final score: Kansas City Chiefs 17, Green Bay Packers 10
A return match from Super Bowl I, the Chiefs and Packers went to battle in 2022’s final preseason game. The Chiefs sealed the deal on a 2-1 preseason and closed out the game in the victory formation. The Cardinals are next up on September 11th to start the regular season.
Offense (Bryan Stewart)
Thursday night’s preseason finale was “The Shane Buechele Show.”
Star veteran players Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce did not play, while wide receivers Juju Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling rested with injuries — and it was 37-year-old Chad Henne who got the start behind the Kansas City first-team offensive lines. Henne struggled through a couple of drives, averaging 3.3 yards per pass attempt after seven throws.
It was then that Buechele — the third-string quarterback — made the most of his opportunities while flashing 53-man roster-caliber ability. Buechele brought the Chiefs back from a first-half deficit, eventually helping them capture the lead with two separate touchdown passes to depth tight end Matt Bushman.
Given how well he has performed in two Kansas City preseasons, there’s a good chance another team will pluck him away for good if the Chiefs don’t elect to keep Buechele. There’s virtually no chance that Henne will be released, but if head coach Andy Reid and general manager Brett Veach really like Buechele, they may need to keep a third quarterback on the final roster to start the season.
All around, Thursday night was the kind of forgettable contest that most preseason finales turn out to be. It’s now about narrowing down to that final roster, getting healthy and being ready for the start of the regular season against the Arizona Cardinals 17 days from now.
Offensive Player of the Game: running back Isiah Pacheco
The highly-touted seventh-round rookie finally was able to get loose a little and show off the burst and quickness that has made him popular throughout training camp. Pacheco averaged 5.2 yards per carry on 10 rushing attempts.
There’s still plenty for him to learn and experience in the weeks ahead. One thing is clear, though: when the ball is in his hands, Pacheco has some athletic burst that not all NFL ball carriers possess. Combine that with the solid hands that he flashed throughout training camp and we can begin to see the path toward production for this young player. Time will tell if Pacheco can translate the hype into a season-altering role in games that count.
Defense (Talon Graff)
The starters got the nod on defense — and there was a new face in the base defense: rookie linebacker Leo Chenal took the first-team reps with Nick Bolton and Willie Gay. During the preseason, the third-rounder out of Wisconsin has been impressive — so the coaching staff rewarded his play.
The top end of the defensive line got early reps and they were disruptive while they were in. George Karlaftis looks to be an immediate boost to the front seven, while Frank Clark still looks a bit more explosive — although we won’t be able to really tell until we see four quarters out of them. The interior defensive line — led by Chris Jones — has a good combination of quickness and bulk.
Once he was put into the game, backup linebacker Darius Harris got to work right away. His first three plays resulted in three tackles. The final one would have forced a punt after he instinctively read a screen play on third down, but a facemask penalty from rookie cornerback Joshua Williams gave Green Bay new life.
During the same drive, Williams also let a sure-fire interception bounce off his hands. With time and repetitions, he should grow into a reliable starter down the road. Fellow rookie Jaylen Watson is making a big impact for being a seventh-round draft selection. He plays tough in the running game and has made plays in the air, too.
2022’s first-round cornerback Trent McDuffie left the game during the first quarter after going into concussion protocol. As the game progressed — and the Chiefs started to rotate in the younger guys — quarterback Jordan Love and the Packers offense started to move the ball. But rookie safety Bryan Cook ended a drive late in the first half by picking off a sailing pass.
The 24-yard touchdown run from Packer running back Tyler Goodson in the second quarter was an ugly one for the Chiefs; they missed multiple tackles and saw too many bodies on the turf. The defense has been solid all preseason, however, so that play looked like an outlier.
The defensive unit was tested late in the second quarter as the Packers had multiple goal-to-go plays but came away with only three points after a nice goal-line stand that was aided by a couple of Green Bay penalties.
But then, Williams drew a flag on the field goal attempt after committing a running-into-the-kicker penalty. Had this been a roughing-the-kicker flag, Green Bay would have had a new set of downs. But the Packers declined the penalty and took the successful field goal.
Defensive Player of the Game: Safety Bryan Cook
The first-year player who is the second most-famous Cincinnati Bearcat on the team put in a solid performance. He was impactful against the run but also left a footprint as a pass defender. He has gotten plenty of praise throughout the preseason — and has grown not only on the field, but also as a leader.