It came down to the final play of the game but the Kansas City Chiefs fell to the Houston Texans Thursday night at Arrowhead Stadium by a score of 17-10 in the first preseason game of the year for both teams.
Here are 10 observations from the game:
1. The Chiefs’ defense was missing a few guys
They don’t have “inactive” players for preseason games but they do have “scratches,” and the Chiefs scratched three defensive starters for the game Thursday night, among several others.
Veteran safety Eric Berry, who has been practicing up at camp but taking it slow so he’s ready for the regular season, didn’t play in the game. Staying with the theme of guys who play in the middle of the field, the Chiefs also didn’t play their two starting inside linebackers in Reggie Ragland and Anthony Hitchens.
Both players are practicing now up at camp but have each missed time recently with various injuries. Ragland had swelling in his knee coming to camp and Hitchens missed a few days with a hamstring issue.
For reference, there were also a handful of notable Texans’ players who didn’t take the field, including J.J. Watt, DeAndre Hopkins, and Jadeveon Clowney.
2. Patrick Mahomes got two drives in the first quarter
The longest passing play for Mahomes on Thursday night was actually the first play of the game for the Chiefs’ offense—a 14-yard strike across the middle to tight end Travis Kelce.
Mahomes finished the night 5 of 7 for 33 yards, but the offense wasn’t able to find the end zone in either of those first two drives.
Coach Andy Reid told me at halftime that there were some protection breakdowns on some plays in which they wanted to throw the ball down the field, and after the game said it’s something they’ll clean up.
3. Demarcus Robinson continued what he’s been doing at camp
Robinson has been one of the bright spots of training camp for the Chiefs at the receiver position, and he continued that playmaking ability Thursday night.
Robinson led all receivers with three catches for 48 yards and scored the Chiefs’ only touchdown on a great double-move on the outside that saw backup quarterback Chad Henne deliver a perfect pass to him down the right sideline for a 24-yard score.
4. The touchdown drive was only possible because of receiver Gehrig Dieter’s effort
With the Chiefs’ offense facing a third-and-6 from midfield late in the first half, Henne tossed a short crosser to receiver Gehrig Dieter, who was able to turn it up field and bend the corner towards the first-down marker. He got the edge and dove for the first down marker right in front of the Chiefs’ sideline.
The play, and effort, resulted in a first down, and the Chiefs would score that Robinson touchdown just five plays later.
5. Chad Henne had a pretty good day
Henne converted three third-downs on the touchdown drive with nice throws to Robinson for 16 yards on a third-and-10, then he hit Dieter on that third-and-6 play, and then the touchdown to Robinson came on a third-and-1.
It was the right play call in the right situation, and the players executed in perfectly. It culminated a 13-play, 90-yard drive that took 4:40 off the clock.
Henne finished the game 8 of 14 for 91 yards with the touchdown and one interception, which came on a deflected pass. He was 5 of 5 on third down.
6. Chiefs don’t get a sack, but had three quarterback hits
One of the guys who has been impressing up at training camp is second-year player Tanoh Kpassagnon, who was one of three players to finish Thursday’s game with a quarterback hit. There were a few times Kpassagnon found himself in the backfield and affecting the quarterback.
Defensive linemen T.Y. McGill and Justin Hamilton were the other two to finish with a quarterback hit. Rookie edge rusher Breeland Speaks finished with one tackle, which came on a run to his opposite side and he was able to get down the line and clean it up.
7. Overall, they were good on third down
While they didn’t win the game, which is always the goal, the Chiefs’ offense did finish the game having converted on 11 of 16 (69 percent) third downs, which is a good sign for the work they’ve done in their situational periods up at training camp.
8. Chiefs finished the game with three injuries
Coach Reid said after the game they had three players who were injured Thursday night.
Rookie offensive lineman Jimmy Murray (knee), fifth-year running back Kerwynn Williams (head), and second-year offensive lineman Ethan Cooper (shoulder), who just joined the team a few days ago after he was picked up on waivers by the Green Bay Packers.
Cooper did re-enter the game after getting checked out.
9. Rookie linebacker Ben Niemann led the team in tackles
Niemann led the team with five tackles, including a key stop on a fourth-and-3 run up the middle by the Texans from the Chiefs’ three-yard line.
He was a player that Chiefs’ Assistant Head Coach and Special Team’s Coordinator Dave Toub had spoken highly of last week at camp.
10. Rookie quarterback Chase Litton gave them a chance to tie, and potentially win
Trailing by a score of 17-10 late in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs—led by undrafted rookie quarterback Chase Litton out of Marshall—still had a chance to try and tie, or perhaps considering it’s a preseason game, go for the win with a two-point conversion if they could find the end zone.
After working the long-drive drill last week at camp during their special category period one day, Litton led the Chiefs on a 22-play, 93-yard drive, which saw Litton complete 7-of-13 pass attempts for 66 yards while converting four third downs to extend the drive.
For reference, the Chiefs’ longest drive of the year last year went just 18 plays, and to go several steps further, the Chiefs haven’t had a drive of more than 20 plays in more than 20 years.
The final play, which came on a fourth-and-goal from the Texans’ three-yard line with just 12 seconds left in the game, fell incomplete after tight end Alex Ellis wasn’t able to hang on to the pass in the back corner of the end zone.
Photos from the Chiefs vs. Texans preseason game at Arrowhead Stadium