The Kansas City Chiefs entered their third and final preseason game of 2021 having not scored a touchdown with their first-team offense. That changed rather quickly as they hosted the Minnesota Vikings at Arrowhead Stadium on Friday night in what wound up being a 28-25 win.
Leading into the game, we reasonably wrote on these pages about how quarterback Patrick Mahomes struggled in the team’s second preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals. Friday night was business as usual.
Mahomes broke off a sidearm pass to tight end Travis Kelce and scored on a fly route to wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who had about two to three yards of separation from a familiar face: Vikings cornerback Bashaud Breeland. Mahomes went through his reads and looked off defenders with ease — and he even managed to find one of his staples: getting a free play after spotting a defensive penalty. Mahomes, who finished 8 of 9 for 117 yards, two touchdowns and a 158.3 passer rating, appears primed for the Cleveland Browns in Week 1.
There was a strong sign that the Chiefs are comfortable keeping four tight ends on this roster. On Mahomes’ 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Blake Bell, there were three other tight ends on the field — Kelce, Noah Gray and Jody Fortson. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid drawing up pass plays with four tight ends on the field at once (14 personnel) is an indication Fortson will be on this roster come Tuesday.
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach’s defensive draft class of 2020 continued to shine. Mike Danna continued to fill in for injured pass-rusher Frank Clark, while linebacker Willie Gay and cornerback L’Jarius sneed recorded back-to-back pass breakups.
A story from this offseason revolved around linebacker Anthony Hitchens’ slight change in playing weight — and though it may only be slight, I think there has been a . Hitchens flew untouched as he brought down Kirk Cousins for a 9-yard sack before he could look downfield. Safety Armani Watts, the special teams snaps leader from 2020, recorded his second interception of the preseason.
The Chiefs seem to suddenly have an abundance of talent at wide receiver. Given his prowess on special teams and offensive improvement, Marcus Kemp will be a tough name for Veach to cut. Kemp made an outstanding 23-yard touchdown catch on a pass from third-string Shane Buechele on Friday night. The Colts’ fifth-rounder from 2018, Daurice Fountain, has made a good case for a roster spot, too.
Where does that leave the wide receiver group? If the Chiefs keep six, drafted rookie Cornell Powell projects as the odd man out in a list of Hill, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson, Kemp and Fountain.
Needing a big play to continue to build his case for what in my eyes would be the Chiefs’ 10th and final defensive lineman, Tim Ward came around the right edge and beat tackle Blake Brandel, overwhelming quarterback Kellen Mond. Rookie Joshua Kaindoh collected the loose ball.
If there were any lingering questions about right tackle, there shouldn’t be. Rookie Lucas Niang took all the first-team plays again, all but confirming a three-rookie offensive line. The second-team offensive lineup was worth noting, with Andrew Wylie sliding from right tackle to right guard as Mike Remmers went from left tackle to right tackle. The rest of the line went as follows — Prince Tega Wanogho at left tackle, Yasir Durant at left guard and Nick Allegretti at center.
The play of the night happened during backups time in the third quarter. After Reid compared him to Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers after last week’s preseason game, running back Derrick Gore juked seemingly the entire reserve Vikings defense for a 56-yard touchdown (a must-watch on our highlights page). The play isn’t enough to think he pulls ahead of the No. 3 (Jerick McKinnon) or No. 4 running back (Darwin Thompson), but could he land someplace besides the Chiefs’ practice squad? It remains to be seen.
When it comes to game results, the Chiefs managed a perfect preseason. But now comes the challenging part — forming the best possible roster by cutting the correct 27 players.