The Kansas City Chiefs’ first preseason game of 2021 is in the books — and it was a 19-16 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Quarterback Shane Buechele, running back Elijah McGuire and wide receiver Jody Fortson were the stars of the fourth-quarter game-winning drive to give the Chiefs the win.
The most significant takeaway of the night for the Chiefs was their outstanding play in the trenches, especially the defensive line. The buzz has been about Chris Jones’ move to the EDGE, but his sack came from lining up inside. The Chiefs added four more sacks on the night, and the line is looking more and more like an absolute force to be reckoned with.
This point is critical because of how many points it takes to beat the Chiefs — typically somewhere between 24 and 35. If the defensive line is going to consistently disarm opposing offenses, the Chiefs will win a lot of football games.
Let's talk about the Chiefs' first preseason game https://t.co/p7inTCVAac— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) August 15, 2021
That all starts with quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who only played one series and four snaps, while the rest of the first-team offense stayed in for the full quarter. That included the offensive line, which had five new starters from around this time in 2020. Their first play together resulted in a 10-yard gain for running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. I liked that the Chiefs showed some growth in short-yardage downs, where there were struggles last year. Protection for Mahomes always is (rightly) mentioned first, but the improved line will certainly lead to more production on the ground as well.
The Chiefs’ first touchdown of the game was a pass from Chad Henne to wide-open wide receiver Byron Pringle, who secured it for six. Henne’s interception came on a bad pass to rookie tight end Noah Gray, who bobbled it up into the air, ripe for the pick. Gray is known for his lack of drops — so despite the poor throw, it was surprising. Wide receiver Mecole Hardman — who has had a solid camp — dropped his only target.
The Chiefs' secondary started slowly with safety Devon Key getting turned around on Trey Lance’s 80-yard touchdown to Trent Sherfield. But he made up for a bit later when he saved safety Juan Thornhill from what might have been a 99-yard touchdown. Thanks to a hustle play by Key, it was a 34-yarder instead. By the way, that potential 99-yard touchdown was only made possible by a beautiful coffin corner by punter Tommy Townsend. I’d bet Townsend was itching for a rep like that — meaningless or not — after Super Bowl LV.
Sticking with some secondary notes, it was positive for the Chiefs to cornerbacks Deandre Baker and Rashad Fenton with near-picks, and Baker had the nicest day out of those three up for the third cornerback position (Baker, Fenton and Mike Hughes).
Hardman did not get any snaps as the punt returner after the Chiefs listed him as wide receiver No. 2 on their initial unofficial depth chart. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub may have just wanted to see what he has in Hughes, Darrius Shepherd, Daurice Fountain, Gehrig Dieter and Jerrick McKinnon, but it is worth noting that Hardman did not line up there once.
Both Fountain and McKinnon deserve mentions for their offensive looks, and McKinnon added an open-field special teams tackle. Parlay that with Darwin Thompson’s unnecessary roughness penalty, and it is looking like advantage McKinnon if the Chiefs keep three running backs. The defensive must-mentions include defensive linemen Khalen Saunders, Tim Ward and Turk Wharton. Safety Armani Watts caught an interception thrown by Josh Rosen right into Watts’ chest.
The Chiefs left Santa Clara with some good tape — but there is more to do. They’re back to St. Joseph on Monday.