Charles, Chiefs show promise in preseason win

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Did you see that, Dwayne Bowe?
Did you see Peyton Hillis running like a bull in Pamplona?
Did you see Matt Cassel steering the offense the way Greg Biffle steers a Ford Fusion?
Did you see Dexter McCluster breaking ankles?
Did you see Tony Moeaki out there, wild and free again?
Did you see the offensive line opening holes from here to Chattahoochee?
Did you see the first team dominate the opening quarter? Did you see the pair of methodical, surgical 72-yard drives that set the tone for the evening?
Did you see Brian Daboll’s offense? The multiple looks? The 10 first downs in the tilt’s first 15 minutes?
Did you see Jamaal Charles? Did you see the shot the guy took to his reconstructed left knee on that very first carry? Did you see him get right back up and touch the ball three additional times for 18 more yards?
“Aw, I wasn’t even paying attention to that,” the Chiefs running back said with a grin after Kansas City topped Arizona, 27-17, in the club’s preseason opener.
Did you see the smiles?
“It was just people out there that looked like they wanted to win,” Charles told “Just people out there that looked like they want it.”
What do you think, Dwayne? You want some of this?
Did you get the message? They don’t need you. They love you, man. But they don’t necessarily need you.
“We’ve been working hard,” said Cassel, who completed five of his first six throws for 67 yards and a score. “I think the offensive line, the receivers, the running backs have embraced the challenge of learning this offense, and it showed.”
It was a fitting final embrace to a wacky Friday, all things considered. Late in the afternoon, the Twitterverse was buzzing with words — and pictures — that seemed to indicate that Bowe, the Chiefs’ prodigal, franchise-tagged star receiver, had landed at Kansas City International Airport. Ah, but for what purpose? Conflicting reports citing unnamed sources popped up almost immediately: Did Bowe plan to sign his one-year tender and get his backside to camp? Or was he just here to catch the Train concert over at the Starlight Theatre?
“I wasn’t at the airport, so I don’t know if Dwayne was in town or not,” coach Romeo Crennel said after piloting the hosts to their first preseason win since 2010. “I’ve just been working with the guys that’ve been here and making them better.”
They looked crisp. Damn crisp. The hosts were crisp, angry, and prepared, as if they’ve been working for months to get the awful taste of 2011 — an 0-4 preseason and a 7-9, injury-marred campaign — out of their mouths forever.
It probably also helped that their first dance partner, the Cardinals, appeared slow and listless, like a team that hadn’t seen a familiar bed in a few weeks — and, in fact, they hadn’t; the club went from the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, straight to a few nights in St. Joseph, Mo., the Chiefs’ preseason base.
“I’m not going to make excuses for that — we’ve got to be able to do that,” Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We’re better than that.  I know it’s preseason and we weren’t game-planning them, but we still missed tackles, we missed opportunities offensively, and those are the things that are disappointing.”
For Crennel, the list of concerns is somewhat smaller. The blocking proved so dominant right out of the chute, Cassel didn’t have to deal with a non-first down distance scenario longer than nine yards. The medium and deep passing games are still unknowns; Cassel was hit on his only attempt to target preseason camp star Jon Baldwin downfield.
On the night, the Chiefs only had four third down conversions that required seven or more yards, which is good. But they only succeeded on one of them, which wasn’t. And things seemed to bog down considerably once the keys were handed over to backup quarterbacks Quinn and Ricky Stanzi, who were a combined 9-of-20 for 123 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. For better or worse, there’s a long way to go.
Plus, it beat the living pants off 2011’s exhibition opener, which saw the Chiefs blitzed by Tampa Bay, 25-0, at Arrowhead Stadium, a stinker that exactly the wrong kind of tone for the weeks to follow. The whispers at this time last August were along the lines of, hey, it’s early, don’t worry, it’ll come around in time for the regular season.
It didn’t. You know the ugly details: Kansas City went 0-for-the preseason, lost Moeaki for the year, then got outscored during Weeks 1 and 2 by a margin of 89-10 by Buffalo and Detroit. Eric Berry was wiped off the depth chart by a gruesome knee injury during the first tilt; Charles suffered the same fate during the second. The Chiefs spent the rest of the season digging like mad gophers out of a hole of their own design.
So, yeah, August matters. Preparation matters. Starting fast matters. The Chiefs’ No. 1 offense came out Friday and averaged 10.2 yards per first-down play during its impressive opening two drives. The Cardinals had surrendered 82 rushing yards and 21 first downs to the Saints up in Canton. The Chiefs gashed them for 100 yards on the ground and 15 first downs in the first half alone.
And to think: This happened with a limited use of Charles and Moeaki and no Baldwin heroics to speak of. Balance matters. Health matters.
Charles: “I felt real good. My body feels fresh and I feel ready to go.”
Moeaki: “For all of us that missed last year, it was great to be back out there. Obviously, we have great fans. So, you know, it’s just a special day.”
It was a special statement, loud and to the point. You just wonder if Bowe, wherever he was, happened to catch the drift.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at