Sloppy play by starters mars Chiefs’ 26-13 preseason loss at Seattle

Frank Zombo exploded off the snap on Friday and saw the Seattle Seahawks’ right guard pulling his way. A cut-block was coming.

Zombo, the Chiefs’ veteran outside linebacker, lowered his center of gravity to deflect it and reached his left hand high into the air in hopes of deflecting Russell Wilson’s goal-line pass.

One more inch to his left, and Zombo might have done just that. Alas.

The pass nestled into running back Tre Madden’s hands for a Seattle touchdown that left Zombo literally slapping his head in frustration.

It was an appropriate expression of annoyance, one that was likely felt by several of the Chiefs’ starters at different points during the first half of their 26-13 loss to the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.

For a dress rehearsal — and don’t get it twisted, the Chiefs’ third preseason game of the year against one of the NFC’s best teams was exactly that — the outcome of this one was hardly ideal.

The Chiefs’ 16-10 halftime deficit did not reflect the one-sidedness of the game. Were it not for an impressive 95-yard kickoff return by the Chiefs’ De’Anthony Thomas, the deficit could have easily been greater.

“Everybody on offense — I’m not going to say we were frustrated — but going up against a great group like that, a top-of-the-line defense, we wanted to challenge ourselves,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said. “Obviously, the outcome wasn’t what we wanted it to be.”

Consider the following issues that arose:

▪ Starting running back Spencer Ware was lost for the game with a knee injury on the first drive of the game. The extent of the injury is currently unclear, but he was carted off the field — never a good sign.

▪ Quarterback Alex Smith, who has been sharp all preseason, generally lacked cohesion with his receivers, finishing the game a mere 7 of 17 for 44 yards. His night also included plenty of drops, including a handful by usually sure-handed Tyreek Hill, and multiple near-misses.

Smith said they all had a hand in it — like any good quarterback — but Kelce put the responsibility on himself and the receivers. Chiefs coach Andy Reid also noted afterward that when the ball hits a receiver in the hands — which happened plenty of times Friday — he expects them to catch it.

“We had some drops early from our ones that normally don’t happen — we’re a pretty sure-handed football team,” Reid said.

▪ Nose tackle Bennie Logan lined up over the center on a missed field goal, which led to an illegal-defense penalty that allowed the Seahawks to attempt it again. The re-kick went in, of course.

▪ Speaking of penalties, the Chiefs committed six in the first half for 51 yards. They committed four for 40 yards on one excruciating Seattle drive alone, which resulted in touchdown that put the Seahawks ahead 13-3 in the second quarter. For the game, by the way, the Chiefs committed 14 penalties for 126 yards (Seattle had 13 for 129).

“Penalties, penalties — way too many,” Reid said.

▪ The Chiefs were outgained by the Seahawks 224 yards to 102, and Sam Ficken also missed a field goal — it was from 56 yards, but still — for good measure.

▪ Even Thomas, the hero of the first half, muffed a first-quarter kick. He eventually recovered the ball, but the miscue gave the Chiefs terrible field position at their own 4-yard line.

Shall we continue?

It’s not the end of the world, of course.

“It’s still preseason,” inside linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “It’s never as good as you think it is and it’s never as bad as you think it is.”

For instance, the Chiefs’ starters were sloppy, yes, but they did keep battling — the defense made a gutsy goal-line stand to hold Wilson and the rest of the Seahawks’ starters to a field goal right before the end of the half.

“We battled back a couple times in bad situations,” Johnson said.

Also, two of the Chiefs’ defensive stars were late scratches — outside linebacker Justin Houston (illness) and safety Eric Berry (heel) — while the energy-sapping nature of Ware’s injury should also be taken into account when evaluating the Chiefs’ performance.

Throw in the fact neither team called its best stuff on offense and defense Friday night — something multiple Chiefs were quick to cite — and it’s obvious the Chiefs veterans won’t have a hard time putting this one in the past.

“We still held a lot of things back, a lot of scheme back,” Kelce said. “Big Red isn’t throwing all the good stuff at them. We haven’t thrown anything at them that we’ve been working on.”

Still, the Chiefs’ starters essentially got beat by another good team’s front-line group thanks to their lack of execution. That’s something that must be cleaned up, because it won’t be long before the starters will have to take on another very strong team in a hostile environment.

The Chiefs’ season opener on Sept. 7, against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, is looming. And Friday’s rough performance, full of near-misses and what-should-have-beens across various positions, will ensure the Kansas City coaching staff has no shortage of ammunition as the team tries to smooth out the rough edges.

“This will be a good learning tape,” Reid said.

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