KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs head coach Andy Reid saw much that pleased him in his team's second outing of the preseason that went beyond the scoreboard, where Kansas City topped the Atlanta Falcons 28-14.
“I thought overall we were better than we were the week before on both sides of the ball and on special teams,” Reid said during Saturday's conference call with reporters.
The team's No,. 1 offense put together two scoring drives, one long, sustained march ending in a field goal, the other a lightning strike from the arm of Patrick Mahomes.
The first-year starter found receiver Tyreek Hill behind the defense for a 69-yard touchdown strike that covered 68.6 yards through the air, according to the NFL's Next Gen Stats.
While the Chiefs' offense ran mostly a vanilla game plan, Reid said he's not worried about other teams seeing that play on film.
“I think people know he has a strong arm and can do that,” Reid said “I think it was at an opportune time. He really had the same thing the play before, a chance to (Travis) Kelce on the play before, but he got flushed a little bit and had to check it down. But he's got that capability, that's one of the things he has, people know that.
Mahomes cleans up mistakes
Much of the focus shones on Mahomes and the 69-yard touchdown strike, but Reid was more pleased with his young quarterback's delivery in the short-passing game.
“I know he can sling the heck of it down the field field,” Reid said. “But he had a couple of nice touch throws that are probably going to get overlooked I thought that he really did a nice job with and showed his accuracy and ability to make the ones that people might consider a little tougher, just sidelines throws he's pretty good with.”
Mahomes showed a step forward in his development on the team's second drive. Facing a third-and-11 at his own 44-yard line, Mahomes found tight end Travis Kelce for a 14-yard conversion, sustaining a drive that would end in a field goal. Last week Mahomes overthrew a similar third-down throw to Kelce.
“You want to see where the improvement is made,” Reid said. “You can take that play. Last week he overshot it, this week it was right on the money.”
Young players make contribution
Reid singled out several rookies and young players for strong performances against the Falcons, notable defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi and edge rusher Breeland Speaks.
“(Nnadi's) coming off that elbow, so it was good to get him in there playing and seeing what he would do, and I tell you he handled that well,: Reid said. “I thought Speaks continued to play strong. He's such a big powerful guy. He got that collapse on the pocket, which is so important.”
Reid also praised cornerback Tremon Smith, who joined the first-team defense as a nickel back when Steven Nelson left with a concussion. Smith played 24 defensive snaps recording three tackles and pass defensed.
“Smith had a couple of nice plays at corner I thought,” Reid said. “Couple he'd like to have back but there were a couple of plays, big ones down that stretch that he made that were good.”
Linebackers Ben Niemann and Dorian O'Daniel, offensive lineman Andrew Wylie, safety Armani Watts, running back Darrel Williams and defensive back Arrion Springs also earned the coach's praise.
“Springs is kind of bouncing back and forth from corner and safety and he did a nice job there,” Reid said.
Pass protection improves
The Chiefs pass protection appeared wobbly in the preseason debut against the Houston Texans last week, but the No. 1 offensive line in particular looked much stronger against the Falcons. Mahomes didn't take a sack in the first half, and the line provided plenty of time when needed for the deep ball to Hill to develop.
“I thought the pass protection overall was better than it was the week before,” Reid said. “This defensive line, they've got real good quickness and speed, they're good pass rushers. I thought we handle them pretty well.”
Where the offensive line struggled, however, was in the run game. The Chiefs rushed for 76 yards on 26 carries for an anemic 2.9-yard average. Take away three quarterback runs for 25 yards, and the Chiefs running backs averaged just 2.5 yards per carry.
“We've got to tighten a couple of things up in the run game,” Reid said. “We normally do a little bit better in there.”
More to work on: penalties
The Chiefs drew nine flags for 84 yards against the Falcons, and that proved far too many for Reid.
“We've got to eliminate some of these penalties that are nagging us,” Reid said.
The first-team offense drew two penalties in the first half. One came against center Mitch Morse for holding, the other on right tackle Mitchell Schwartz for being lined up too far into the backfield. That flag wiped away 2-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes to Hunt.
“We had two, three, four of them on the offensive side that you don't need to have, and then on special teams we had too many there,” Reid said.
The Chiefs also drew six flags on four special teams plays, and those concern Reid the most.
“You're digging yourself a hole, you're going backwards,” Reid said. “You don't want to do that in any case but particularly there. We've got to clean that up.”
The Chiefs exited the game with just two injuries, most notably Nelson's concussion. He's entered the league's concussion protocol and his timetable for return remains unknown.
Linebacker Terrance Smith left with an ankle injury the club does not consider serious.
But 14 players did not appear in the game due to some form of injury. Several appear ready to play as soon as next week at Chicago, including starting linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland.
“Couple of the guys, the linebackers practiced well and got through that. I want to see how the practices go,” Reid said.