It was apparent from the opening kick-off that both starting units didn't bring their ‘A' or ‘B' games. It started out bad for the Chiefs as a penalty might have cost them one of their key offensive cogs as wide receiver Marc Boerigter went down with a knee sprain that could keep him out of action for half the season.
On the first possession of the game the Chiefs were facing a third and five when Trent Green hit Dante Hall for a first down. But tackle Willie Roaf was called for an illegal formation and that forced the Chiefs to a third and long. On the play, the ball was deflected at the line of scrimmage. The pass was intended for Boerigter who slipped on the turf and his knee gave way and he lay on the ground pounding his fist. He knew it was bad and had to be taken off the field on a cart.
That play seemed to sum up the Chiefs first half performance. They dominated time of possession 18:05 to 11:55 but trailed 7-6 at halftime. Early the defense looked strong once again giving hope to Chiefs fans that this years version was on the rise. The Chiefs were aided by the poor performance of Browns quarterback Jeff Garcia. The former 49ers starter looked uncomfortable running the Cleveland offense.
After their initial drive stalled, the Chiefs offense moved the ball more efficiently as Chiefs quarterback Trent Green hit consecutive passes to Tony Gonzalez for 37 yards and Dante Hall for 10 yards. The drive stalled after two incomplete passes. Lawrence Tynes in a battle for the place kicking duties with veteran Morton Andersen hit a 28-yard field goal giving the Chiefs a 3-0 lead in the first quarter.
The Chiefs defense once again held the Browns offense in check on a penalty riddled drive by the Browns, the offense found a groove. Though it wasn't flashy it consumed nearly six minutes off the clock but two holding penalties stymied the Chiefs chances of getting into the end zone. Once again Lawrence Tynes bailed out the offense as he nailed a 48-yard field goal giving the Chiefs a 6-0 lead.
Still the offense sputtered and Green for one was not pleased with the fact the first team offense could not get the ball in the end zone. "It's obviously not good enough and not what we did last year," said Green.
"We can't settle for field goals once we get down their (in the red zone). We made some mistakes with penalties, some missed opportunities and Cleveland played well. We can't settle for a three when we get down that close."
The offensive struggles put some pressure on the Chiefs defense and with the Browns passing game in shambles, they turned to their running game and that proved to be a smart choice by Browns head coach Butch Davis.
Browns running back Willie Green executed a perfect cut back run for 42 yards and that seemed to give some life to the Browns. After that drive stalled and the Chiefs offense was unable to get a first down on the next series, the Browns turned to their rookie running back Lee Suggs who ripped of a 28-yard run and sailed untouched into the end zone giving Cleveland a 7-6 lead.
The Chiefs turned the offense over to back-up quarterback Todd Collins who tried in vein to engineer a touchdown drive. Instead Collins was content dumping the ball into the flat on consecutive plays. But after off-setting personal fouls, Tynes attempted a 48-yard field goal. But his kick nailed the left upright and fell back into the end zone.
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil was not happy with the performance by his entire team in the first half. "Too many dropped passes and too many penalties offensively," said Vermeil. "We've stopped ourselves that way. They got a couple of runs on us when our corners didn't support properly and it broke down the discipline of the defense. It's just little problem areas."
The positive for the Chiefs is the fact they had three starters in the secondary that will be ready for season opener. Starting safeties Jerome Woods, Greg Wesley and starting cornerback Dexter McCleon all sat out the game. Another positive was the play of defensive tackle Ryan Sims. For the first time this pre-season, Sims showed a consistant ability to get pressure up the middle. He recorded one sack and nearly had two others.
In the second half, Collins found a groove as the Browns defense, their teams strength could not maintain the play of their starting unit. Collins led the Chiefs offense on a nine play, 64-yard drive that culminated in a beautiful 9-yard pass in the corner of the end zone to back-up running back Derrick Blaylock. That gave the Chiefs a 13-7 lead and it also might have vaulted Blaylock ahead of Larry Johnson for the right to back-up Priest Holmes this season.
Once again the Browns offense fizzled after another impressive stand by the defense, that's when Collins went back to work. This time he hit a wide open Chris Horn for a 50-yard pass and catch that put the Chiefs in Browns territory. On the play the Browns were flagged with a roughing the passer penalty. That helped the Chiefs get their second touchdown of the quarter. Staying with what works Collins hit back-up fullback Omar Easy for a 4-yard pass that gave the Chiefs a 19-7 lead. Kansas City attempted a two-point conversion but it failed as Jason Dunn could not hang on to the pass from Collins.
In the fourth quarter, the Chiefs defense stiffened early led by the play of linebacker Keyaron Fox, defensive end Jared Allen and cornerback Benny Sapp. Fox showed incredible speed breaking up a sure third down pass and his aggressive play prevented the Browns from establishing any consistency on the ground in the second half. Allen once again showed a flair for chasing down runners and putting heat on the quarterback. I was a little surprised that he did not play more in the first half. With the injury to Vonnie Holliday, veteran John Browning played defensive end instead of Allen.
Sapp who is fighting for the corner nickel spot made solid plays at corner and supported the run very well. In fact for the most part, the entire secondary despite the loss of three starters, played exceptional for most of the game up until the final three minutes when the third string took over. Still until late in the fourth quarter, the Browns passing offense lacked any punch. The Chiefs defense did a solid job and the last three minutes with players who likely won't make the final roster, should not be the measuring stick for the groups overall performance on Saturday night against the Browns first and second offensive units.
Still it has to be a hard pill for the Chiefs to swallow as they held a 19-7 lead late in the fourth quarter. With three minutes remaining, third-string quarterback Luke McCown hit wide receiver Darnell Sanders for a 7-yard strike that made the score 19-14 Chiefs.
After the Chiefs offense stalled once again with Damon Huard at the helm, the Browns went back to work with only 1:39 left to play. McCown drove 80-yards and sunk the Chiefs when he hit an open Richard Alston for a 34-yard game-winning touchdown catch. It was his second long pass of the drive as McCown tore up back-up corners Willie Ford and Cliff Crosby. Both are on the outside olooking in to make the final roster. But their performance tonight can't help their chances of making it past Tuesday's roster cuts.
Despite the loss, the Chiefs star of the game was Todd Collins. He finished his duty by hitting 12 of 14 passes and two touchdowns. Though he wasn't flashy he was able to get the ball to the open receivers and backs.
Besides the injury to Boerigter and the plethora of penalties, the Chiefs special teams did not play well. To often the Browns were able to get large gains on punt and kick-off returns. Granted a lot of the players who played on Saturday won't be on the roster come this Tuesday or September 5th when the final rostes will be set; some jobs might have been lost tonight for those hoping to make the roster as a special teams performer.
*After the game Dick Vermeil addressed the media and indicated that Marc Boerigter would have an MRI done Sunday morning but he made it clear that it does not look good for Boerigter playing for the Chiefs anytime soon. Vermeil was clearly disheartened with the injury to Boerigter and now the Chiefs could be forced to look for a veteran receiver on Tuesday.
"I'm not a doctor and we'll let the doctor tell me tomorrow. But the whole game to me was a downer from the time Marc Boerigter went down. To me as a coach, you never get used to handline an injury," said Vermeil.
Based on his tone after the game, it's clear that Vermeil already has come to grips that the injury to Boerigter is very serious.
*Vermeil also indicated that the Chiefs would start looking for another punter. He was not pleased with the performance of Jason Baker.
"We're going to look for a punter too. Our punter was not very good tonight. You've got to get the job done. We have to look around. It's different if you're building team. We're not building one anymore. We're competing to win," Vermeil said after the loss.
*It was fascinating watching Browns rookie tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr. He's making quite a name for himself but not in the manner that Cleveland had hoped. In two instances he tried to pick a fight with Chiefs players. The first with defensive Eric Hicks; a battle he would have lost in the first quarter as he tried to block him from getting to Jeff Garcia. In the second quarter playing on special teams, he drove Chiefs safety Willie Pile into the ground and stayed on top of him until Pile finally pushed him away. Winslow signed late into training camp and managed to drop the only ball thrown his way in the third quarter.
*Based on the fact that Lawrence Tynes kicked all the field goals and extra point attempts, would lead me to believe that the Chiefs might turn their kicking duties over to Tynes. But it should be noted that on kick-offs, punter Jason Baker handled the duties and not Tynes. Now with Vermeil blasting Baker after the game, that could mean that Tynes is not a lock for the job or he simply wanted to give Baker the opportunity to kick-off in the event Tynes is not the guy. That means Morten Andersen will get one more week to beat out Tynes for the kicking duties this year.
*Absent from the Chiefs offense for the most part this evening were rookies Kris Wilson and Samie Parker. With the injury to Boerigter and the unlikely return of Johnnie Morton, it would have been a great opportunity for both young receivers to get a shot in live game conditions.