Pre-Season Week 3 – Kansas City Chiefs @ Pittsburgh Steelers – Game Recap

Not only did week three of the pre-season bring the Kansas City Chiefs their first win of 2013, but also an all-around improved performance from the team, compared to weeks one and two.

Offense

The first team offense seemed to struggle early on versus the Pittsburgh Steelers offense, quickly falling behind 10 points to zero by the end of the 1st quarter. The Chiefs quickly turned this around by executing number of impressive drives towards the end of the half. Quarterback Alex Smith and co. were kept in the game for the entire 1st half and finally managed to redeem themselves against the Steelers 1st team defense (who were also still in the game), by scoring a field goal with just over five minutes left in the half and then quickly –with less than two minutes left- orchestrating a game-tying touchdown drive, consisting of eight plays over 72 yards, ending in a pass from Alex Smith to wide receiver Junior Hemingway. Alex Smith finished his tenure having completed 17 out of 24 pass attempts, for a total of 158 yards (and one touchdown) and a 102.4 passer rating.

The 2nd team offense was sent in for the remainder of the game, the 2nd half. Back-up quarterback Chase Daniel had an impressive outing versus the Steelers, quite the opposite of what fans saw in weeks one and two. Daniel finished the game with 152 yards through the air, coming from completing 14 out of 24 pass attempts, including one touchdown (a game winner in overtime), all combined for a 91 passer rating. The 2nd team offense as a whole played well and held it together under pressure, but Daniel played the most significant role in the team’s victory, leading an exciting 13-play final drive in overtime, ending with an accurate touchdown pass to wide receiver Rico Richardson in the right corner of the endzone.

Minus the majority of the 1st quarter, this game proved to be very promising in showing what starting quarterback Alex Smith and back-up Chase Daniel were brought in to Kansas City to do, to bring hope and a higher standard of aerial attack.

Defense

Once again the defensive unit as a whole has shown consistency in the face of a tough opponent. After falling to a 10-point deficit by the end of the 1st quarter due to a couple of impressive Big Ben-lead drives the 1st team defense shut-down the Steelers offense for the remainder of the half, not letting in another point. A few lapses in the secondary (of the 1st team defense) were noticeable, most notable, the touchdown bomb from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger that burned Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith, but the 1st team defensive line and linebacking core were on-point all night.

After a full half of the 1st team being on the field, the 2nd teamers and further back-ups were put on the field for the remainder of the night. After giving up the lead in last week’s week two matchup versus the San Francisco 49ers, the 2nd team defense needed a bounce-back week, and that is what they got. The 2nd team defense let in only 10 points in three quarters (including overtime), enough to support the offense in winning the game in overtime.

The defense continuing to contain powerful offenses paired with the offense’s all-around improvement could prove to be a deadly combination for opposing teams.

Special Teams

Special teams are not usually worth mentioning while watching a pre-season matchup, however, rookie running back Knile Davis has once again wowed fans with his incredible ability to take kick-returns to the house. Before the pre-season began, Davis was only a candidate for the role of kick-returner, but now seems to have established himself as a front runner to win the job.

The Chiefs return game overall has also made huge improvements since the 2012 season. The Chiefs kick-returners as a whole have amassed an amazing 562 return yards, averaging a staggering 40.1 yards per kick-return in only three weeks of pre-season, while holding opposing kick-returners to only 28 yards per return, for a total of 197 return yards.

These very intriguing statistics on special teams have not been seen in Kansas City since the days of Dante Hall, the human joy-stick. Not that Knile Davis or any other returners on the team right now are being compared to Dante Hall, but this unit on the large scale, are very promising, and could very well be responsible for one of more wins this season.

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Kansas City Chiefs – Pre-Season Week 1 – Quarterback Reviews

Alex Smith – 1st String

With Alex Smith as the established starter for the Chiefs, he has no realistic concern about Daniel, Bray or Stanzi taking his job. Smith showed a glimpse of what Andy Reid brought him to the Chiefs to do, in game one of the 2013 NFL pre-season. Smith threw for 68 yards and completed seven of his eight passing attempts, with the only incompletion coming on a throw-away while rolling out to his right side. The majority of Smith’s completions were bubble screens or short passes within five yards of the line of scrimmage which would account for his high completion percentage, however, having seen the game, each of Smith’s short passes were not just Matt Cassel-esque desperate dump off throws to get himself out of trouble, but passes that were to receivers who were actually in a position to gain yardage (after the catch) or even to score.

On the team’s first possession of the game, Smith led a healthy 14 play drive which resulted in a touchdown and a 7-0 lead over the New Orleans Saints (Which became a 10-0 lead by the time the first team defense was taken off the field). This immediate success by the Chiefs first team offense inclined Andy Reid to pull out the first stringers after only the first drive.

Smith’s first showing as a Chief indicated that while reluctant to pass deep down the field, (keeping in mind this is a pre-season game, and he may not want to put his receivers at risk) he is capable of making the correct decisions in order to put his teammates in positions to produce on the field.

The first team offense’s quick production versus the Saints defense meant that we saw a very limited number of stats to judge Smith’s performance on a large scale, however, what Smith did show will be encouraging to see for most Chiefs fans.

Chase Daniel – 2nd String

Despite having very limited playing time in the regular season with the New Orleans Saints (while backing-up QB Drew Brees), Chase Daniel was given a healthy contract by the Chiefs front office this off-season, to be the immediate back-up in the instance that Alex Smith were to suffer an injury.

After the first-team offense was taken out of the game after only one drive, Daniel and the second stringers took over. Daniel did not wow anybody with a concerningly inaccurate showing for the majority of his playing time. It was apparent that Daniel is not attempting to take Alex Smith’s job (there would be no point, as Smith is the established starter), but the general inaccuracy of Daniel’s passes is still worrying.

One fact that should be taken into strong consideration is that while Daniel’s performance did not wow anyone by any means, this is still only game one of the pre-season.

Game two of the pre-season and beyond will shed more light on whether Chase Daniel really deserved the healthy back-up contract he received.

 

Tyler Bray – 3rd String

Tyler Bray has got to be the most anticipated undrafted rookie quarterback to come into Kansas City in a long time, if not ever. Bray’s showing versus the Saints only reinforces Chiefs fans’ suspicions that Tyler Bray has the potential to become a productive quarterback. Tyer Bray completed 3 of his 7 pass attempts, which may not sound impressive, and you wouldn’t be wrong in saying that it isn’t, but while looking at Bray’s game tape, you would notice that three of those 4 incompletions were dropped by his receivers. One of the dropped balls was perfectly thrown by Bray to be just out of the reach of a Saints defender and placed where only his receiver, tight end Travis Kelce, could reach the ball. Had the pass been caught by Kelce, the play would have resulted in a certain touchdown and most-likely changed the outcome of the game.

For a rookie, Bray also passed the ‘eye test’ when rolling out of the pocket, looking like a mature quarterback while doing so.

Having said this, Bray also showed classic signs of inexperience. On one of his first pass-attempts, while stepping up in the pocket, Bray was hit from behind and had the ball ripped from his hands by a Saints lineman.

Tyler Bray showed flashes of what fans are hoping Bray can one day turn into, as he matures. The coming pre-season games with help in making a more definitive decision about what role Bray plays as a rookie.

Ricky Stanzi – 4th String

The most patriotic quarterback in the NFL, Ricky Stanzi, had a chance to fight for a roster spot versus the Saints last week. Being a Scott Pioli draft pick, while not necessarily the worst quarterback on the depth chart, he is immediately disadvantages having been drafted by the previous regime.

Stanzi finished the game having completed five of his twelve passing attempts. Again, this is not an impressive stat-line, but by the time Stanzi entered the game, the team was trailing the Saints 10-17, and had a lot of catch up work to do due to the Saints back-ups’ dominance over the Chiefs back-ups. Stanzi made some good, accurate throws for first downs in his final drives and showed that he may be worth hanging onto for a possible back-up role during the regular season.

Despite Stanzi’s not-so-horrible performance versus the Saints, it still seems to be a foregone conclusion that unless he shows something significant in training camp and the remainder of the pre-season, he won’t make the final cut as the Chiefs trim their roster to the final 53.