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Chiefs vs. Panthers: Game Takeaways

Posted Aug 18, 2014

Here’s a look at the top stories from Sunday’s 28-16 loss to the Carolina Panthers

Here’s a look at the key players and plays from the Chiefs loss on Sunday night:

Players of the Game - Running back Cyrus Gray and tight end Travis Kelce

There’s a good case to make for both tight end Travis Kelce and running back Cyrus Gray as the Players of the Game in the Chiefs loss to the Panthers on Sunday.

For the second week in a row, Kelce caught a 40-plus-yard touchdown in which he raced past defensive backs down the middle of the field for the long score.

But against the Panthers, Kelce had to drag a few defenders into the end zone with him for the score. He’s quickly becoming the favorite to join Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles as featured options in the Chiefs passing game.

Gray finished the game with 10 carries for 44 yards, which is more action than he would have seen if Jamaal Charles had made the trip to Carolina.

Picking up positive gains when there wasn’t much there was the story of the night for Gray, who had several four or five-yard runs that could have easily been negative plays.

Plays of the Game

• Special Teams

Trailing 14-9 midway through the third quarter, the Chiefs forced a three-and-out that led to the Panthers punting the ball from their own 35-yard line.

Veteran receiver A.J. Jenkins came off the edge and put enough pressure on the punter that it netted just an eight-yard gain as the kick went out of bounds.

The Chiefs had the ball on the Panthers 43-yard line to start their next drive.

It was a great special teams play by Jenkins at a time where they really needed someone to make a play.

• Offense

The best offensive play of the night came on the very next play after that particular punt.

Rookie quarterback Aaron Murray hit Kelce on a 43-yard touchdown pass right down the middle of the field to give the Chiefs a 16-14 lead.

“It was a perfect play call for the coverage,” Murray said after the game. “Kelce did a great job of not only making the catch but then being a great athlete and then finishing it up and getting in the end zone.”
Kelce showed both speed and strength by once again outracing defensive backs to the end zone while dragging a few into the end zone with him once he got there.

It has been two weeks in a row now that Kelce has been featured in the Offensive Play of the Game here in the Game Takeaways article.

This would be a welcomed sight for Chiefs fans if Kelce can continue to make big, explosive plays in the passing game.

• Defense

Something else we saw for the second game in a row is inside linebacker Joe Mays picking up a sack for the Chiefs defense.

On a second-and-10 play midway through the second quarter, Mays brought down Panthers starting quarterback Cam Newton for a six-yard loss, forcing a third-and-long.

The Chiefs would love to find some pass rush outside of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. With Mays showing that kind of ability for the second week in a row, he could be a good complement to the guys on the outside.

Mays leaving the game on Sunday with a wrist injury could obviously affect his ability to be on the field and contribute in the pass-rush department moving forward. There should be an update on Mays’ status later this week.

Newton finished the day 4 of 9 for 65 yards in his first game action of the preseason.

Turning Points

• Trailing 21-16—Aaron Murray’s interception late in the third quarter gave the Panthers the ball deep in Chiefs territory. Panthers linebacker A.J. Klein returned the interception to the Chiefs eight-yard line. Five plays later, thanks to a Chiefs penalty, the Panthers took the 28-16 lead.

• The biggest pass play of the night for the Panthers came on a Brandon Williams reception for 31 yards midway through the third quarter. Rookie outside linebacker Dee Ford was in coverage and the pass was just out of his reach. This long pass set up the Panthers go-ahead touchdown from quarterback Derek Anderson to Brenton Bersin for 16 yards.

• On a day with an astonishing 13 Chiefs penalties for 131 yards, there were two that really stood out as being the most critical.

On third-and-goal from the five-yard line, rookie Dee Ford got pressure and got in the face of quarterback Joe Webb right as he flipped a ball into the air for Brandon Williams in the end zone. Rookie Phillip Gaines was called for defensive holding and the Panthers got first-and-goal at the two-yard line. It took just two plays before they scored and took the 28-16 lead.

The icing on the cake on the penalty-filled night was late in the fourth quarter when Aaron Murray hit Frankie Hammond Jr. on the slant for 51 yards, only for it to be called back on a Rishaw Johnson holding penalty. There was just over three minutes left in the game and that would have been the longest play of the night for either team. The Chiefs were trailing by 12 but that put a damper on any kind of a comeback attempt.

Reviewing the “Five Things to Watch”

1. Playmaking tight ends

Besides Kelce’s big day, veteran Anthony Fasano stepped up with two catches for 29 yards, including a nice juggling catch that resulted in a first down.

Through two preseason games, the success of the tight ends group mirrors what they had been doing at training camp. It’s an encouraging sign as we get closer to the games that count, starting September 7 against Tennessee at Arrowhead Stadium.

2. Defensive backs and big plays

After two interception returns for touchdowns against the Bengals, the Chiefs defense couldn’t force a turnover in the loss to the Panthers.

In addition to the numerous penalties, some crucial, there were four passing plays of at least 20 yards from the Panthers passing game.

It’s still going to be one of the main focal points heading into the third preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings.

3. Alex Smith

Smith played well against the Panthers, finishing 14 of 22 for 127 yards. He made a couple of nice plays moving outside of the pocket and delivered on some third downs, which is something he wanted to focus on after struggling with that in the opener.

4. Offensive Line

There were some good things about the offensive line’s performance against the Panthers and then there are some things that need to be cleaned up.

The good news for the offensive line is they just went up against one of the best defensive front seven’s in the entire NFL, at least while the first team was in there.

Penalties hurt the offensive line and Smith was under pressure and had to leave the pocket on a few occasions.

“We’re going to throw the football,” Reid said after the game. “We’re not going to run the ball. We got a young offensive line; they got to learn and so, we’re going to feed them the things they need to get better at. We’re not hiding that part of it and we know that they’re going to get better with practice.”

5. No injuries

There are no updates yet but receiver Junior Hemingway (hip), linebacker Joe Mays (wrist) and offensive lineman Ryan McKee (knee) all left the game early with injuries. We will hopefully have more information Monday afternoon on the status of these injuries.

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