Kansas City, Mo. It took two years and five days, but finally Todd Haley and Kansas City have beaten somebody in the preseason.
Helped perhaps by Green Bay’s decision not to dress three key starters, the Chiefs took a 14-0 lead and held on Thursday night for a 17-13 victory over the team that many are making the favorite in the NFC.
The backup defense that gave away a victory last week against Philadelphia held fast this time and kept the Packers’ third-teamers out of the end zone in the final sloppy minutes.
“Overall, I think that’s good for our team to come out there and get a win,” Haley said. “We knew this whole preseason was about one thing, and that was being prepared for the start of the regular season. It was important for our team to continue to make positive strides and I thought we did that throughout the preseason in all areas.”
Matt Cassel and backup Brodie Croyle each directed touchdown drives for the Chiefs, who finished the preseason 1-3 after going 0-4 a year ago.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a host of other Green Bay starters didn’t suit up for the final tuneup of the preseason. Backup signal-caller Matt Flynn played into the third quarter and completed 23 of 37 passes for 304 yards, much of it against reserves.
“I like Matt Flynn,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I thought Matt has put together a fine preseason. I thought he did good keeping us in good plays tonight at the line of scrimmage. He missed some throws early in the game. He didn’t quite have his feet set but I thought overall for his three quarters he did a very good job.”
Running back Ryan Grant and cornerback Charles Woodson also did not dress for what was expected to be a rainy night but remained dry.
“Clearly a coaches’ decision,” McCarthy said. “It’s something I think about all the time. I feel we came out of the game relatively healthy.”
Held out with injuries were nine other Packers, including four other starters: linebackers Clay Matthews and Brad Jones, defensive end Cullen Jenkins and tackle Chad Clifton.
“We came into Kansas City to win the football game,” McCarthy said. “We came here to make sure we gave a lot of people as many opportunities as we possibly can. I thought we accomplished that.”
Rodgers, who led the No. 1 offense on three touchdown drives in one half against Indianapolis last Thursday, watched Flynn go three-and-out in Green Bay’s first four possessions.
Finally, facing a host of backups, the Packers drove from their 24 to first down at the 10. But rookie defensive back Kendrick Lewis broke up a pass on the goal line on third down and then a fourth-down pass was incomplete.
Cassel got off to his typically slow start, but wound up hitting 4 of 9 throws for 58 yards, with one interception and a 2-yard TD pass to a wide-open Leonard Pope late in the first quarter. The drive, against many backups, covered 62 yards on 11 plays.
Cassel turned a 7-0 lead over to Croyle and the oft-injured backup engineered an eight-play, 95-yard march in which Jackie Battle broke Jarrett Bush’s tackle and went 49 yards. On fourth down, Battle plowed across from the 1, making it 14-0.
Trailing 14-3, the Packers got a 77-yard catch-and-run when backup cornerback Jackie Bates bit on a play fake and left Brett Swain wide open over the middle. Swain was knocked out of bounds at the 5. Two plays later, Kregg Lumpkin dived into the end zone from the 1. The play was first ruled no gain, but the Packers challenged and got the call reversed.
Three receivers had a big night for the Packers. Swain caught 6 passes for 130 yards, Charles Dillon caught 6 for 85 and Patrick Williams had five catches for 70 yards.
The Chiefs, as they’ve been all preseason, were encouraged by an improved running game. They had 145 yards on the ground, led by Jackie Battle’s 67.
Croyle hit Tim Castille with a short pass late in the third quarter and the fullback broke a tackle, got a block and went 43 yards, setting up Ryan Succop’s 26-yard field goal.
Green Bay’s Mason Crosby kicked two 41-yard field goals.
Kansas City’s first possession seemed to confirm the impression many have had of Haley’s second Chiefs team: inconsistent offense and greatly improved return game. Rookie Javier Arenas returned a punt 44 yards to the Green Bay 33, but the Chiefs went three-and-out.
A blow to the head put Green Bay long snapper Brett Goode out for much of the game.
“I know they got to him right away and he was able to go two more plays and the doctors felt it was time for him to go (out),” said McCarthy. “It’s a cut and dry system. If it’s a medical decision they don’t play.”
Two Chiefs starters were out with injuries, tackle Ryan O’Callaghan and linebacker Tamba Hali.
Chiefs rookie safety Eric Berry was excited to have a victory going into the regular-season opener on Monday, Sept. 13.
“It’s very important. Just get that momentum going into Monday night football and make sure we’re ready to play,” he said.