Final score: Kansas City Chiefs 33, Cleveland Browns 32
Quarterback Shane Buechele once again got the nod over Blaine Gabbert as the backup to work with the starting offensive line and receivers — but unlike last Saturday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, he was not impressive. He had multiple incompletions (and interceptions) on passes thrown into tight windows — where he doesn’t have the arm power needed to make those throws.
It was the opposite of what we saw from Gabbert, whose performance showed off the arm talent that made him a first-round pick 12 years ago. He made multiple deep throws that were impressive — not just because he was able to confidently step up in the pocket, but also because the passes came out of his hand with legitimate velocity.
One of his most impressive displays of hanging in the pocket and making a throw wasn’t even a completion. Beating a Cover 0 blitz, Gabbert put a lot of air on a sideline pass to a wide-open Rashee Rice — but the rookie wide receiver dropped his third pass of the day. For the second-round pick, the unfortunate theme of Saturday’s game is a reminder of what could keep him from contributing right away.
The same could be said of undrafted running back Deneric Prince, who has now clearly been surpassed by La’Mical Perine. It wasn’t about Prince, who racked up 45 yards over 12 carries and added a seven-yard reception. Instead, it was how Perine looked on two particular plays:
- On a 30-yard carry in the first half, Perine deciphered the traffic, then showed speed to the corner as he beat the edge of the defense and turned up the sideline for a huge run.
- On a dump-off pass 20 yards from the end zone, Perine shook off an initial tackle — barely staying on his feet — before shrugging off several more on his way to a touchdown. His impressive contact balance was reminiscent of his cousin Semaje Perine.
Offensive Player of the Game: wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette
For the second straight week, this award goes to this third-year wide receiver. On Saturday, the speedy wideout totaled 101 receiving yards (and a 43-yard touchdown) on four catches. He caught all four of his targets.
Smith-Marsette got open downfield in different ways: once over the middle, another time toward the sideline and then one other where he shot vertically up the seam for the big touchdown. At this point, it’s hard to imagine him settling onto any team’s practice squad.
When the starting defense took the field, it was good to see defensive tackle Tershawn Wharton in the lineup. Drue Tranquill started at MIKE linebacker, so Nick Bolton could rest.
Cornerback Joshua Williams stood out initially, coming up hard on a running play to make a stop. A few plays later, he had clean technique defending an outside fade by wide receiver Amari Cooper, closing out any window for a completion. He looks the part of a third cornerback.
But on the second drive, cornerback Jaylen Watson collapsed a deep, in-breaking route to break it up. The competition between the two second-year corners continues to look pretty even.
Safety Mike Edwards has shown off some tackling skills this preseason — and on the first drive, had another strong showing, coming up hard on a quick screen. Later, however, he flew into a third-down run and missed the tackle attempt — perhaps coming in too recklessly. A few snaps later, a Browns tight end beat him in coverage for a touchdown. Saturday may have been a reminder of why he isn’t one of the primary starters.
The defensive linemen who made plays on Saturday included first-round rookie Felix Anudike-Uzomah, who had impressive reps against both the run and the pass. The run stop was a tackle for loss on third down. Veteran defensive lineman Daniel Wise twice shot through the line for two more. Later in the game, third-year defensive end Joshua Kaindoh earned a sack — and made a few other plays.
The other notable players came in the secondary: Cornerback DiCaprio Bootle jumped a pass over the middle, redeeming his shaky preseason with an interception. Rookie cornerback Reese Taylor also showed up a few times — including as a slot defender. Late in the game, recently-signed cornerback Duron Lowe broke up a pass attempt to the end zone.
Defensive Player of the Game: pass rusher Charles Omenihu
Omenihu popped out quite a bit on Saturday, disrupting the pocket a handful of times. He earned a quarterback hit on one occasion and a sack on another. He also blew through a helpless guard on an additional dropback, but it was a quick throw.
Combined with another strong showing from Anudike-Uzomah, it was a reminder of how disruptive the defensive front can be on a passing play... when everyone is on the field.