Preseason Game #1 – Chiefs vs Niners: Game Observations

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Chiefs Kingdom got very little Patrick Mahomes in the first half, but Chiefs football returned against the still bitter San Francisco 49ers on Saturday night. Here are some observations from the first half of our first look of the 2021 Kansas City Chiefs.

First Half

  • Mike Hughes made a statement and a place for himself on the Chiefs roster in the first half. With the depth at the wide receiver position, seeing Hughes returning kicks was a surprise. However, it was a pleasant one, as Hughes looked great as a returner on special teams. Additionally, Hughes looked solid in coverage, Veach could have found a gem in signing Hughes.
  • Mecole Hardman had a terrible drop which would have been good for a first down to extend an early drive, not what Chiefs fans want to see in the supposed #2 receiver. That would be the Hardman’s only target of the game. Meanwhile, Pringle proved to be solid with two catches for 10-yards and a nice touchdown catch to end his night.
  • As Hughes makes his argument to be a Chief, Darwin Thompson did not. Guilty of a stupid taunting penalty is not the way to draw attention to yourself when you are sitting deep on the roster. Thompson got several more opportunities, but Jerick McKinnon is making a case for a place in the running back room.
  • Another player who drew the wrong kind of attention was Devon Key. Key took a bad angle on a streaking Trent Sherfield, who went for 80 yards on a nice throw from rookie Trey Lance. Key would make up for the play after Juan Thornhill bit on a play that could have gone to the house. There was no shortage of praise coming out of camp for this undrafted free agent, but giving up an 80-yard touchdown did not help his case. There is still time for him to make a statement.
  • Is there a place for Jerick McKinnon? Not if you drop easy catches in Andy Reid’s offense. McKinnon looked good running the ball and there are two more preseason games to make his case, but the 2nd quarter drop was noticed. The Chiefs seem high on McKinnon though, adding him to special teams.
  • Speaking of special teams, the unit looked solid in the first half. All facets of Dave Toub’s squad look ready for the season with great coverage on both punts and kick-offs. Tommy Townsend looked in mid-season form dropping an early punt out at the one-yard line. The 62-yard attempt by Butker was flat-out preseason fun, on target but just short. Great call by Reid to kick it.
  • The defensive line looks like a strength going into the season. Chris Jones is a beast and just mauled his way to a sack. After the starters finished their work for the night, the back-ups continued making an impact with three more sacks in the first half.
  • I was looking forward to seeing Jody Fortson after all the camp praise. He had only one target which he was well covered.  
  • Another surprise was QB Anthony Gordon, who finished the game going 11/17 for 79 yards. Gordon looked poised in the pocket, used his feet to get out of trouble and made some solid reads. Can Veach find a way to stash this kid on the practice squad? Doubtful, the Chiefs have some depth and will have some decisions to make without considering a third QB.

Second Half

  • The Chiefs continue to utilize McKinnon, seeking a place on the roster for the former 49er. This time, McKinnon showed up on specials team as a gunner making a nice play. As a running back, he had three carries for 19-yards, as well as returning both a kick-off for 40-yards, a punt for 13-yards and two catches for 21-yards. Quite a night for McKinnon as he seeks a roster spot in a crowded running back room.
  • Speaking of special teams again, the unit continued to look good in the second half and out-shined the 49ers special team play considerably. Although there was one exception, Butker failing on another PAT. Butker, having missed six PATs in 2020 despite being one of the most accurate kickers in the NFL, needs to get this issue fixed. Pre-season is one thing, but if this costs the Chiefs a regular season game is another. Perhaps they Chiefs employ a 15 yards penalty approach to move Butker back to his range. Butker finishes the night 2/3 with a long of 52-yards with a 62-yard attempt falling just short.
  • Another surprise on the evening was the Chiefs leading receiver, former Colt Daurice Fountain. Fountain ended the evening with 38 yards on four catches with an average of 9.5 yards per catch. Fountain is a long shot to make the roster, but certain is making the most of the opportunity. Of course, those targets took away from three players Chiefs fans are no doubt looking to see preseason production from, that being Jody Fortson, rookie Cornell Powell and Noah Grey. Fortson came on late, especially during the final game winning drive ending the evening with three catches for 32 yards, including a nice catch on a crossing route to extend the game winning drive. Powell tallied two catches for 20 yards and Noah Grey didn’t see much action after a 2nd quarter throw from Henne bounced off his back shoulder and was intercepted.
  • Other notes: Tim Ward had a solid performance on the defensive line, tallying two sacks. Tershawn Warton added another for the defense who ended the game with five sacks total. Steve Spagnuolo tested his D-Line depth in the second half with both run and pass blitzing calls. I expected a little more vanilla, but Spags clearly wants to see what he has in the 3rd and 4th string players. Camp darling Devon Key ended with credit on two tackles after getting burned on the 80-yard touchdown in the first half. Wyatt Miller better never block for PM15……ever. Miller served as the Chiefs left tackle in the second half and was a revolving door allowing pressure on Shane Buechele.
  • Finally, although the late drive gave the Chiefs a preseason victory, few players wallowing deep on the depth chart really stood out in the second half. There are few spots available on the Chiefs roster, and there is no doubt some quality players will get cut from the squad. Players that could contribute to the Chiefs and will, most likely, find other opportunities won’t make to week #1. So, with one less preseason game to prove themselves, Chiefs fans want to see some of these depth players shine. There were few notable moments to be found in the second half of this first preseason game. With two more games available to audition and claim a spot let’s hope we see more from players like Keys, Fortson, Ffrench, Bootle and Baker (who came up limping.) Bonus: What is this new rule you can’t hit an offensive lineman below the waist outside the tackle box? Are corner backs supposed to take on lineman straight up? Also, Cracraft is a terrible football name. Well, back to practice. Next up, the Arizona Cardinals on Friday.