However much alarm one quarter of the first preseason game warrants, the Chiefs gave onlookers enough reason for skepticism as they struggled to control the line of scrimmage on Thursday night against the Houston Texans.
As a result, the Texans controlled the early part of the game and limited the Chiefs’ first-team offense to 29 yards. Second-year quarterback and first-year starter Patrick Mahomes faced constant pressure. Defensively, the Chiefs allowed the Texans to march on two sustained drives that ended with touchdowns in the first half.
The post-game sentiment from several of the Chiefs’ starters, as well as coach Andy Reid, leaned toward their shortcomings being mistakes that can be fixed as opposed to reasons for panic.
“Mainly, I just wanted the D-line to focus on stopping the run,” defensive lineman Chris Jones said. “Last year, if you look, we came in 27th in stopping the run. That’s the point of emphasis going into the season, just to block up the run more. Then we can get after the quarterback.”
Veteran starting inside linebackers Anthony Hitchens, one of the team’s top free-agent signings this offseason, and Reggie Ragland, who has been sidelined most of training camp with a knee ailment, did not play in the preseason opener.
The results with the revamped yet short-handed defensive front looked eerily familiar to those of the group that got pushed around in the second half of the Chiefs’ playoff loss to Tennessee.
Houston marched 68 yards and 66 yards on scoring drives in the first half with career backup Brandon Weeden calling signals at quarterback. Lamar Miller averaged 7.3 yards per carry on his first four carries against the Chiefs’ defense, and Houston controlled the ball for nine minutes, 56 seconds of the opening quarter.
“It’s still early man, and we’ve got three more preseason games to play,” Jones said. “So it’s really not a concern. It’s about going in here, fix what you can fix, correct your mistakes and more on to the next game.”
Houston’s defense, without the twin menaces of J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney suiting up, managed to create problems for the Chiefs’ starting offensive line at times. Patrick Mahomes got sacked once and hurried two times in two possessions (nine plays) in the first quarter.
An attempted screen pass on third-and-long went awry so quickly that running back Kareem Hunt got swallowed up at the same time Mahomes had defenders swarming around him.
“I think we just need to execute better,” center Mitch Morse said. “That comes through, you know, practice repetitions together and practicing with a certain intent and having a certain purpose when you practice. We’ll come out there and we’ll see what we need to do better at and fire away.”
The sack of Mahomes wiped out one of few chances for a big play during the offense’s short time on the field. Mahomes ended up pulling the ball down and taking the hit because he didn’t have time to uncork a potential big gainer to one of two targets.
“We were in long yardage situations and you’ve got to keep yourself out of that,” Reid said. “Then we had a breakdown on the one where we had two guys open, one down the middle and then (Travis) Kelce in the corner — the same play.
“Those are the little things. We protect it, that’s a touchdown. We involved our tight ends. We had a chip called and there was no chip made. You’ve got to make sure that you fix it.”