Chiefs' offense punchless again
By Randy Covitz
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If the Chiefs don't score on defense, and if they don't score on special teams, they hardly score at all.
In what is considered the dress rehearsal for the regular season, the Chiefs bombed in their third preseason game of the year, falling 30-12 to the Minnesota Vikings on a sultry Saturday night at Arrowhead Stadium.
Unlike the first two exhibitions, the Chiefs game-planned for the Vikings and treated it like a regular-season work week. But the first-team offense failed to put up a touchdown for the third straight exhibition game, extending its string of preseason possessions without a touchdown to 16 with quarterback Alex Smith under center.
"It was disappointing in the sense that this was a game week, and we treated it as such," said Smith, who threw two interceptions, both in the scoring zone. "A little more game-planning and preparation went into it, and to walk away with no points because of the turnovers ... it hurts."
The Chiefs, 1-2, have mustered just four offensive touchdowns in 12 quarters of preseason play. That's one more than the number of touchdowns they have on returns -- two on defense, one on special teams.
"Offensively, clearly it wasn't good enough, whether it was protection, blocking, seeing holes, everybody had a piece of the pie ... throwing the ball," coach Andy Reid said. "There was no rhythm. That's my responsibility as a play-caller, to make sure we get the guys into rhythm."
Smith was playing behind a makeshift offensive line because Reid elected not to play starting right tackle Donald Stephenson, who on Friday was suspended for the first four regular-season games for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Left guard Jeff Allen moved to right tackle, and guards Jeff Linkenbach and Ricky Henry took Allen's spot.
Compounding that with the fact that starting running back Jamaal Charles and starting wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and Junior Hemingway did not play because of injuries, and the Chiefs had a hard time scoring against a Vikings team that allowed the most points in the NFL last year. Bowe will also miss the season opener against Tennessee due to his one-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
"It's still about execution whether Dwayne isn't in there or Jamaal," Smith said. "Whoever is up is expected to come in and execute. It's not unreasonable to think we're not going to play games without those guys. You can't use that as a crutch."
Smith, who threw seven interceptions in 2013, was picked off twice in the red zone on consecutive possessions, sacked three times and forced to scramble three times for 21 yards before he was mercifully replaced by Tyler Bray early in the third quarter.
Bray, whose first pass was intercepted, produced the Chiefs' only touchdown, a 1-yard pass to rookie Albert Wilson with 31 seconds left and the stadium nearly empty.
The Chiefs trailed 7-0 in the first quarter when Smith, from the Vikings' 10, threw his first interception on a pass down the middle intended for Frankie Hammond Jr. that was picked off by Captain Munnerlyn in the end zone.
"That was a matter of being a little late," Smith said. "He was open, and I needed to see it a little sooner and cut it loose in there. I tried to fit it in a little late, and it costs you. Things are tight down there, the windows are tight, things happen fast."
The Chiefs were at the Vikings' 11, trailing 7-2 when Smith's second-quarter slant intended for tight end Travis Kelce was recognized early and intercepted by linebacker Chad Greenway at the 8.
"It was third down, I'm trying to make it happen ... trying to move the chance, forcing it," Smith said. "I didn't see the guy until the end.
"You'd love to get touchdowns all the time ... but field goals would have helped, too, especially going into halftime it would have been a different game if we could have walked away with points."
Meanwhile, former Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, making his first appearance in Kansas City since departing following the 2012 season, staked the Vikings to a 10-5 halftime lead.
Cassel, who didn't have Minnesota all-pro running back Adrian Peterson at his disposal, gave the Vikings a 7-0 lead on their fifth offensive play of the game.
Cassel found a mismatch in the secondary and hit speedy wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who was several yards behind rookie safety Daniel Sorensen. Patterson easily caught the pass for a 53-yard touchdown, beating Sorensen, who was playing for injured safety Eric Berry.