One down. Two to go. The NFL preseason has officially begun for the Kansas City Chiefs, who visited the New Orleans Saints on Sunday afternoon in the opening salvo for each team in 2023. And in this road exhibition in the Big Easy, the Chiefs fell to the Saints after a last-minute interception gave New Orleans the chance to convert a short field goal for a 26-24 win.
There are a lot of individual players to discuss, for better or worse, following a game like this, and we'll highlight plenty of those players in other stories to come. But we wanted to keep our view at a macro level and offer up some big-picture takeaways for Chiefs Kingdom from a game like this.
Are you enthused? Frustrated? Ambivalent? Well at least you can consider these few points as the Chiefs head back to training camp for another week of practice.
Repeat after us: "It's just the preseason"
More than any other takeaways, thought, highlights, questions, or concerns you could voice, it's important to remember that all of this is the first preseason game. None of this is official. We will all forget anything that happened in this game unless something hilarious or tragic happens, and honestly we'd rather not have any of that happen.
What it means to say that it's just the preseason is to remember that Andy Reid and his staff are not going to show anything exciting in terms of bizarre looks. No chances are going to be taken as well. From there, you have players who are getting hit for the first time in several months while running vanilla plays. And while practice is good, it can only get a player so ready before he needs some competition to jar him.
That's not to say that the preseason is utterly meaningless or that we can't glean some things from the way the Chiefs looked on Sunday afternoon, but the first showing of the preseason is nothing to be all that concerned about—and we'd say the same thing if the team looked dynamic instead.
With that said, there are some things to pay attention to.
Chiefs accomplish primary goal of preseason
The single most important thing for any team in the National Football League at this point in the preseason is to simply stay healthy. Yes, you want players to knock off the rust. Yes, you want see some chemistry emerge. Yes, you want to give reps to young players to see them develop further. Yes, you want to see guys separate themselves from the competition to simply roster battles.
Beyond all of that, however, most (if not all) teams would say their main concern is coming out of each and every preseason tilt with all of their players feeling okay. The Chiefs were largely successful at this point with only cornerback Nic Jones going down with an injury of note. He left in the fourth quarter due to a hand injury for the rest of the game but no further updaets were known.
Hopefully the Chiefs get a good report on Jones following the game. As for the rest of the roster, it sounds as if they were able to stay healthy throughout.
Key roster battles remain close
If the Chiefs were hoping that the pictures at key positions would look a bit less cloudy after Sunday's exhibition versus the Saints, they're going to be frustrated after that game. After a lackluster first half, the team's youngest players came alive in the second half to put all kinds of pressure on the team's decision-makers in the front office and on the sidelines.
Consider how good Shane Buechele looked as the team's third quarterback, making it difficult on the more experienced Blaine Gabbert, who did not look good on Sunday. Consider how crowded cornerback already looks and then add great plays from Nic Jones, Ebow Boye-Doe,and Kahlef Hailassie, just to name a few, to the competitive mix. Consider how wide receivers like Nikko Remigio, Justyn Ross, and Kekoa Crawford helped themselves with a strong effort.
Instead of having a clear pecking order coming into view, the Chiefs are instead realizing how painful it's going to be to have to make the call on which players will be on the active roster this year or not. Two more preseason games might help sort things out, but after this first game, this team looks deeper than ever.
Chiefs remain terrified of the QB sneak
There's a reason why sayings become cliche, so we realize there's truth to the old adage: "Don't get burned twice by the same flame."
We all felt the stomach punch collectively in Chiefs Kingdom when we witnessed Patrick Mahomes go down with a right knee injury following a successfully converted fourth-and-one against the Denver Broncos back in 2019. It was among the scariest moments in franchise history, and we all felt so lucky when Mahomes ended up coming back as quickly as he did.
Since then, the Chiefs have been reticent to try another quarterback sneak, and the hesitancy makes sense on the surface. But the truth is that the play itself is such an efficient and obvious way to convert short-yardage plays, and the Chiefs have been utterly miserable in such situations ever since Mahomes went down a few years ago.
At this point, QB sneaks are a risk worth taking because too many drives are being left unfinished, especially when the ability to extend them is so attainable. But in case you thought Andy Reid might be over the pain of watching Mahomes go down that first time, forget about it. Early in Sunday's game in New Orleans, the Chiefs failed to convert on a short-yardage play by giving it to the Belldozer, tight end Blake Bell, on a play that was read perfectly by the Saints defense.
At this point, Chiefs fans might as well forget that something like a QB sneak is even allowed on offense because we are never seeing one ever again.