The Kansas City Chiefs’ first preseason game against the Chicago Bears is in the books — and like many recent Kansas City games, it was a tale of two halves. The first and second teams looked sharp, rolling to a 14-0 lead before the break. But the third and fourth-teamers didn’t fare nearly as well, leading to 19 unanswered Bears points — and finally, a loss.
While the results don’t matter one bit, there are plenty of individual performances that we were waiting to see — and in many ways, played out pretty much as we expected.
Here are a few players who stood out — along with a few who didn’t.
Note: Applying the labels “winners” and “losers” is not intended to be a judgment on the talent or character of any of these players. It’s just a simple way to grade their performance in a single game. No disrespect is intended.
Patrick Mahomes: The starting quarterback came in, knocked out a near-flawless first drive (six of seven for 60 yards and a touchdown) and got out of the game unharmed. He spread the ball around to six different receivers, capped by a Kelce-style touchdown to tight end Blake Bell. We all agreed we had seen enough for this game — and head coach Andy Reid had, too. If this is a preview of the new-look Chiefs offense, it’s still damned good.
Chris Jones: The first-team defense was also sharp, forcing the Bears’ offense into a three-and-out that was capped by another dominant Jones sack. Back on the inside, the big guy looks comfortable — and poised for another big season.
Willie Gay, Jr.: One half of the Chiefs’ young linebacker duo started off strong with some disruptive, penetrating plays against the run. While Gay’s stated goal is to lead the league’s linebackers in interceptions, we shouldn’t forget that he’s also a valuable gap-shooter in the running game.
Michael Burton: Any time you can start a game with a rollout pass to a fullback, you know it’s going to be a good day. Burton may be one of the most underappreciated players on the roster. Every year, people wonder why Reid even carries a fullback. Against Chicago, Burton didn’t waste any time in reminding us why: all he does is make first downs. Burton moved the chains in each of his two touches.
Justin Watson: At times in camp, Watson has been the talk of the local and national media. But at other times, everyone focused on another flavor-of-the-day. But on Saturday, Watson made his case to be the team’s fifth wide receiver with five catches, 45 yards and a touchdown. A big, fast player who is very good on special teams, we might be nearing the point where Watson’s roster spot is written in ink.
George Karlaftis: In his first NFL game action, the first-round defensive end was exactly what he was advertised to be: a good technician who is relentless in pursuit; he recorded his first sack on a second/third effort. If he can build on this performance, he will push for more playing time with the first unit.
Justin Reid: The former Houston Texans safety turned in a solid Chiefs debut, helping shut down the Bears’ opening drive with a good open-field tackle. But all anyone will remember will be his extra-point kick at the end of the half — a play that was clearly fun for everyone involved. Reid’s enthusiasm was infectious as he declared the backup kicker job was “locked up.”
The second-half offensive line: Kansas City’s front five is obviously among the league’s best units — but clearly, the same can’t be said about the third-string group. Quarterback Dustin Crum was on the run for much of the second half. And there were no running lanes for the backs who were trying to make a name for themselves.
Derrick Gore: Unfortunately, the running back room’s forgotten man will be remembered for putting the ball on the ground. He had two drops on three targets — and then lost a fumble. His minus-two yards rushing and six yards receiving certainly weren’t enough to offset his lack of ball security. In 2021, Gore was a valuable member of the team, so perhaps the Chiefs have a plan for him. But given the hype around rookie Isiah Pacheco, it’s hard to see what the plan may be.
Ronald Jones: Much has been made of the veteran running back playing with the third team in training camp — but Saturday’s game didn’t do anything to change anyone’s mind about where he might fit in. His four carries netted one yard — and it appeared he missed a pass-protection assignment that resulted in a sack. The only excuse Jones has is that the backup offensive linemen around him didn’t have a strong showing, either. But for a guy that many people believe must have a big preseason to make the team, the Bears game wasn’t a good start.
Corey Coleman: The veteran wideout’s path to making the roster is as a kick and punt returner. He had two kickoffs and a punt — which he fumbled. He wasn’t targeted as a receiver, either. Right now, it would appear that he is on the outside looking in.
Josh Gordon: Gordon’s path to the roster doesn’t have a special teams element — so it’s even more critical that when given a chance to make plays on offense, he makes them. Unfortunately, he had three targets but no catches. Two of his targets first appeared to be spectacular catches, but both were disallowed because he didn’t get his feet in bounds. While Gordon appears to be in great shape — and we believe the team is rooting for him — he must eventually have some production on the field.