The Chiefs seemed ready to roll in their preseason dress rehearsal against Chicago, but it was former teammate Chase Daniel and his fellow Bears' backups who out-muscled Kansas City 27-20 in Saturdays' preseason match up.
Head coach Andy Reid and his squad treated this week as a tune-up for the regular season, but the Chiefs certainly hope it doesn't play out like this when games count for real next month. Bears head coach Matt Nagy opted to rest his starters, and his second-team offense had its way with the Chiefs first-team defense.
Daniel finished his day 15-of-18 passing for 198 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. The Chiefs defense did bottle up the Bears' backup running attack, however, holding backup Benny Cunningham to 22 yards on seven carries.
The Chiefs one bright spot came from the offense. Patrick Mahomes completed his first seven passes and finished 18-of-24 passing for 196 yards and a touchdown.
First-team defense struggling
Daniel and the Bears' second-team offense absolutely owned the Chiefs early, scoring touchdowns on each of their first three drives, piling up 218 yards of offense.
Everyone contributed to the breakdown, but most of the weakness come in the secondary. Cornerbacks Orlando Scandrick and David Amerson both surrendered big plays, and safety Leon McQuay missed a key tackle on the Bears' first drive.
The Chiefs' run defense did look stiff with rookie defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi providing some interior push and the inside linebacker duo of Reggie Ragland and Anthony Hitchens finally making their debut together on the field. Hitchens led the team with seven tackles, followed closely by Ragland with six.
The Chiefs can take solace that they lined up without starting cornerback Steven Nelson, defensive tackle Xavier Williams and safeties Eric Berry and Sorensen. The team expects to have all but Sorensen back for Week 1 against the Los Angeles Chargers.
First-team offense needs consistency
Mahomes and the first-team offense need to look efficient and effective against the Bears, and they did just that for two drives, scoring 10 points and picking up 118 quick yards on those drives.
But just as the 69-yard bomb to Tyreek Hill before halftime last week against Atlanta masked an otherwise sluggish first-half offense for the Chiefs, those two drives overshadowed a lethargic remainder of the day for the first-team offense.
Mahomes and No. 1 offense picked up just 16 yards on three more first-half drives, doing three-and-out on each trip. The offense did open the second-half with a 13-play, 65-yard drive that yielded no points. No one can blame Tyreek Hill for the team's offensive inconsistencies – he hauled in eight catches for 88 yards.
Much of the offensive struggles can connect to a woeful running attack. The Chiefs netted just 30 yards rushing on 12 carries. Mahomes and third-string quarterback Chase Litton actually did most of the damage, picking up 20 yards on three scrambles.
The Chiefs have taken a vanilla approach to the run game through three preseason outings. The combination of Kareem Hunt, Spencer Ware and Damien Williams appear as good as any three-man backfield in the league. But run blocking has been far from outstanding, and that's a concern heading toward the regular season.
Wide receiver competition heating up
Perhaps the most brutal roster battle remaining looms at wide receiver. The Chiefs have a top-four locked up with Hill, Sammy Watkins, Chris Conley and Demarcus Robinson.
But the competition for the final few spots remains fierce. De'Anthony Thomas and Marcus Kemp improved their chances the most against the Bears. Thomas had several tough gains, including a scrappy 36-yard punt return. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub loves Thomas, and the coaches remain dazzled by Thomas' potential.
Kemp took an intermediate pass from Litton and broke a couple of tackles in reeling off a 55-yard touchdown romp in the fourth quarter.
Among other top candidates at receiver, Gehrig Dieter caught one pass for four yards. Byron Pringle and Jehu Chesson did not record a reception. The Chiefs appear likely to keep six wide receivers on the 53-man roster, and the club hasn't ruled out keeping as many as seven.
Pass-rush work in progress
The Chiefs recorded just a single quarterback against the Bears, that coming courtesy of third-team linebacker Rob McCray late in the game.
Pass rushing has been almost non-existent from the Chiefs during the preseason. Of course starting rushers Justin Houston and Dee Ford continue taking limited reps in the preseason. Against the Bears Houston spent most of his time on the right side of the defense with Ford on the left. They gave way to Tanoh Kpassagnon and rookie Breeland Speaks during the first half.
Kpassagnon actually generated the most pass rush for the Chiefs. He delivered a devastating blow to Daniel in the second quarter, easily getting around his man and taking a beeline into the backfield. But officials flagged second-year rusher for roughing the passer – a play that certainly would not have drawn a flag in past seasons. He also had an effective rush earlier in driving his defender into Daniel, but the quarterback escaped for a short scramble.
The Chiefs have given their young edge rushers plenty of opportunities to learn and develop in the preseason, and that could have come at the cost of current production. Of course if it means rested and healthy Houston and Ford for the regular season, that's an investment that could pay big dividends later.