Chiefs know pass-protection problems will limit Patrick Mahomes

Patrick Mahomes was hit hard three times in his eight dropbacks against the Texans. Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The big plans that the Kansas City Chiefs have for their offense were ready to be realized on one of the first plays of the preseason last week.

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes had wide receiver Sammy Watkins and tight end Travis Kelce open, and it looked like whomever he chose to throw it to would have a huge play and perhaps a touchdown.

They didn't get either.

The pocket quickly collapsed, and Mahomes didn't have time to get the throw off. He instead took a sack.

Mahomes, who played only in the first quarter against the Houston Texans on Aug. 9, was similarly affected on other plays. He was hit hard three times in his eight dropbacks.

The Chiefs changed to Mahomes at quarterback because of his strong arm and big-play ability. They splurged in free agency on a big-play wide receiver in Watkins, who, along with Kelce and Tyreek Hill, gives Mahomes a strong group to choose from down the field.

But none of that will matter if the Chiefs don't provide better pass protection for Mahomes than they did against the Texans. The Chiefs aren't crying about missing on an opportunity for a big play in a preseason game, but they're aware they need to improve, starting in Friday night's preseason game against the Falcons in Atlanta.

"Definitely we'll have a little sense of urgency," center Mitch Morse said. "We did a few good things, but there are some things we really need to work on. That's with every game and every practice. That was just a glorified practice.

"It's not going to be perfect next game. We're just going to get better little by little every day."

The protection problems weren't confined to one player. Left tackle Eric Fisher and left guard Cameron Erving were beaten on the Chiefs' first play. Mahomes was hit but was able to get the pass off for a completion to Kelce.

Tight end Demetrius Harris failed on a block attempt on the sack. Mahomes stepped up to avoid that pressure and ran into a Texan, who had swung around right tackle Mitchell Schwartz.

Later, the Texans blew up a screen pass and Mahomes had to dump the ball to avoid a sack.

"It's definitely frustrating," Morse said. "You're not going to come out of there and be OK with how that went. Sometimes, you need a kick in the pants to rev it up and get out there and see what you need to work on. If anything, we're glad it happened now. We wish it hadn't happened, but if it's going to happen, now is the time so we can get out there and be all cylinders firing by the end of training camp."

The Chiefs view the protection problems as fixable.

"We saw a little bit of that last year," head coach Andy Reid said. "We went through a funk. ... You go through slumps. You've got to work through those. It happens to every offensive line and every offensive lineman."

The Chiefs this week made one change to their starting offensive line, but only because of injury. Right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif sustained a concussion during practice following the Texans game and was replaced by Andrew Wylie.

"We've got a high standard," offensive line coach Andy Heck said. "We've been a young line in the past, but right now, we're one of the older, more experienced groups on this team. So we expect a lot out of those guys.

"We're very concerned as a line but not overly so. We've got some work to do. This is training camp. This is part of the process."

The Chiefs put pressure on their blockers by attempting to pass on 8 of 9 snaps with Mahomes and the starters in the game. This isn't unusual for the Chiefs in the preseason. They usually are pass-heavy with the starting offense in the game during the summer.

"Would you like to go out and play a little more balanced?" offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said. "Yeah. Everybody would. But you know what? We're trying to get this thing going. We want to see what [Mahomes] can do. We want to see what we can do up front.

"At the end of the day, it does not matter what we call ... it's their jobs to go out there and execute with great attention to detail regardless of what we call."

Mahomes seemed unusually frustrated for a preseason game in the immediate aftermath. The Chiefs didn't score a point and punted at the end of each of their two possessions with the starters in the game.

But he wasn't going to blame his blockers.

"I didn't think the pass protection was as bad as some people have said it was," Mahomes said. "I was getting the ball out. I was throwing the ball. I only took one sack and I stepped up into Schwartz's guy that he was blocking.

"For us now, it's just about making some bigger plays, keeping drives going."