Aug 17, 2014; Charlotte, NC; Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) sacks Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) during the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
The Chiefs didn’t have a good Sunday night at the office, falling on the road 28-16 to the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.
Penalties proved the downfall, as the team notched 13 yellow flags to the tune of 131 yards.
“That’s not the way you function and be a successful football team in the National Football League,” coach Andy Reid told reporters during his postgame media session. “We’ve got to do better there. I told the players those things you get back and you work on it, you discipline yourselves and make sure you get it right.”
The sloppiness didn’t stop with the penalties.
Kansas City’s offensive line allowed three sacks, including two by the first-team unit. The Chiefs offensive line has surrendered nine sacks through two preseason games.
“We’re going to play the five best guys,” Reid told reporters of the offensive line. “We’ll find out what those are. I’m not that concerned about it because I know what we’re capable of doing with that group that we have. So we just have to make sure we find the right ones and continue to teach them and coach them.”
Still, it didn’t start ugly.
The Chiefs outgained the Panthers 114-1 in total yards in the first quarter, and the defense forced the Panthers to three-and-outs on Carolina’s first three possessions.
Kansas City took a 6-0 lead on a 54-yard field goal by Ryan Succop and a 44-yard effort by rookie Cairo Santos to open the second quarter.
But bad play by the offensive line likely prevented the first-team offense from scoring touchdowns.
Quarterback Alex Smith led the Chiefs on a drive into Carolina territory, but a holding penalty against rookie guard Zach Fulton moved the Chiefs back 10 yards and the drive stalled. Succop came on to hit the 54-yard field goal attempt.
“You’ve got to be able to finish those off,” Smith told reporters during his postgame media session. “A team like that in the regular season, those two field goals doesn’t do it them necessarily and can hurt you. You never know when you’re going to get back down there. It’s self-inflicted so many times, whether it’s a penalty or a sack or something down there really hurt us.”
Smith finished the night completing 14-of-22 passes for 127 yards. He was sacked twice.
Carolina’s first touchdown was helped by a defensive penalty on cornerback Ron Parker, who has struggled in two straight preseason games.
Parker was flagged for a 32-yard pass interference infraction that set up the Panthers at the 6-yard line. Running back Jonathan Stewart punched it in from the 2-yard line to give the Panthers a 7-6 lead.
Stewart would get another short-yardage touchdown run on the team’s next possession to put the Panthers up 14-6.
The Chiefs scored 10 points coming out of the half on a 25-yard Succop field goal and a 43-yard touchdown reception by tight end Travis Kelce from rookie quarterback Aaron Murray.
Murray found Kelce on a seam route on the left side of the field, and Kelce did the rest running away from defenders like he did in the preseason opener on a 69-yard touchdown.
“He kinds of adds another element to the tight end position,” Smith told reporters of Kelce. “He can stretch some defenses and he can do some things with the ball in his hands, so it’s exciting to see from him.”
Kansas City briefly held a 16-14 lead before the Panthers scored touchdowns on its next two possessions to close out the scoring.
The Chiefs are home for the next preseason game, but there are issues that need immediate addressing before playing the Minnesota Vikings.
Reid offered that message to his players.
“When you look at the tape,” Reid said, “see what kind of team you can be if you function and eliminate those penalties. You cut those things all the way down and you’re a pretty good football team. You’re executing and that’s what we talk about preseason games. We want to come in and we want to do that. We want to execute.”
Sean Smith started the game at left cornerback, while Marcus Cooper started at right cornerback. Ron Parker later rotated in for Cooper.
The Chiefs need to stabilize this position before the third preseason game, which is often viewed as a dress rehearsal for the regular season since starters often play into the third quarter.
Chase Daniel saw one series and rookie Aaron Murray saw extended playing time in the second half over second-year pro Tyler Bray, but that was the plan entering the game.
“Tyler will work the next week,” Reid said. “It will be his weekend.”
Murray completed 5-of-9 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown against an interception.
Daniel completed 3-of-4 passes for 35 yards, but missed a wide open running back Cyrus Gray near the goal line by throwing a pass into the ground at Gray’s feet.
Gray, whose 44 yards rushing on 10 carries led the Chiefs in rushing for a second straight preseason game, would’ve walked in for the touchdown.
The Chiefs defense is known for getting the sacks, but the attention through two preseason games falls on the other side of the ball.
The Panthers sacked quarterback Alex Smith twice, and the left side of the offensive line with left tackle Eric Fisher and Jeff Allen did not have a good game.
Additionally, rookie guard Zach Fulton struggled in space on screen plays, appearing to be out of position at least twice. The screen pass is a staple of the Chiefs’ offense.
WHAT FINGER INJURY?
Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe battled through a finger injury during training camp, but he appeared 100 percent healthy Sunday night.
Bowe caught five passes for 62 yards on six targets in the first half.
Nickel cornerback Chris Owen was a bright spot on an evening when the other cornerbacks mostly struggled.
Owens was in on two pass rushes on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, forcing him outside the pocket.
The 5-9, 180-pound Owens later sacked 6-6, 230-pound quarterback Derek Anderson in the second quarter.
Rookie strong safety Daniel Sorensen started a second straight preseason game in place of starter Eric Berry, who did not travel with the team.
Berry stayed in Kansas City with a right heel injury.
Sorensen finished the game with an assist.
The big news arrived hours before kickoff, as running back Jamaal Charles did not travel with the team with a bruised foot.
Reid offered an explanation after the game.
“He twisted his foot,” the head coach told reporters. “Kind of a freak thing, and so it didn’t happen in practice. It was after practice as we were leaving. We held him out, precautionary. I think he’s going to be fine.”
The following players did not travel to Carolina: Charles (bruised foot), running back Joe McKnight (knee), wide receiver Albert Wilson (ankle), Eric Berry (right heel), defensive end Mike DeVito (hand), defensive end Mike Catapano (illness), defensive end Kona Schwenke (shoulder), inside linebacker Josh Mauga (groin), defensive back Sanders Commings (ankle) and cornerback Damond Smith (abductor strain).
Wide receiver Junior Hemingway suffered a hip injury and inside linebacker Joe May suffered a wrist injury during Sunday night’s game. Both players did not finish the game. Offensive tackle Ryan McKee suffered a knee sprain and defensive lineman Jermelle Cudjo a quad contusion.