Patrick Mahomes did indeed play the first half.
Of the first quarter.
It wasn’t quite what Chiefs coach Andy Reid promised when he said his starters would play the entire first half in the second preseason game against Pittsburgh. Instead, Mahomes got two drives, and neither resulted in points in the Chiefs’ 17-7 loss. He finished with just two completions on five attempts for 11 yards and an 8-yard scramble.
“I just went with my gut on it,” Reid said of the playing time distribution. “I got 51 percent of the vote, so.”
Mahomes’ timing looked a bit off in those series, missing throws to Damien Williams and Tyreek Hill.
“The first one, it was a tough throw, but I usually can make it,” Mahomes said of his attempts to Hill. “I just overthrew him a little bit in that hole, that cover-two. And then in that other one, it was just a miscommunication on my part. I thought he was going to kind of take it deep, and then he sat it down and I felt like I was late, and I didn’t want to force something, so I threw it out of bounds.”
The quarterback’s throws weren’t the only thing off in Saturday night’s second preseason game. Delayed an hour thanks to a flare of severe weather during warmups, the game was something close to a discombobulated mess for both teams.
The two teams combined for four turnovers — one interception and three fumbles — in the opening two quarters, the first pair of those coming on back-to-back plays.
Not only was it a sloppy first half, it also may have cost the Chiefs a couple of players. Tight end Deon Yelder, safety Tyrann Mathieu and wide receiver Marcus Kemp all exited with injuries. While Mathieu’s shoulder injury isn’t believed to be serious, the status of both Yelder (ankle) and Kemp (knee) were unknown. Each of their injuries came on a catch in the first half. Yelder was in a walking boot with crutches after the game, and Reid said the team was calling Kemp’s injury a sprain, but an MRI would reveal more.
“That’s a tough one,” Reid said of Kemp’s knee injury. “That one looks like it’s the most serious of the bunch. He’s been playing so well. That’s too bad. I feel bad for him. He’s a great kid, tough kid.
“They’ve taken these hits away from the upper body so the defensive backs are going at the legs, and you’re going to come up with things like this by rule.”
The Chiefs entered halftime tied 7-7 with the Steelers after a Chad Henne-led scoring drive to nearly close the second quarter. Henne finished off the 13-play, 81-yard drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to rookie Mecole Hardman for his second touchdown in as many weeks.
Hardman wasn’t the only rookie to pick right up where he left off a week ago. Running back Darwin Thompson showed burst with the second-string offense as the third running back to rotate in. At halftime, he led the Chiefs with four carries for 30 yards, including a 14-yard run.
Rookie Juan Thornhill got time with the first-string defense after Mathieu’s injury, playing more free safety than strong with Daniel Sorensen moved to strong safety. Thornhill showed hustle in his reps, his best play coming midway through the second quarter, when he dove in front of Eli Rogers in the end zone to knock down a Mason Rudolph pass.
“When Tyrann came out early, both he and Dan got more reps,” Reid said of Thornhill. “He’s young. He needs to get in there and play.”
Veteran back Carlos Hyde looked to be having a decent series, picking up carries of 4 and 7 yards, but he ended the Chiefs’ second series with a fumble after getting through a hole for a 6-yard gain.
But as the Steelers took over on the very next play, cornerback Herb Miller, who also wears No. 34, gave the ball right back to the Chiefs’ offense.
Miller, who played with the second-string defense opposite of D’Montre Wade, forced wide receiver Donte Moncrief to fumble, and Damien Wilson recovered it.
“When I went in for the tackle, I was just trying to be as aggressive as I could and I didn’t feel the ball,” Miller said. “So when I heard the crowd, I thought, ‘I must have forced a fumble.’ Then I saw my guy with it.”
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Miller. The rookie from Florida Atlantic failed to firmly set the edge on Jaylen Samuels’ touchdown run and contributed to the Steelers’ scoring the first touchdown of the night.
He came back to make a solid stop on the kickoff before getting beat by a throw on the ensuing drive.
“It helps me grow to not let one play, a good play, affect the next play,” Miller said of lessons from Saturday’s game. “Just got to learn how to move on to the next play.”
Fellow cornerback Charvarius Ward also had a rollercoaster night, ending on a high note with an interception and a 49-yard return at the goal line.