The quarterbacks led a much better second try than the first. But even that came with some drama. Patrick Mahomes, Shane Buechele and Blaine Gabbert — notably in that order — led the Chiefs to a 38-10 preseason win against the Arizona Cardinals in a stadium that has become quite familiar over the past 12 months. The Chiefs returned to the site of last season’s Super Bowl victory, and also the spot where that championship run began, and departed with an identical result. You know, absent the trophy.
I’ll offer the same caveat as a week ago: It’s only the preseason. But let’s take a look at five things that stood out from immediately after the game:
1. WE’VE SEEN ENOUGH PATRICK MAHOMES That ought to do it for Patrick Mahomes’ preseason. I understand giving the starters some run in exhibition games, and I don’t think it’s a one-year coincidence that the quarterbacks who sat last year struggled in their respective season openers. But if the objective is to get the blood flowing and simulate some regular-season action, that’s all in the rearview. Mahomes finished 10 of 15 for 105 yards and a touchdown Saturday, one week after attempting just two passes.
Most notably, though, it would appear that he does not have a let’s-not-get-crazy-here-because-it’s-preseason switch. The guy jumped out of bounds — surrounded by five defenders — just to buy some extra time to throw a pass. And he’s fortunate that Cardinals defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter took it easy in closing out his pursuit on the play. Not much to gain from risking it next weekend, even if that means Mahomes won’t take a preseason snap at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
2. THE QUARTERBACK CONTROVERSY Seriously. OK, kind of.
It’s not at the top of the depth chart, but Chiefs might just have a battle going for the backup job. Buechele, not Gabbert, was the second quarterback in the game, leaving Gabbert to play in the second half with some third-stringers. It’s worth noting that Gabbert hasn’t hasn’t had a particularly strong training camp. But he did play well in relief Saturday. They both did, actually.
If Buechele indeed surpassed Gabbert for the No. 2 job, he didn’t do anything to relinquish it. He was a perfect 10 for 10 for 105 yards, and he also scrambled for a 15-yard score. Gabbert was 7 of 8 for 120 yards and a pair of touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Mahomes actually finished with the worst passer rating of the three, a measly 109.0.
3. AN EMERGING RASHEE RICE
The Chiefs made a point to feature the rookies in their second preseason game — more on that in a minute — and, man, if Rashee Rice didn’t take advantage of his chance. Well, not immediately. Rice dropped an easy throw on the second snap of the game — then went off for 7 catches and 85 yards. In the first half.
Rice actually played after halftime too, finishing with eight total catches for 96 yards. What really pops in his game is the ability after the catch, a feature that caught the Chiefs’ attention in his draft tape. Rice isn’t afraid to take on some contact. And he juked the heck out of safety Andre Chachere, turning a short slant pattern into a 25-yard gain
. 4. THE ROOKIES It’s probably safe to say this year’s rookie class won’t match the impact of the group from a year ago, but the Chiefs provided an open-minded opportunity to be convinced otherwise.
There was a clear intent to get the rookies more involved on Saturday — whether it was the overload of targets to Rice or the first-team snaps for defensive back Chamarri Conner and defensive tackle Keondre Coburn.
Justyn Ross also got a snap with Mahomes, converting a third-down whip route into wide-open space and a first-down catch. The Chiefs’ first-round pick, though, is still rotating with the second group.
Felix Anudike-Uzomah did see a lot of first-half playing time, but it’s obvious he’s behind George Karlaftis, Mike Danna and Charles Omenihu in the edge rotation. A year after the Chiefs’ first-round edge rusher, Karlaftis, started every game, it’s apparent the route to readiness with Anudike-Uzomah will be a slower one. 5. THE PASS RUSH Or lack thereof. It’s a small sample size. It’s preseason.
But the Chiefs’ starters haven’t put together much of a pass rush in either game. And if you, like me, have some concerns about their defensive line even when Chris Jones does return, the initial two games haven’t done much to change those thoughts. I won’t pretend Jones is a small absence. He alone can make the whole thing look a heck of a lot different. But the Chiefs are thin on the defensive line even after he’s back.