For a team that uses the word "finish" more times than the lady at The Home Depot paint counter, the Andy Gang sure seems to be having a hard time, to this point, grasping the concept.
Grasping jerseys, now, that they’ve got down.
Sunday was pick-your-poison night in Carolina, and they all hurt like hell. The Kansas City Chiefs got flagged for a whopping 13 penalties and 131 yards of infractions in their second preseason contest, a 28-16 setback in Charlotte, for starters. That’s the one that sticks out like an ingrown toenail.
Also, this: In the second and third quarters, in which the host Panthers piled up 28 combined points, Team Reid was hit for six strikes that came either via a pass or attempting to pass that accounted for 17 yards or more.
On one hand, it’s mid-August, and the Chiefs were 0-2 in exhibitions at this time a year ago. We know nothing, really, long-term.
On the other, we do know that the things that were supposed to worry Chiefs fans — the youngest offensive line in the league, a secondary patched together with piano wire, chewing gum and hope — haven’t shown much so far to get the naysayers off their respective backsides. Although …
After two preseason games in 2013: 11 sacks allowed.
After two preseason games in 2014: Nine sacks allowed.
And while Carolina isn’t quite up to San Francisco’s (or even Seattle’s) street cred defensively, it isn’t that far off, either. A Panthers crew that led the NFL in sacks last year — a number we all thought the Chiefs were on a pace to reach at the end of October — returns largely intact, personnel-wise, from a season ago. Even in August, they’ll hit ya. No one’s saying this pocket doesn’t need a lot of work — it does, and left tackle Eric Fisher needs to stop acting like the world’s tallest turnstile — but let’s not act like they haven’t been here before.
But there’s another set of hangnails lurking out of Sunday, ones that might wind up getting buried by the obvious.
The Chiefs in the red zone through two exhibitions: Five visits, one touchdown.
Chiefs opponents’ visits to the red zone, same timeframe: Eight visits, seven scores.
Which — considering how much the idea of finishing has been tossed around at news conferences and camps since, oh, April — is kind of funny.
So far, the preaching has been kicking the living pants off of the actual practice part. Take Sunday. Over the first 15 minutes or so, the Chiefs had collected 114 yards of offense to Carolina’s one. And they had just two field-goal makes — and one of them was an absolute catapult, a 54-yard make off the leg of veteran Ryan Succop — to show for it.
So, yes, the Chiefs miss Jamaal Charles, who didn’t make the trip to Carolina because of a foot injury. And they miss him most in the passing game, where Knile Davis so far hasn’t shown the niftiness on screens — at least the ones that aren’t wiped out by holding calls — to make something happen by himself the way the speedy Texan does, nor the technique to provide ideal last-ditch cover for Alex Smith in the pocket.
In eight preseason quarters, the Andy Gang has one red zone scorer — and it’s Cyrus Gray.
And, hey, good for Gray, who ran his tail off again against a good Panthers side (10 carries, 44 yards) and is scrapping to stay on this roster after rookie De’Anthony Thomas was brought in to sort of push him toward the margins. Good for second-year tight end Travis Kelce, who turned another seam route into a mad dash to the end zone and a 43-yard score, his second long scoring jaunt in as many weeks.
Good for Dwayne Bowe, who looked miffed, sharp and Pro Bowl hungry. Having been draped across America’s televisions Friday after being levied a one-game suspension for a 2013 drug-related arrest, Bowe responded as if he had something to prove — or something to get off his chest. A line of five first-half catches for 62 yards, and one wicked shoulder-charge left a mark. Bottle that, uncork it in September, and all will be forgiven.
Bowe, for a week, the Chiefs might be able to live without. Charles, probably not. No. 25 scored 19 touchdowns last year, either on the ground or through the air. As Sunday night reminded us, it’s not just about the blocking. It’s about the finishing.