KANSAS CITY, Mo. —In the minutes after the Chiefs' third consecutive preseason loss, Tyler Palko stood in the Arrowhead Stadium locker room and regretted that his second-half drive ended without a touchdown.
It could have changed so much. With an extra point, the touchdown would've given the Chiefs a three-point lead against the St. Louis Rams with a little more than three minutes to play. And perhaps Palko would've maintained a noticeable lead over rookie Ricky Stanzi, whose own touchdown drive in the third quarter made the backup quarterback competition more interesting.
"Came up short with that last drive," Palko said. "We would've liked to end it off with a touchdown, but the name of the game is scoring points. We didn't cap it off."
As it happened, Chiefs coach Todd Haley opted to send Ryan Succop out for a 21-yard field goal, which was blocked, and Palko didn't have another chance. The Rams drained the remaining seconds from the clock for a 14-10 victory. And Stanzi appeared to tighten the race to be Matt Cassel's backup.
Looking poised and sharp, Stanzi completed eight of 14 passes for 121 yards. He finished with a 109.5 passer rating after leading four possessions.
Palko had three chances at a touchdown after leading a drive to the Rams' 3, but each of his passes fell incomplete. He didn't get a fourth attempt.
"Obviously you'd like to have one more go," Palko said, "but I'm not the coach. I don't get paid the big bucks; he (Haley) gets paid the big bucks to make the decisions.... If you look at it from a time management standpoint, it wasn't a bad decision. You wanted to walk away with points there. If we make that field goal there, you never know what's going to happen."
Afterward, Stanzi said he cared only about improving his play — not where he stands in comparison to Palko.
"My main focus, like I've said, is just get in that playbook and just understand it the best I possibly can," said Stanzi, who was the Chiefs' fifth-round pick in April. "Whatever the coaching staff asks of me, I want to be there and be accountable."
He said his goal Friday, and in most other appearances, was to jell with his teammates, control the huddle and prove he's capable of moving the ball. Only one of his possessions ended without a first down, and on his third series, Stanzi was five for six for 57 yards, including a 32-yard strike to Cody Slate for the Chiefs' only touchdown.
"There were of course ups and downs and things that we can work on," Stanzi said. "And I think our main focus is to pick out those things that we did well and build off those, but definitely be critical and try to find the things that we can do better."
After the touchdown pass, Haley re-inserted Palko into the lineup. Palko finished seven for 12 for 92 yards, and although he attempted a few of the off-balanced and rushed passes that have plagued his preseason, he seemed more comfortable than he'd been in the Chiefs' previous two contests.
Stanzi said he didn't question why Palko was sent out for another series.
"You're in and out, and there's just a fluctuation of not just the quarterbacks, (but) every single position," Stanzi said. "You're bouncing around. That's the way the preseason goes, and you have to adjust on the fly."
Palko relieved starter Matt Cassel in the second quarter; Haley said it was important to see how Palko performed with the first-team offense. Palko, a fifth-year quarterback who has spent time with four NFL teams and playing for the United Football League's California Redwoods and the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes, completed four of his six first-half passes.
"It's very critical that we understand who and what everybody is," said Haley, who praised Palko's performance Friday.
Asked if he thought he might have lost his advantage on the team's No. 2 quarterback job, Palko said he wouldn't think about that.
"I feel like I've gotten better every day in training camp, and that's really my main focus," he said. "It's not to look at anything past just getting better every day. I know it sounds boring, but I'm not in a situation where I can really look ahead."
The Chiefs could bring in an additional quarterback after teams begin making roster cuts this week. The NFL's first mandatory cut-down date is Tuesday, when rosters must be trimmed to 80 players. Teams must settle on their 53-man rosters by Saturday.
Palko and Stanzi will have three practices this week, including a workout today, before Thursday's final preseason game at Green Bay. Palko said he needs to take advantage of each of his chances and show that he's not only capable of leading the Chiefs' offense, but also of finishing drives with touchdowns.
"Every opportunity you get," he said, "you've got to try to seize the moment and do your job."