Sports

The Chiefs’ preseason is (basically) done. And they look ready for the real thing

They say you’re supposed to lead with the most important stuff so here goes: Patrick Mahomes remains healthy.

Everything else from the Chiefs’ third preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers Saturday — the preseason game that is less irrelevant than all others — is secondary.

That includes Frank Clark abusing left tackle Joe Staley on a third-down sack, Carlos Hyde’s apparent drop on the depth chart, Juan Thornhill’s bad night, Chris Jones squashing third and fourth downs back-to-back, and the double play-action screen pass that Andy Reid considers so basic he uses it in a preseason game.

Because as long as Mahomes is healthy — he’ll sit out Thursday’s preseason finale at Green Bay — the Chiefs have an offense good enough to drag any defense kicking and screaming into the playoffs.

That is not new, of course.

But it’s nice to see all the same, especially after last week’s jumbled mess of a game in Pittsburgh.

Mahomes finished the preseason having completed 14 of 19 passes for 203 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. That’s a 125.6 passer rating.

To whatever extent the short and forgettable performance in Pittsburgh splashed questions, a more extended and efficient knifing of the 49ers presents reassurance.

Mahomes played two series with the starters, the group collecting 142 yards and 10 points on 15 plays.

The highlight came on a gorgeously designed play by Reid, where the receivers cleared out the defensive backs on the left side, leaving Damien Williams — one of the five fastest players on the NFL’s fastest team — isolated on a linebacker.

Reid is better than anyone at finding ways to put the other team’s linebackers one-on-one with faster players, and this was a mismatch of comical proportions. The outcome was predictable, even if Demarcus Robinson ensured it with a hustle block downfield.

If that was the sledgehammer, the second drive was more like a dozen body blows. The Chiefs went 73 yards without any play going more than 13 yards or backward.

The drive is most notable for what we can only describe as Mahomes’ temporary insanity — he scrambled back to escape pressure, changed directions twice, then ran forward and DOVE HEAD-FIRST IN A PRESEASON GAME.

A reminder: When a quarterback goes head first he can be legally hit the same as any other ball carrier.

That must be what it’s like to see your child run across a busy street.

He didn’t even get the first down which, if we’re honest, is just as well. If we’re sticking with the parent analogies, well, that type of behavior should not be rewarded.

The rain started almost immediately after that play, so apparently even God agrees here.

Look, it’s the preseason. So, really. Who cares.

But it’s all we have to go on at this point, and every bit of the information available would indicate that the Chiefs are going to be a ginormous problem.

The offense — and we agree this sounds crazy! — might be better than last year. All the most important players are in their 20s except for Mitchell Schwartz and Anthony Sherman. They are each 30, and playing as well as ever.

They will be faster than a year ago in a league that favors speed more than ever. Their coach is known for constant reinvention, their quarterback capable of making anything work, and with anyone other than the reigning MVP it’s quite normal to expect a player to be better with a year of experience.

If there is concern at this point it’s with the defense. Safety Tyrann Mathieu did not play with a shoulder injury that the team has described as minor. He has a history of injuries, but even if we assume full health he and his teammates figured to benefit from more snaps. A process that was always going to be slow is already behind schedule, at least a little.

But, that all feels a little like nitpicking at this point.

The Chiefs played the closest thing we’ll see to a real game before the season opener Sept. 8 in Jacksonville. They looked like the Super Bowl favorite sports books have made them to be.

The preseason has served its purpose. Now we move on.

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Sam Mellinger is a sports columnist for the Kansas City Star, where he’s worked since 2000. He has won numerous national and regional awards for coverage of the Chiefs, Royals, colleges, and other sports both national and local.
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