An always forgettable final game of the NFL preseason schedule turned out to be just a bit more memorable for the Chiefs on Thursday night at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
The 24-17 victory over the Rams gave the Chiefs a 4-0 record in the preseason, the first time since the Super Bowl year of 1969 they went unbeaten in the early games.
“We are in America; you play to win,” said head coach Andy Reid. “If it’s ping pong, if it’s a hot dog eating contest, you play to win. That’s how you go about this business. You would rather have it this way than the other way.”
The effort also allowed them to return home in possession of the Governor’s Cup for beating their cross-state rival. Most significant for the Chiefs was the victory came without their starters and a handful of other veterans that were given the night off by head coach Andy Reid.
Chase Daniel started at quarterback and directed the offense to 17 points in the first half. Aaron Murray came on after halftime, threw a touchdown pass and kept the offense on the field in the third and fourth quarters, running the clock and bringing the preseason to a victorious conclusion.
The evening had a junior-varsity feel for the Chiefs with 31 of the 75 players on the roster ruled out of the action. The absence of the better players did not diminish the effort and emotion of the game as the second and third team players got extensive action in their final chance to impress the coaches.
The NFL cutdown to 53 players come Saturday afternoon; the Chiefs will have to move 22 players off their roster.
“It was great to have our twos play against their ones,” Reid said. “We did OK. All in all it was a good night.”
In front of an announced paid attendance of 37,616, the Chiefs found the end zone first, thanks to an interception by safety Daniel Sorensen on a tipped pass. Sorensen returned the ball 26 yards to the St. Louis 8-yard line and two plays later fullback Spencer Ware scored on a 1-yard run. Cairo Santos made the PAT kick and the Chiefs grabbed a 7-0 lead.
With starting quarterback Nick Foles directing the early offensive chances for the Rams, they put together a seven-play possession before running back Isaiah Pead found the end zone on a 1-yard run. The big play in the drive was a short pass to the left side that the Chiefs defense surrounded with good pursuit.
But they missed two tackles and could not get wide receiver Tavon Austin on the ground, as he cut back and the Chiefs containment on the back side failed and the play went for 43 yards. Pead scored five plays later and after the PAT kick, the scoreboard was 7-7.
An offensive mistake cost the Chiefs late in the first quarter, when a Daniel pass intended for wide receiver Chris Conley was picked off by Rams safety Cody Davis and returned 24 yards for a touchdown. The PAT kick gave St. Louis a 14-7 lead.
Early in the second quarter, Daniel recovered from that pick six and put together a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Conley. It was a perfect throw by the quarterback, as he fired the ball through a tight window where four Rams defenders were closing on Conley in the middle of the field. Santos was good on the extra point and the game was tied again.
After the K.C. defense stopped the St. Louis offense, Daniel drove the Chiefs to the Rams 4-yard line, but stalled on three running plays and finished the possession with a 23-yard field goal by Santos and a 17-14 lead.
Another giveaway by the Chiefs offense allowed the Rams to even the score before halftime. Ware fumbled at the end of a catch and run with St. Louis recovering. That set up Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein who nailed a 57-yard field goal and the teams were even at 17-17 as they went to the locker rooms.
Daniel wrapped up his action completing 16 of 20 passes for 117 yards, a touchdown pass and the interception.
Murray started the second half and the Chiefs immediately moved down the field on a 10-play, 81-yard drive that ended with a great second-effort run after the catch by running back Darrin Reaves for a 12-yard touchdown play. Murray was hot in the drive, completing all six of his passes for 49 yards and the touchdown. He also added 13 yards when he scrambled away from pressure and picked up a first down.
The rest of the game featured both offenses struggling for consistency as the clock ticked down to end the preseason. Ware touched the ball 15 times for 82 yards with a touchdown and Reaves had 22 touches for 82 yards and a score.
The deadline for roster cuts is 3 p.m. CDT on Saturday, but a number of teams will begin making moves on Friday by releasing players or moving them to injury related designations. Players that are cut loose can be claimed on the waiver wire by 11 a.m. on Sunday. An hour later, NFL teams can begin signing 10 players to the practice squads.