Kansas City Chiefs vs. Carolina Panthers: Report Card for Each Chiefs Unit
It was a roller coaster-like game for Kansas City. They started both halves strong, only to struggle at the end of each 30-minute section. The Chiefs got off to a hot start, limiting Carolina's offense and moving the ball easily against its defense.
But the Panthers defense pulled through and stopped the Chiefs when it mattered most, allowing only one touchdown in the game.
There were a lot of ups and downs throughout. Let's check out the game grades for the Chiefs from Sunday night's game.
Kansas City looked really good moving the football with all of the quarterbacks it used today against Carolina. But with Andy Reid putting an emphasis on finishing strong, the Chiefs quarterbacks could not finish drives.
Alex Smith did not direct a touchdown drive for the second week in a row. Aaron Murray got a lot of attention in front of a national audience when he got a touchdown pass in his first career preseason pass, finding Travis Kelce for a 43-yard catch-and-run touchdown. But the rookie from Georgia also threw a pick that set up a Carolina score.
With Jamaal Charles out for tonight’s game, Knile Davis and Cyrus Gray both had an average night running the ball. The offense certainly looked different without Charles. But if this ever happens to be the case in the regular season, the Chiefs have to learn to deal with the hand their dealt and work around it.
(Though let's not forget that Kansas City did post 44 points and over 500 total yards of offense in last year's Wild Card Round loss at Indianapolis with Charles sidelined by a concussion for virtually the entire game.)
Though Davis will make the squad, it would be nice to see him make some plays as a running back. He’s showed off his speed on special teams in the NFL and is capable of doing the same for this offense.
Wide Receiver and Tight End
Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and tight end Travis Kelce both looked impressive playing in different halves. Bowe stepped up and looked like a No. 1 receiver when he pulled in five catches for 62 yards. He was a viable weapon for Alex Smith early in the game.
Kelce shined for the second week in a row with another catch-and-run touchdown play in the second half. If Bowe and Kelce carry this over into the regular season, Kansas City’s passing game in 2014 will look better than last year’s version.
Frankie Hammond proved today that he has a serious chance to crack a roster spot with his performance. He caught a 51-yard pass that was nullified by a penalty, but the coaching staff won’t forget his run-after-the-catch effort on that play. He finished with three catches for 57 yards.
After allowing six sacks last week, the Chiefs offensive line let the Panthers collect three sacks against K.C. quarterbacks. The offensive line also was flagged for a couple of penalties that nullified long plays.
The offensive line was the biggest concern going into training camp and is still a concern midway through the preseason.
Vance Walker probably had the most notable performance out of all defensive linemen on the team, but even he had a quiet night against the Panthers.
Early in the game, the defensive line beat Carolina's OL and chased Cam Newton around backfield. After the first quarter, the defensive line seemed neither to step up nor make a lot of big plays.
Panthers backup quarterbacks Derek Anderson and Joe Webb had little trouble dealing with Kansas City’s second-string defense in the second half.
To no one’s surprise, Tamba Hali and Dee Ford brought the most pressure for the defense. But there was one big missed opportunity for inside linebacker Derrick Johnson. Following Newton's eyes, Johnson got his hands on a slant pass but couldn’t hold on for what might have been a pick-six.
Joe Mays, who has been impressive in training camp so far, impressed a lot of people when, after missing Newton once in the backfield, got to his feet to chase down Carolina's elusive QB for a sack. Nico Johnson made his presence known when he led all defenders in the game with seven tackles.
The Chiefs' linebackers are second only to those of the San Francisco 49ers for the best group in NFL. Since the Chiefs don’t have any major impact players in their secondary outside of Eric Berry, a potent pass rush is necessary to keep the DBs from being exploited.
With Eric Berry out again with an injury, the defensive backs had a hard time after an impressive preseason opener.
Panthers wide receivers had an easy time getting around Chiefs cornerbacks. However, they weren’t exposed, unlike last week, as Newton overthrew a couple of wide-open targets. The Chiefs dodged a couple of bullets, but they won’t be that lucky by the time the regular season arrives.
Rookie Phillip Gaines was mentioned a lot, and not in a good way. He allowed a touchdown and also committed a penalty on third down, which kept alive what ended up being a Panthers touchdown drive.
Ryan Succop and Cairo Santos both connected from long range against the Panthers. Succop made a 54-yard field goal, which ties his career long from 2011. Santos came through with a 44-yard field goal, but Succop’s long-range kick gives him a slight edge for the kicker competition.
The return game was fairly quiet, but Hammond had two kick returns for 56 yards, his longest going for 31 yards.
The Chiefs had an impressive performance in the return game last year and want to utilize that again this year under special teams coordinator Dave Toub.
The Chiefs burned a pair of timeouts in the first quarter. It is unknown if play calls were announced late or if a lack of communication with the offense caused the team to sacrifice two timeouts.
Nonetheless, it is better to have these issues now rather than in the regular season.
Cumulative Grade: B