1. Mahomes is in midseason form
NFL head coaches having their golden-armed quarterbacks remain on the bench for most (if not all) of the preseason is the league’s latest fad.
Just last week, head coach Sean McVay of the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams said that as long as he is with the team, there is zero chance that his quarterback Matt Stafford will ever play a snap in a preseason game.
It makes sense. In 2022, the NFL is a quarterback-centric league. A franchise's destiny rises and falls based on the performance of its quarterback.
If Kansas City head coach Andy Reid made a similar announcement about quarterback Patrick Mahomes on Monday, a lot of Chiefs fans would breathe a sigh of relief. At this point in his career, the most important thing Mahomes can do in a preseason game is stay healthy.
Kansas City’s superstar quarterback played only one possession in Saturday’s game — but he looked like he was in midseason form. When he has the ball in his hands, everything just seems to move in slow motion. To open the game, Mahomes easily lead the offense on an 11-play, 72-yard drive that culminated with a screen pass to tight end Blake Bell for a touchdown.
Early in the game, it was apparent that Mahomes could wake up tomorrow, step out onto the field and win a playoff matchup. The Chiefs had a second-and-4 from Chicago’s 42-yard line. Facing pressure from the Bears' edge rushers, Mahomes stepped up into the pocket, worked through his progressions and found Travis Kelce for a 19-yard gain.
It is something we’ve seen him do a thousand times. But it still served as a good reminder that Mahomes is the standard by which all other quarterbacks are measured.
2. The Chiefs' talented young players lived up to their billing
Early in the season, the Chiefs’ rookies will take some lumps.
This is to be expected as they get acclimated to the NFL — and it was the case on Saturday afternoon. But despite making some hair-pulling mental mistakes, Kansas City’s rookies showed flashes of why many draft pundits labeled them the best draft class of general manager Brett Veach’s tenure.
Early on, first-round defensive end George Karlaftis struggled a little bit with mental errors before coming alive and beating Chicago right tackle (and Topeka native) Tevin Jenkins with a beautiful inside rip move to sack Bears quarterback Justin Fields for a 10-yard loss.
After that, Karlaftis was consistently applying pressure in Chicago's backfield. For a team that struggled to get to the quarterback in 2021, it was an encouraging debut for the rookie pass rusher.
Another rookie that showed glimpses of brilliance was wide receiver Skyy Moore, who caught all three of his targets — including a tough snag over the middle in which Bears rookie safety Jaquan Brisker hit him pretty hard. While it’s a small sample size, it certainly appears that the Chiefs may have a legitimate offensive weapon on their hands.
Other rookies who had some nice moments on Saturday included linebacker Leo Chenal — who led the team with seven tackles — and cornerback Jaylen Watson, who struggled in run defense but still played pretty good coverage, making the most of the opportunity given to him.
3. The Chiefs have depth at wide receiver
We’ve already touched briefly on Moore’s Saturday success. But as a whole, the Kansas City wide receiving corps looked pretty solid.
The star of this group was camp darling Justin Watson. Much has been made of Watson’s size and speed this offseason. In his first in-game action in a Chiefs uniform, he lived up to the hype, catching five of six targets for 45 yards — including a 22-yard touchdown strike from Shane Buechele to close out the first half.
Lining up all over the field, Watson looked comfortable in Reid’s offense. At this moment, he appears to have a firm hold on the fifth receiver spot behind Juju Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore and Mecole Hardman.
That is some pretty solid depth. Heading into the season, Chiefs fans should feel good about this wide receiver group. All that remains to be seen is which player will become the team’s sixth wideout.
Right now, Daurice Fountain — who had a solid day of his own, catching all three of his targets for 24 yards — appears to be the man to beat.
4. Isiah Pacheco is going to be a big part of this offense
The fact that Pacheco saw limited time in his first preseason game says a lot about what the coaching staff thinks of him. Certainly it says more than it would have if he had carried the ball fifteen times and played late into the third quarter.
The Pacheco hype train has been rolling for a couple of weeks now, but I don’t think anyone really expected to see him getting meaningful snaps with the first-team offense on Saturday. The fact that they shut him down at the same time as fellow running back Clyde-Edwards-Helaire tells us that the Chiefs are likely planning on using the running back duo as a two-headed monster.
Pacheco’s best play came late in the Chiefs' opening drive, when Mahomes found him on the sidelines for an outlet pass. The defensive back lowered his shoulder to try and bring Pacheco down, but the rookie running back played through the initial contact, breaking the tackle before going out of bounds. While it was only a five-yard gain, it was an impressive play that gave us a peek at what we may see from Pacheco in the future.
Pacheco showed a similar burst on his lone kickoff return, in which he gained 34 yards
There is an intensity to Pacheco’s game that cannot be quantified. Simply saying that he plays hard does not quite encapsulate it. He looks like he is playing to make a point: that he belongs — and that he is better than you think he is.
5. The Chiefs' interior pass rush can be disruptive
At this time last season, we were knee-deep in the Chris-Jones-playing-edge-rusher experiment. But it turned out that spending more of this time on the outside instead of the inside hurt his play at both positions. He looked like a man who was caught between two worlds — and wasn’t fully comfortable in either of them.
As part of his quest to play defensive end a year ago, Jones slimmed down. On Saturday, he looked like he is back to his natural playing weight. It showed up in his power moves against Chicago’s first-team offense.
Early in the game, Jones collapsed Chicago’s interior pocket at will, wreaking havoc on Fields. This culminated with a third-and-6 play where Jones bull- rushed straight up the gut of the Bears’ offensive line, sacking the quarterback for an 8-yard loss.
Backup interior defensive lineman Khalen Saunders also played a nice game, recording a tackle for a loss on a play where he bullied his way into the Chicago backfield.
If Kansas City can create this sort of pressure from the interior of its defensive line, there are going to be a lot of opposing quarterbacks eating turf for their Sunday brunches.