It wasn’t perfect, but the Chiefs were mostly impressive in their 17-10 win over the Cardinals in Friday night’s preseason showdown. The first three Chiefs quarterbacks led scoring drives, with undrafted rookie Shane Buechele tossing a third-quarter touchdown to Jerick McKinnon.
Patrick Mahomes threw for 78 yards on 10 of 18 passing in three series of work. Mahomes’ first drive ended with a 24-yard field goal; his final drive ended with an interception from Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy. Chad Henne closed out the half with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman. Buechele went 7 of 8 for 66 yards while leading the Chiefs to a score on the first drive of the second half.
It was a grim evening for Kyler Murray and the Cardinals’ starting offense. In three series, Murray completed just one of his four pass attempts for 2 yards. Murray was sacked twice that included a big hit from Chris Jones that led to the Cardinals’ third three-and-out with Murray under center. With Murray in the game, the Cardinals ran 9 plays for -1 yards. While the Cardinals did put together a pair of late scoring drives, runs of 19 and 11 yards by Derrick Gore sealed the win for Kansas City.
Mahomes completed his first four passes that included two to Hardman on the Chiefs’ first drive. Mahomes was unable to connect on consecutive end zone throws to Hardman, however, as the Chiefs’ 15-play drive ended with Harrison Butker’s field goal. The Chiefs marched 61 yards on their third drive before Mahomes was intercepted by Murphy on third and goal.
Here’s a closer look at what transpired in the desert.
Why the Chiefs won
Kansas City’s defense wouldn’t allow the Cardinals to get into any sort of groove with Murray under center. Conversely, the Chiefs converted on a pair of fourth downs on their first drive which led to Butker’s field goal. The Chiefs also capitalized on several big plays. Byron Pringle’s 41-yard catch set up Hardman’s touchdown just before halftime and Buechele’s 36-yard completion to Marcus Kemp helped set up his touchdown pass to McKinnon. Kansas City also enjoyed a solid performance from running back Darwin Thompson, who had four straight carries for 28 yards on the Chiefs’ second possession. He had a 13-yard run on the Chiefs’ first drive of the second half.
After the Cardinals trimmed their lead to one possession, the Chiefs controlled the ball for the game’s final nine minutes. The main catalysts on the drive were Gore (who led both teams with 54 yards on eight carries) and backup quarterback Anthony Gordon, who completed all seven of his passes for 42 yards.
Why the Cardinals lost
Arizona didn’t record a single first down with Murray on the field. And while its defense managed to stop Mahomes twice in the red zone, they were unable to duplicate that success against Henne and Buechele, who threw touchdowns on consecutive possessions. Arizona also struggled to protect its quarterbacks, who were sacked a combined five times.
Arizona received a solid night from backup quarterback Chris Streveler, who was 5 of 6 passing for 74 yards. He capped off a 12-play, 88-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Ross Travis with 9:03 left.
Murphy’s pick appeared to give the Cardinals some momentum midway through the second quarter. The Cardinals, however, failed to move the ball during Colt McCoy’s first drive, going three-and-out for a fourth straight possession. The teams traded punts before Henne led the Chiefs on a 6-play, 77-yard drive that ended with the game’s first touchdown. Buechele then led the Chiefs on a 12-play, 87-yard drive that essentially put the game away.
Play of the game
Safety Juan Thornhill did his best receiver impression when he picked off McCoy in the end zone late in the first half. A former second-round pick, Thornhill picked off four passes during his first two seasons in Kansas City.
“We’ve got to clean some stuff up, get some things right. They kicked our butt for the few drives we were out there. It is what it is. We’ll be better when it counts.” — Murray to ESPN’s Lisa Salters when asked about the Cardinals’ offensive struggles
The Chiefs will conclude the 2021 preseason next Friday at home against the Vikings. Kansas City will open the regular season with a home game against the Browns in a rematch of the Chiefs’ nail-biting win in the divisional round of the 2020 playoffs. Arizona will wrap up the preseason with a Saturday showdown in New Orleans. The Cardinals will open the regular season at Tennessee.
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