With so much uncertainty on defense, the Kansas City Chiefs will need to squeeze more production from their offense this season. The Chiefs have reason to feel good about their chances to do so after Saturday night's 21-20 loss to the Rams in Los Angeles.
Quarterback Alex Smith guided the starting offense to two touchdowns and a field goal in four possessions. The Chiefs scored a touchdown on the game's opening drive for the second straight week, but this possession was more impressive. Smith completed passes to convert three times on third down on the drive. Four different receivers also caught a pass on the drive.
Smith departed in the second quarter with the Chiefs ahead 17-14. He was 9-of-12 for 137 yards and a touchdown.
The Chiefs played without five defensive starters Saturday. Three of them, linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali and safety Eric Berry, have yet to practice. Houston and Hali are recovering from injuries. Berry is the Chiefs' unsigned franchise player.
QB depth chart: Not that there was much doubt that Smith and Nick Foles are the top two quarterbacks, but that was solidified in the first half Saturday. Smith made a number of impressive throws, none better than his 37-yard pass to Chris Conley deep down the right sideline in the second quarter to set up a touchdown. Foles completed his first six passes after replacing Smith. Third-stringer Aaron Murray didn't help his cause when, with under two minutes remaining and the Chiefs in field goal range, he fumbled a snap and the Rams recovered.
Maybe that dude could start: The Chiefs started a pair of rookies, cornerback D.J. White and safety Eric Murray, but neither player looked ready for a full-time role. White was out of position and beaten by wide receiver Kenny Britt for a 20-yard gain on the Rams' second play. Murray, from his free safety spot, wound up out of position on a running play and allowed Todd Gurley to get outside left end for an 8-yard gain.
Who got hurt? Backup fullback Trey Millard left the game because of a knee injury.
A surprise player who impressed: The Chiefs have been looking for a productive wide receiver other than Jeremy Maclin. Chris Conley was that receiver against the Rams. Conley caught three passes for 66 yards, the big play coming when he beat one-on-one coverage down the right sideline to haul in a 37-yard pass from Smith. The play set up a Chiefs touchdown.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Chiefs looked ...: lost on defense. The Chiefs missed some assignments that allowed the Rams to go on touchdown drives of 81 and 79 yards on their first two possessions. White started at cornerback and Murray at safety, and each made mistakes that led to big plays. The starting defense got its first stop only when the Rams put rookie quarterback Jared Goff in the game. He stumbled and fumbled on his second play and the Chiefs recovered.
One reason to be concerned: Pass protection was shaky while Smith was in the game. Smith was sacked twice and was under pressure at other times despite being pulled from the lineup in the second quarter. Much of the pressure came up in the middle, as the Chiefs inevitably had trouble blocking Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Maclin banished: He was ejected from the game late in the first half for fighting with Rams defensive back Lamarcus Joyner. Each took a swing at the other in the end zone after a play. The practical effect for Maclin was nothing because he wasn't going to play in the second half anyway. Joyner was also ejected.