The Kansas City Chiefs lost Saturday’s exhibition opener 19-14 to the Chicago Bears — but the upper half of the depth chart went into halftime with a 14-0 lead.
The complete starting offense began the game well, marching 72 yards on 11 plays to score a touchdown. They moved the sticks five times on the drive, including two third-down conversions.
That was their only action of the game, but there was still plenty to take away from it. After rewatching the possession, here’s what I noticed:
Chemistry between quarterback and receiver
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes completed six of seven passes on the drive, hitting six different pass-catchers.
The first completion to a wide receiver was a nine-yard gain to Mecole Hardman that set up second-and-short — but the reception alone should have moved the sticks.
It's the little things w/ 17— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) August 15, 2022
The curl route at the 1st-down marker needs to turn into a 1st down. Yes, you want to come back to the ball and not wait for it to get there, but you'd like to see him feel his position on the field and sit on the ball to move the sticks #Chiefs pic.twitter.com/SXPpe1Qy8S
The depth of this route is designed to adjust based on the position of the first-down marker. So the receiver needs to do what it takes to position themselves so they’ll earn a first down with the catch. Hardman runs the route at the sticks and comes back for the ball, but the depth of his route makes the catch happen past the sticks.
You’d want to see a receiver in his fourth year with the offense have a better feel on this route — but rather than making the first down (as it should), the catch creates a pressure situation to convert a third-and-short.
No surprise that the Mahomes and Kelce connection looked as easy and smooth as ever in the only target 87 saw.— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) August 15, 2022
Kelce doesn't give away his route path until he's in the blind spot of the hook LB. Pat likely holding that LB with his eyes. Easy pitch and catch #Chiefs pic.twitter.com/NBNuRTExcP
Later in the drive, the Mahomes connection with tight end Travis Kelce was on display — looking as natural and easy as it ever has.
Off the play-action fake, Kelce beats his defender (who is playing man coverage) to the inside — but not until he’s out of the vision of the coverage linebacker in the middle. That gives him the window necessary for Mahomes to complete a 19-yard pass.
I saw this play happen at camp, Mahomes stepping up to his right then firing back across to MVS' inside leverage— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) August 13, 2022
Both times, came away impressed with the strong hands catch
Mahomes mentioned how MVS' experience with Rodgers may make these types of throws familiar to him #Chiefs pic.twitter.com/0TOKOX7Hhh
On the only third-down pass attempt of the series, Mahomes’ chemistry with one of the new receivers turned into an impressive conversion.
The Chiefs run their Hank pass concept, which calls for two receivers over the middle of the field to run curl routes past the sticks. The Bears initially cover the possible throwing windows, so Mahomes scrambles to open up an opportunity. Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling recognizes this, makiing a subtle move to get back inside, sealing off his defender to allow Mahomes a place to throw.
In his post-game press conference, Mahomes mentioned Valdes-Scantling’s history with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers as something that has helped their chemistry in these situations to start on a strong footing.
There’s one simple way to explain why the offensive line didn’t have its greatest performance to start the preseason: on two different plays (over seven pass attempts), Mahomes was hit as he threw.
First-team O should've scored on Mahomes' only incompletion— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) August 13, 2022
MVS' great job getting inside & on top of C3 Corner. Pat knows the strong safety is coming down on Kelce's side, so the window is there.
Said after the game his arm got hit #Chiefs pic.twitter.com/ebHIGz1ZqM
On the first-team’s only incompletion, right guard Trey Smith and left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. both allow quick penetration — which forces Mahomes to make an uncomfortable throw as he is hit. Brown appears to overset, allowing a very large inside lane for the rusher to attack the front of the pocket and get into Mahomes’ face. Smith just isn’t as aggressive attacking the defensive linemen off the snap, which allows the rusher to get into the backfield — and at the least, make Mahomes worry about the penetration for a split second.
If the quarterback had been able to throw the pass cleanly, it would have been a touchdown to Valdes-Scantling.
#Chiefs OL allowed two hits on Mahomes as he threw on Saturday, out of 7 attempts. The bigger of the two one came on the Kelce catch— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) August 15, 2022
Looks like Wylie just loses leverage inside right away, and can't recover. Hoping for some cleaner preszn pass pro when Mahomes' in moving forward pic.twitter.com/1QTTCwUCe7
On the first hit Mahomes took, it didn’t prevent a completion — but it was a much bigger hit than you ever want to see a quarterback take during the preseason.
On the play-action pass, the defensive end who is lined up over right tackle Andrew Wylie shoots to the inside as a blitzer comes from his outside. Not expecting the inside rush, Wylie lunges at the snap, allowing the rusher enough of a corner to win and get a clean hit on Mahomes.
Starting running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire played the first seven snaps of the game — carrying the ball twice for six total yards. The second run went for six yards, running through some traffic to gain the yardage.
On the above play — where Mahomes gets hit — Edwards-Helaire actually has an impressive rep in pass protection, keeping the blitzer from entering the pocket by stalemating him at the point of contact.
We didn't get to see much of Pacheco with the starters— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) August 15, 2022
On his 1st carry, he drops his head and just bulldozes through the traffic, popping out on the other side for 2 yds. Keeping eyes up there will be a teaching point I'm sure
Contact balance lookin' good though pic.twitter.com/PYjPth4XbB
On the eighth play of the drive, Edwards-Helaire was spelled by rookie seventh-round pick Isiah Pacheco — who took his first NFL carry up the middle for two yards. I noticed Pacheco take the handoff patiently — and then once he got to the line of scrimmage, drop his head and just push forward. While that is sometimes the only path to take, I’d like to see him keep his eyes up as he waits — just in case he finds a last-second seam to squeeze through.
On his reception, he shows strong hands and strong contact balance, quickly bouncing back from the defensive back’s hit and continuing up the field.
It was good to see Pacheco be used in both the running and passing game. His ability to make plays in both offensive phases is likely why he’s projected to make the team over veteran running back Ronald Jones.
The bottom line
The Chiefs’ offense ran a lot of plays out of very basic formations. Still, they barely broke a sweat marching down the field to score. And even though his pass protection didn’t allow him to operate from a clean pocket on every snap, Mahomes looked very comfortable.
In all, it was a good start for the Chiefs’ offense — while also giving a few players some teaching points from which they can learn.