GAMETIME: 7 p.m. CT on Saturday, August 23
LOCATION: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO
HOW TO WATCH: KCTV5/CBS | NFL Network re-air (Monday, 9 a.m.)
HOW TO LISTEN: 101.1 The FoxLIVEBLOG:KCChiefs.com
In football, there are few things better than a good comeback story. In Kansas City, starting quarterback Alex Smith's story is known all too well.
His began in San Francisco in 2012, when he was removed from the starting position for Colin Kaepernick despite leading the 49ers to an 8-2-1 record and the conference championship game the season before.
In the offseason, now not needing Smith, the 49ers traded him to Kansas City, where he found a home. His leadership helped morph the 2013 Chiefs from a two-win team with a first overall draft pick to an 11-win team that reached the playoffs, something that hadn't happened since 2010 and marked the biggest turnaround in franchise history.
For Smith to get that opportunity, change first needed to happen within the Chiefs organization, which released then-starting quarterback Matt Cassel, who had spent four years with the team.
Now Cassel, as Smith did, is writing his own comeback story—his with the Minnesota Vikings. On Saturday night, Cassel has a chance to solidify a starting role with Minnesota in his first visit to Arrowhead since he was a member of the Chiefs in 2012.
In two preseason games for the Vikings so far, Cassel is a combined 17 for 21 for 215 yards and a touchdown. Competing with rookie Teddy Bridgewater, who is also having a nice preseason, Cassel will start for the third consecutive time on Saturday.
To build upon his early success, he will have to combat a Chiefs defense looking to improve upon its first two preseason games. In those games, the unit gave up a combined 60 points in large part due to taking too many penalties. But even though there has been a vast increase in penalties throughout the league this preseason (according to league figures, total penalties are up 44 percent since last year), Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton refuses to use referees as an excuse.
"They've got the flag and if they're going to call them that way, you have to adjust in the game," Sutton said after practice on Thursday. "You have to learn how to do it. There is no other way to deal with it but [to] learn how to play the game within the rules as they're being enforced and go like that."
Creating fewer things for the Chiefs defense to have to worry about, the Vikings will be without star running back Adrian Peterson (No. 28), who missed the last two days of practice due to personal reasons. He has yet to play in any games for Minnesota this preseason.
Without Peterson, the Vikings main threats will come via the strong receiving tandem of veteran wideouts Greg Jennings (No. 15) and Jerome Simpson (No. 81), as well as 23-year-old receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (No. 84) and 24-year old tight end Kyle Rudolph (No. 82).
In his last preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals, Rudolph had four receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown.
As the Vikings feature their young weapons, look for the Chiefs to possibly give extra first-team time to the 24-year-old Frankie Hammond. With wide receivers Dwayne Bowe (groin) and Junior Hemingway (hip) out of practice this week due to injury, Hammond saw time with the first team, possibly a sign of good things to come.
"He's made the best of the opportunities that he's had," Reid said of Hammond this week. "He's taking great advantage of those and keeps getting better every day. [He is] one of the hardest workers on the team."
Like Hammond, Chiefs left guard Eric Fisher continued to work hard after struggling in the game against the Panthers. Coming off shoulder surgery this past offseason, Fisher is still in the process of getting his strength back.
"Sometimes after a major surgery, your shoulder is going to get a little tired [and] your body is going to get a little tired," Fisher admitted this week. "You've got to fight through it and just keep going. But as you recover, you get stronger and that's what I'm going through right now."
The team at practice on Thursday.
To prepare for this game against the Vikings, head coach Andy Reid designed this past practice week as a mock run, one that would mimic a regular season week as closely as possible. To accomplish that, every day, the Chiefs were one step ahead of what they normally do.
On Saturday night, the Chiefs hope to keep with that theme, staying one step ahead of the Minnesota Vikings.
If they can achieve that, this will be a confident bunch headed to Green Bay and back in Kansas City for when the wins and losses stick and there is no looking or stepping back.