By Matt Derrick, Chiefs beat writer for Sports Radio 810 WHB and ChiefsDigest.com
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs returned to Kansas City early Sunday morning after their 17-7 preseason loss to Pittsburgh, an outcome that didn’t exactly please head coach Andy Reid.
“I don’t think anybody came out happy after the game,” Reid said. “Our guys take this pretty serious.”
Severe weather in the Pittsburgh area pushed the kickoff back nearly an hour. Reid explained the delay didn’t bother him because the distraction tested his team’s mindset.
“It’s one of those things that things happen, and you just got to stay focused,” Reid said. ”Both teams kind of started off a little sluggish. Both teams have scored points with their history with the players, and there weren’t a lot points scored early.”
Reid said the weather didn’t play a factor in choosing to remove his starters earlier than planned. Despite indicating he planned to let his regular lineup play the first half, Reid began removing starters after the second series for both sides of the ball. That also allowed backup quarterback Chad Henne two full series with the No. 1 offensive line.
“I thought getting the young guys a lot of good reps, I thought that was a positive,” Reid said. “Getting our second quarterback in and getting some work with the one offensive line I thought that was a big thing.”
Darwin Thompson Rising
Rookie running back Darwin Thompson continues shining in his preseason opportunities, leading the Chiefs with 30 yards rushing on four carries against the Steelers.
“He’s really a focused kid,” Reid said. “He’s kind of a no-nonsense (player), he wants to do it right, is real focused, studies a lot. I like the way he’s made up in that way.”
The Chiefs expected the 5-8, 195-pound Thompson to demonstrate the elusiveness and contact balance that allowed him to average 6.8 yards per attempt on the ground at Utah State last season. But it’s his grasp of the finer details of the position that impresses his head coach.
“He’s able to see the blitz, which is a big thing for the young guys,” Reid said. “He’s got good vision in the run game. Then, he’s got pretty good understanding of the pass game.”
Too Many Mistakes
Four fumbles leading to three turnovers and seven penalties for 44 yards were just a few of the many mistakes the Chiefs committed on Saturday night.
“The turnovers, you can’t have those,” Reid said. “We had a fumble and you had a couple of dropped balls in key situations, and penalties, you’ve got to take care of those things.”
Reid thought his first-team defense defended strong, particularly in the passing game. As the contest wore on, however, the Steelers found less pressure from the Kansas City defensive front.
“You can’t give these quarterbacks too much time in this league,” Reid said. “Then down the field, you’ve got to be able to make plays, particularly in major situations. We can get better in those areas.”
Young Corners with Hits, Misses
Veteran corners Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland exited the game after two series Saturday night, leaving the bulk of the remaining action to first- and second-year defensive backs in need of experience.
Charvarius Ward stuck around with the second-team defense, playing 30 snaps in all. He delivered one of the team’s biggest plays with an interception at the goal line that snuffed out a Steelers drive just before halftime.
Ward needs more seasoning, the Chiefs believe, after starting just three games last season including the playoffs. Reid was pleased with what he saw Saturday night.
“I thought he played well though throughout,” Reid said. “He had a big break up in the first series and did a nice job I thought all the way around.”
The Chiefs also continuing giving an extended look at undrafted rookie free agent Herb Miller and Mark Fields. Miller started the night strong, prying a fumble away from Steelers receiver Donte Moncrief and later breaking up a pass intended for JuJu Smith-Schuster.
But Miller also got crashing in too hard in allowing running back Jaylen Samuels to break contain for a 14-yard touchdown run. He also surrendered a couple of big pass plays, including a 24-yard touchdown toss from Hodges to receiver Diontae Johnson.
“Miller had the big one there at the end,” Reid said, referring to fourth-quarter strike to Johnson. “A couple of them actually down the stretch there, but other than that I thought he started off well.”
Safety Tyrann Mathieu left Saturday night’s game with a shoulder injury, but Reid there was “a good chance” he would have remained in if it were a regular season game.
Wide receiver Marcus Kemp suffered the most significant injury of the night with a suspected torn ACL, an injury that would end his season. Reid declined to discuss the extent of the injury until an MRI on Sunday confirmed the diagnosis.
Tight end Deon Yelder left the game with ankle injury and appeared with crutches and a boot in the locker room after the game. Breeland Speaks (knee) and Justin Hamilton (elbow) also left the game but should be OK, Reid said.
Reid said the injuries around the league and those afflicting his team Saturday night haven’t change his attitude toward letting starters take the field in the third preseason next week against San Francisco.
“It’s a physical game and the things we got, we’re probably coming out of this with one or two guys who are hurt for the duration, but that happens,” Reid said. “You’re seeing a lot of these major injuries happen in practice and knock on wood we’ve kept it out of that.”
Back to Routine This Week
Reid likes to treat the third preseason game as a dress rehearsal for the regular season, and that tradition continues this week. The club also returns to its training facility in Kansas City, which means practices are closed to the public.
The team will practice in the afternoon Tuesday and Wednesday with a shorter earlier practice on Thursday.
“You set your schedule up where it’s a dry run, not that you’re going to increase plays or any of that because you’re not,” Reid explained. “You still keep it vanilla, but you’re going to go through the process like you would in a regular week.”
The intention is to settle the club into a normal routine while continuing to prepare for the season down the road.
“Now will we keep installing new stuff, yeah, we’ll keep installing new stuff, too,” Reid explained. “That’s what we do. We kind of blend it all together, but the main schedule is what they see during the regular season.”