The Kansas City Chiefs fell behind 10-0 to the Arizona Cardinals early in their pre-season game at the University of Phoenix Stadium Saturday night, but back-up quarterback Chase Daniel flashed back to his University of Missouri days by tossing three touchdowns and leading the Chiefs to a 34-19 win.
The Chiefs starting units struggled on both of their first series with the defense giving up a 57-yard pass from Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer to running back, Andre Ellington, on a 3rd-and-6 play on the opening drive. Three plays later, Ellington ran it in from 2 yards out for a quick 7-0 lead.
The Chiefs first string offense didn’t fare much better on their first drive, as quarterback Alex Smith missed a long pass to Jeremy Maclin deep downfield on the first play and then throwing an interception on the fifth play of the series. However, the Cardinals got a foreshadowing of things to come as the Chiefs defense held Arizona to three yards on three plays, forcing them to settle for a 33-yard Chandler Catanzaro field goal and a 10-0 lead.
The Chiefs first string offense fared a little better on the next two drives and Cairo Santos put Kansas City on the board with a 48-yard field goal that split the uprights as the second quarter was just beginning. After holding Arizona to a punt, Daniel and the second-string offense came in at the 10:54 mark of the second quarter and, facing the Cardinals second-string defense, turned the game into a rout.
Daniel led the team on a 12-play, 79-yard scoring drive that ended when he found first-year wide receiver, Fred Williams, for a 13-yard touchdown pass, tying the score at 10-10. Daniel was a blistering 8-for-10 on the series and the touchdown catch was the fourth time Daniel found Williams on the drive.
Daniel found Williams during the two-minute drill before halftime on a picture-perfect 33-yard pass down the right sideline, putting the Chiefs deep inside Arizona territory. Third-string running back, Charcandrick West, subbing for the injured Knile Davis in the second quarter, gave the Chiefs a terrific impersonation of Jamaal Charles, running and catching passes that kept Cardinal defenders guessing.
With 13 seconds left on the clock, the Chiefs offense veered left, but Daniel found wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. all alone on a crossing pattern to the right for another score and after a Santos extra point, a 17-10 halftime lead.
Daniel came back out for the first series of the second half and led the team on a 9-play, 80-yard scoring drive, hitting rookie wide receiver Da’Ron Brown for a 3-yard touchdown pass and a 24-10 lead. It would be the end of Daniel’s day which saw him finish 17 for 21 passing for 189 yards and three touchdowns.
It is exactly the kind of performance out of Daniel that eliminates the question of why the Chiefs would keep a back-up quarterback with a $4 million salary on the roster despite having salary cap issues. Daniel has performed well in two starts during his time with the Chiefs and puts to rest any worry about what will happen to the offense should Alex Smith suffer a serious injury.
Head coach Andy Reid and his coaching staff should be thrilled with the performance of the team as there were plenty of mistakes to go around (otherwise known as, “teaching moments”) but far more positives that will give the team a mental lift going into next Friday’s second pre-season game at Arrowhead against the Seattle Seahawks.