass from Green Bay’s Joe Callahan to tight end Jared Cook, the Chiefs found themselves down 7-0 late in the first quarter.
But Bray, who went undrafted in 2013 due to concerns about his maturity and the time he would likely need to grasp a pro offense, has always been a bit streaky. And true to form, he quickly found his rhythm after the bad start and showed why the Chiefs have been so hesitant to move past him.
On the Chiefs’ next drive, a nine-play, 75-yard scoring march that was capped by a 5-yard touchdown run by Knile Davis, Bray completed 4 of 6 passes — with three going to different receivers — for 56 yards.
“I finally calmed down,” said Bray, who blamed his adrenaline for the start. “I was standing tall and trying to throw the ball through the guy’s chest, instead of just putting it there and giving him a ball to catch.”
He wasn’t done yet, either. After a Green Bay punt, Bray again led the Chiefs on another scoring march, this one spanning 10 plays and 58 yards. Running back Darrin Reaves capped it with a 3-yard run, but Bray completed all five of his passes attempts on the drive, with four of them going to Frankie Hammond, for a total of 50 yards overall.
At that point, the Chiefs led 14-7 with about four minutes left in the half. Bray had compiled a respectable stat line, completing 10 of 17 passes for 104 yards, and Chiefs coach Andy Reid had seen enough, as he lifted Bray for Murray.
“When things weren’t going his way, he came back strong,” Reid said of Bray, citing an example of Bray’s growth since 2013. “He didn’t let that get to him at all. I’d say that’s maturity. That’s probably the area he needed to grow up in the most. He was probably the youngest guy in the draft at the time, and we’ve seen him grow up here.”
Murray, meanwhile, promptly completed 4 of 8 passes for 32 yards while leading the Chiefs on a drive that ended with a field goal and gave the Chiefs a 17-7 lead just before halftime.
But while Bray appeared to do enough to separate himself from Murray — a fifth-round pick in 2015 — thoughout the preseason entering Thursday’s game, Murray’s second-half performance may have confirmed it. He did complete 10 of 18 passes for 108 yards on Thursday, but the interception bug continued to bite him, as he threw two picks in the third quarter alone. In all, Murray completed 60 percent of his passes (25 of 41) in the preseason for 273 yards, zero touchdowns and four interceptions.
It was a performance that generally captured the essence of Murray’s preseason — aside from a short span where he was in a nice rhythm.
“Aaron had a couple of picks there — you’d like to have those back,” Reid said. “He did some good things too, but he obviously can’t turn the ball over.”
Bray completed only 50 percent of his passes (13 of 26) this preseason — he missed two games with a neck injury — for 152 yards with zero touchdowns or interceptions.
“I feel I did the best I could,” Bray said. “There were some things I would have liked to do a little better during this game. Make some throws. I missed Tyreek (Hill) over the middle. I missed him on a slant, too.”
The overall performance of both proved why the Chiefs’ decision to sign Nick Foles to be Alex Smith’s backup a month ago was essential. In Foles, they now have a player with experience — he’s started 35 NFL games. And the Chiefs can feel good about inserting him into any regular-season game if Smith, who scrambles more than most quarterbacks, gets hurt.
After Foles’ signing, Reid continued to praise the other backups, noting the commendable way they handled their relegation as Foles climbed to the No. 2 spot within a few days, despite accuracy issues of his own. But with five quarterbacks on the roster, it certainly looked like Bray and Murray were no longer competing for the No. 2 job — they were competing for a roster spot.
And while it remains to be seen what the Chiefs end up doing to clear the logjam of quarterbacks — they must cut their roster from 76 to 53 men by 3 p.m. Saturday — the performance of both on Thursday was consistent with how the battle has played out over the last several months.
Now, they must wait to see how it’s all settled.
“It’s always a competition,” Bray said. “But at the end of the day, we’re really good friends. So that kind of helps.”