Red Zone

Halftime observations: Chiefs 16, Bengals 9

Chiefs tight end Demetrius Harris scored two touchdowns in the first half against the Bengals on Saturday night.
Chiefs tight end Demetrius Harris scored two touchdowns in the first half against the Bengals on Saturday night. AP

It’s halftime of the Chiefs’ second exhibition game of 2017, and the Chiefs lead the Cincinnati Bengals 16-9 at Paul Brown Stadium. Here are my quick thoughts.

1. Kareem Hunt looks great

Running back Kareem Hunt, who rotated in with starter Spencer Ware beginning with the Chiefs’ second offensive play, got an extended look and showed off why the Chiefs decided to trade up to nab him in the third round. Hunt, a rookie from Toledo, showed great balance and pace on outside runs and also ran with toughness and vision. All that, plus his ability to catch the football — which he showed off all camp — will allow him to see the field early this year and, perhaps, earn the lion’s share of the workload by the end of the season. He finished the half with eight carries for 40 yards and three catches for 23 yards.

2. So does C.J. Spiller

Another backup who looked great was running back C.J. Spiller, who looked like the fastest guy on the field (other than Tyreek Hill, of course). Spiller ran hard and showed the kind of speed and burst we haven’t seen in Kansas City since Jamaal Charles was in his prime. Spiller ended the half with four carries for 11 yards and one catch for 16 yards. It is noticeable that he and Hunt have been getting reps ahead of Charcandrick West in practice. West has been banged up in camp, though, but keep an eye on this.

3. Demetrius Harris continues his strong preseason

It seems like Harris, a hulk 6-foot-7 tight end, might have finally shaken his habit for making ill-timed drops. He’s been great in camp, catching everything his way during the 11-on-11 sessions, and he showed off his improved hands on Saturday, when he caught two contested touchdown passes in the end zone. Harris even had some fun with one, simulating a euro-step layup — a basketball move — before flicking the ball upwards, as fellow tight end Travis Kelce held his arms together to simulate a hoop and let it fall through. Good times in Cincinnati.

4. Patrick Mahomes makes a strong case as the No. 2

Mahomes got his first in-game reps with the first-string on Saturday, and man he looked good, completing 4 of 5 passes for 35 yards and a touchdown. He completed a tough third-and-6 with a nice ball over the middle to Tyreek Hill on a slant, and showed off impressive wheels by scrambling for a 14-yard gain that set up his touchdown throw to Harris. The TD pass to Harris came when Mahomes drifted to his right and through across his body over the middle to the tight end.

5. The short-yardage rushing offense was a letdown

The Chiefs struggled to run the ball in short-yardage situations last year, and things weren’t much better Saturday, as the Bengals — who play in the rough-and-tumble AFC North — beat them up at the line of scrimmage on those situations. If the Chiefs don’t improve in this area, you can look forward to another season where Chiefs coach Andy Reid is criticized for being too cute with his red-zone playcalling.

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