Even if it was just a preseason game, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was hoping for a lot better performance from his unit against Cincinnati on Thursday night.
Instead, the first-team offense mustered 33 yards in three possessions. Two first downs. One turnover. Three points.
“Not what we were looking for, especially for the first-team offense,” Smith said of a 41-39 victory buttressed by 21 points from the defense and special teams. “We couldn’t convert on the third-and-1, couldn’t convert on the third-and-2 …”
Indeed, running back Jamaal Charles, on a third down at the Chiefs’ 22 in the opening series was stopped a yard short on a run to the right. And Smith’s pass intended for Dwayne Bowe on a third-and-2 sailed incomplete.
“Both plays … you put yourself in good situations, and as an offense that’s what you want to be,” Smith said. “You have to be able to execute there.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid was visibly upset with the three-and-out that began the game.
“We weren’t able to stay on one of our blocks,” Reid said of Charles’ third-down run. “Really, two of our blocks.”
Smith took responsibility for the play on which he was sacked and lost a fumble. Eric Fisher, in his first start at left tackle, was beaten by Cincinnati’s Robert Geathers, but Smith said it wasn’t all his lineman’s fault.
“It’s tough from my perspective, but he did just fine,” Smith said of Fisher’s role in the play. “I know it goes down as a sack-fumble, but really there’s quite a bit I can do there to get rid of the ball.
“It’s a quick game. Three-step drop, the ball’s got to come out. The linemen as well as the receivers all have a time clock. When it is a quick game, it does need to come out, or I need to get out of there. One or the other. So, put those guys in kind of a tough situation, especially, Eric. (I) definitely can get better at that. … Other than that, protection was good all night.”
In fact, Reid said despite the sack, Fisher performed well in the game, starting with a kick-out block that sprung Charles for a 7-yard gain on the first play of the game.
“After looking at (the film), the one where Alex had the ball knocked out of him, we probably should have stretched the (route) across a little deeper on that, so I really don’t blame Eric on that particular play.
“But I thought he came out and played physical. You look at that first play, he took the defensive end, he put him right on his back. He kept that aggressive play all the way through. Was it all clean? No, we need to work some stuff. But I thought for the most part, he did a really nice job.”
The Chiefs’ offensive line also included rookie Zach Fulton, a sixth-round pick from Tennessee, and Reid saw mixed results.
“I always look and see where those guys stay … if they maintain their blocks and then how they work the second level with that guard position and how they can block linebackers,” Reid said. “I thought he did a pretty good job.
“There are a couple of things he’s going to have to work on and try to get better at, but for the most part, he played a good physical game.”
Smith wasn’t alone turning the ball over. Backup Chase Daniel’s overthrow of tight end Travis Kelce was returned for a touchdown and second-year man Tyler Bray was sacked and fumbled.
Daniel also threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to Kelce, and Bray led the third-teams on a 13-play, 77-yard touchdown drive.
“I thought besides the two turnovers, they both did really well,” Smith said of his backups. “Three turnovers on the day isn’t going to win games. Fortunately, we got two defensive scores and a special team’s score. That was nice, but those two guys and really those two plays jump out at me. Chase had a good game otherwise and made some plays especially there at the end of the half. Tyler the same way.”
Though the Chiefs have been in training camp, the game against Cincinnati was the first contact for Smith and his fellow quarterbacks who are protected by the yellow no-hit jerseys in practice.
“It was good to be out there playing football, real, live football for me,” Smith said. “It’s the first opportunities as quarterbacks. Even when we go live at this point in training camp, we’re not really live. It was the first real experience back into real bullets and getting hit.”