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Offensive success wouldn't hurt Chiefs

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- While their season won’t be headed for certain doom if the Kansas City Chiefs don’t play well on offense in Sunday night’s preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, it certainly can’t hurt them to be productive when they have the ball.

Otherwise, their slump will have reached two games. The starting offense was sluggish in last week’s preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Chiefs gained just 33 yards on 11 plays with their starters on the field and managed only a field goal after a long kickoff return set them up with great field position.

To quarterback Alex Smith, the problems boiled down to failure on two key plays. One was a mix-up between Smith and Dwayne Bowe on a third-and-2 play from the Cincinnati 9, where the quarterback’s throw had no chance to reach its intended receiver.

“[If] you convert, you’ve got a good chance of walking away with a touchdown,’’ Smith said. “Those are big downs. That’s third down. You’ve got to execute. It’s all kind of in the details.’’

Smith and Bowe have plenty of time to fix those problems before the regular season begins. The other key play is more problematic.

It was Smith’s fumble after he was sacked. Smith held the ball too long and failed to protect it. He generally does a nice job of protecting the ball so his turnover against the Bengals can be attributed to one of those freak things that happens occasionally.

But remember that Smith also lost a fumble when he failed to protect the ball in his previous game for the Chiefs. That was last year’s playoff loss to Indianapolis and the turnover greatly aided the Colts in their successful comeback from a huge deficit.

“You just can’t have it, can’t have turnovers,’’ Smith said.

Preseason games are usually more about the evaluation of young players than the success or failure of the starting units. But the Chiefs will probably play the starters the entire first half against Carolina and coordinator Doug Pederson acknowledged wanting to see progress from the starters this week.

“You want to start seeing the continuity with your first unit and then again you’re still in the evaluation process,’’ Pederson said. “So we’re in the process of doing both.”