Aug 23, 2014; Kansas City, MO; Vikings defensive tackle Corey Wootton (99) sacks Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs starting unit’s dress rehearsal for the regular season turned into a performance unworthy of a curtain call.
Five total sacks allowed, two red zone interceptions by quarterback Alex Smith and 10 points contributed to an dreadful 30-12 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
The Chiefs starting offense, all of whom likely won’t play the preseason finale, finished three weeks of preseason action without a touchdown.
“Tonight was disappointing in a sense that basically it was a game week and we treated it as such,” Smith said. “So, it was a little more game planning that went into this and preparation. We got down there twice I think was the disappointing thing and to walk away with no points because the turnovers hurt.”
The remaining 2 points for the Chiefs came courtesy of a defensive end Jaye Howard strip-sack of Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel in the end zone.
“I thought on the first series the defense did a nice job,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, “Offensively, it clearly wasn’t good enough. Whether it was protection or blocking, we’ve got a seam and holes.”
A likely major contributing factor to the protection issues surrounded the rotation on the offensive line.
Starting right tackle Donald Stephenson will serve a four-game suspension to start the regular season for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances.
And the Chiefs started Jeff Allen at right tackle while rotating Jeff Linkenbach and Ricky Henry on alternating series at left guard into the third quarter.
“There were issues,” Reid said. “I probably need to look at the tape before I say too much here, but obviously it wasn’t good enough. The quarterback was hit too many times. You can’t do that.”
The Vikings did just that, sacking Chiefs signal callers Smith and Tyler Bray a combined five times.
Smith has been sacked six times, including the three times the Vikings got to him, through three preseason games behind the starting offensive line.
But Smith isn’t ready to push panic buttons with the regular season two weeks away despite a sluggish offensive showing for the third straight preseason game, which dropped the Chiefs to 1-2 in exhibition play.
“I just feel very comfortable with where we’re at,” Smith said. “We got a ton of great work at camp and throughout this preseason here. I felt like we moved the ball well. We just needed to finish and didn’t do it today. Obviously we need to get it fixed, but I don’t think it’s anything to panic or get too worried about.”
Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins agreed.
“Obviously we made some mistakes on the field,” he said. “We made some good things on the field, which is quite common in the preseason. You’re just trying to clean up everything that you’re going into the season with. There are some plays we’d like to have back, but that’s part of it.”
Smith finished the night completing 14-of-24 passes for 140 yards and two interceptions for a 40.3 rating before giving way to Bray late in the third quarter.
Bray, who was sacked twice, completed 9-of-15 passes for 85 yards with a touchdown against an interception. His touchdown pass came on a 1-yard pass to rookie wide receiver Albert Wilson with less than 30 second remaining in the fourth quarter.
ALLEN FILLS IN
Chiefs left guard Jeff Allen said he knew days in advance he would start at right tackle against the Vikings.
Allen took repetitions at the position during the latter stages of training camp in St. Josepth, Mo., and he felt that facilitated the move.
“It definitely helped preparing myself and getting back in a groove playing tackle,” Allen said. “But it’s not like it’s a position that’s foreign to me. I played it all throughout college. I have somewhat familiarity with it.”
Allen said the Chiefs coaching staff did not tell him he’s the right tackle to start season.
“I’m just going with the flow,” Jeff Allen said. “Wherever I’m needed, that’s where I’ll be.”
The Chiefs entered Saturday night with 20 penalties, including 13 time for 131 yards last week against the Carolina Panthers.
The team was penalized just twice for 15 yards against the Vikings.
Cornerbacks Marcus Cooper and Sean Smith started the game, and then Ron Parker, who started the first preseason game, came in for Smith to start the second half.
Parker didn’t waste time making an impact with two pass defensed and an interception.
It was a vindication for the fourth-year pro, whose previous two preseason games had him giving up a 53-yard play, getting beat on a 9-yard touchdown, and drawing an illegal contact and pass interference penalties.
And he had a takeaway from Saturday’s success.
“Just go out there and keep playing,” Parker said. “Just take advantage of every repetition, and just out there and be myself and play ball.”
The Chiefs were without two offensive weapons, as running back Jamaal Charles (foot) and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (quad) did not play.
Bowe did not dress, but Charles did. The All-Pro running back, however, did not see the field.
Being without the two stars may have contributed to the sluggish performance, but quarterback Alex Smith wouldn’t offer that as an excuse.
“It’s still about execution,” Smith said. “I think when you turn the film on tomorrow when we look at it, whether or not Dwayne in there of Jamaal or whoever’s out, we’re expected to come in an execute.”
Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel, the former Chiefs quarterback from 2009-12, completed 9-of-17 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown against an interception in his team’s win.
Cassel bore the brunt of fan frustrations during the disastrous former Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli regime, but he held no ill will to Kansas City.
“I had a great experience here,” Cassel said after the game. “All three of my children were born here. I love Kansas City and we still have a lot friends here.”
But things could’ve been different if for the one thing that matters when it comes to a professional sport.
“Football sometimes just doesn’t always work out the way you want it to,” Cassel said. “There’s a multitude of reasons behind that, and I wish that we could have changed a lot of that, mainly the outcome of just winning more ball games.”
The Cassel-led Vikings are 3-0 in preseason action.
The Chiefs close out the preseason on the road against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Thursday, Aug. 28.
The first roster cuts from 90 players to 75 players are due by 4 p.m. ET, Tuesday, Aug. 26.