The Kansas City Chiefs wrapped up the preseason with a victory on Friday night as quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the starting offense built an early lead over the Minnesota Vikings to ultimately finish the exhibition slate with an unblemished record.
Mahomes led two drives for Kansas City, completing 8-of-9 passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns before exiting the game with a perfect, 158.3 passer rating to show for his outing.
The first scoring drive was a quick, five-play drive that covered 79 yards in just over two minutes and culminated in a 35-yard connection between Mahomes and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. The starters then returned to action for another series on the Chiefs’ ensuing possession and marched right down the field yet again, as Mahomes capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive with a 5-yard scoring strike to tight end Blake Bell.
In total, the starting offense – most of which called it a night following the second score – tallied 149 yards of offense and averaged nearly 10 yards-per-play across 15 snaps of work.
“I knew going in that we had enough reps, strictly with the comfort I felt the offense had working together and the defense had working together,” said Head Coach Andy Reid. “[Because of that], I could pull the trigger when I needed to pull it so I could get [Mahomes] out of there. We had long drives and some good work.”
Rookie quarterback Shane Buechele came on in relief of Mahomes and played well, completing 20-of-33 passes for 231 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He was at his best on his fourth series, as he took over with just over two minutes remaining in the first half and led Kansas City to a touchdown before the break.
The scoring drive – which covered 88 yards across 12 plays – ended with a 23-yard toss to wide receiver Marcus Kemp, who punctuated a tremendous training camp and preseason with a strong performance.
“It’s a good feeling to cap it off [with a big game]. I made some of those plays in training camp, so it felt like one of those days,” Kemp said. “My family was here tonight – my parents, my two children and my wife were all here – so, I think they may be my good luck charm. For them to see me [play well] tonight was really special.”
Kemp finished the night with three grabs for 41 yards, which ranked second among Chiefs’ pass-catchers behind only tailback Derrick Gore, who amassed 80 receiving yards (and 106 yards of total offense).
Defensively, the Chiefs held Minnesota to just three points through the Vikings’ first seven drives. That stretch included an impressive stand in the red zone on Minnesota’s opening drive, as Kansas City’s starters thwarted a potential touchdown threat and forced the Vikings to settle for three points despite a 10-play series. The Chiefs then proceeded to allow a grand total of 18 yards across Minnesota’s next four possessions, two of which were led by Vikings’ starting quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Safety Armani Watts recorded an interception – his second of the preseason – on the Vikings’ seventh series and rookie defensive end Joshua Kaindoh collected a fumble recovery two possessions later. Additionally, linebacker Anthony Hitchens and defensive end Tim Ward each recorded a sack in the contest.
The defense also completed a goal-line stand midway through the fourth quarter, holding the Vikings – who had a fresh set of downs at the Chiefs’ 2-yard line – without any points to show for it. Minnesota tried running it twice, mustering just one yard courtesy of stops that both involved defensive tackle Tyler Clark, before defensive back Marlon Character defended a pass to the end zone on third down. The Vikings then went for it on fourth down, but defensive end Austin Edwards swallowed up the tailback on yet another rushing attempt and flipped possession back to the Chiefs.
The strong play on both sides of the ball allowed Kansas City to race out to a 28-10 lead, and while Minnesota rallied to pull within a field goal at the end, the Chiefs were in control of the game throughout. It was a fitting way to welcome fans back to GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium for the first time this year in what felt like a regular-season atmosphere.
“I mean it’s truly remarkable to be here, to play in this stadium and to have this crowd back. I think you – I don’t want to say take it for granted a couple years back – but you’re used to kind of being in this stadium with the sellout crowd and it being loud,” Mahomes said. “To be back here after a year of not having fans, it’s definitely a good feeling. I can’t wait for opening day. I know it’s going to be crazy.”
Reid noted that there were no new injuries to report following the game. The next order of business for the Chiefs will be trimming their roster down from where it currently stands at 80 players to 53 by Aug. 31 before taking on the Cleveland Browns in Week 1.