The Chiefs’ starters came out strong against Tennessee in the third preseason game for both teams on Friday night at Arrowhead Stadium. Here are five observations from the Chiefs’ 34-10 victory:
1. What’s the No. 1 takeaway from the starters’ performance?
Considering the Chiefs jumped out to a 17-3 lead with starting quarterback Alex Smith, you can call it a successful dress rehearsal. The offense looked sharp, as Smith finished 16 of 18 passing for 171 yards and two touchdowns, and the defense harassed rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota sufficiently enough.
2. Is this connection between Alex Smith and Jeremy Maclin a coincidence?
Nope. These two have been hooking up for completions throughout camp, largely because Maclin has earned Smith’s trust with his solid route running and reliable hands. Maclin always seemed to be open during practice, and that has carried over to the games. He caught three passes for 22 yards and a touchdown on five targets in the Chiefs’ second preseason game against Seattle, and followed that up with a strong seven-catch, 65-yard, one-touchdown effort with Smith on Friday. If the Chiefs’ offense is going to improve on its performance last year, they need Maclin to continue to perform like a No. 1 receiver.
3. Does that mean Maclin will post huge numbers this season?
Depends on what your definition of “huge” is. He probably won’t approach his numbers from last year, when he caught 85 passes for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdows in Chip Kelly’s wide-open offense, but something around 70 catches for 1,000 yards and seven to eight touchdowns certainly seems reasonable. And if Maclin really gets it going with Smith, maybe he can do better than that. Regardless, if Jamaal Charles and Travis Kelce stay healthy, teams are going to have a hard time defending the Chiefs.
4. What should be made of Aaron Murray’s brief debut with the starters late in the second quarter?
It was interesting, to say the least. There’s been zero indication in practice that Murray has surpassed Chase Daniel, who lit it up in the Chiefs’ first two preseason games and is clearly the best, and most experienced, alternative to starter Alex Smith. Perhaps Chiefs coach Andy Reid just wanted to see what Murray, the team’s 2014 fifth-round pick, can do in a game situation with top talent around. Murray started off rocky, throwing a bad interception on his first drive, but bounced back to finish 15 of 20 for 146 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
5. Is there reason to be concerned about Cairo Santos’ miss on the first-quarter extra point?
Maybe. Sure, it’s just one kick, but this is a play that was automatic before the league stepped in and upped the difficulty. Extra points are now the equivalent of 33-yard field goals, which kickers often make, but not always. There will be more misses this year; teams just have to hope they don’t come at bad times. Otherwise, teams might be better off going for two from the 2. The question coaches have to ask themselves, it appears, is: do you feel lucky?