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Chiefs struggle in preseason opener
By DOUG TUCKER, AP Sports Writer Saturday, Aug 13, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—Without a normal offseason because of the NFL lockout, early season play was expected to be rumpled and ragged.

The Kansas City Chiefs looked the part on Friday night.

KC’s first three possessions resulted in one three-and-out and two lost fumbles. Tampa Bay and hometown kid Josh Freeman(notes) turned the two turnovers into 10 quick points and rolled to a 25-0 preseason victory which the Chiefs will try hard to forget.

Chiefs coach Todd Haley could see at least one positive.

“That’s the first one, not the last one,” he said.

The Bucs, who were 10-6 last season just like the Chiefs, rolled up three times as many first downs (18 to six), more than twice as many yards (353 to 137) and held Kansas City to just one conversion in 10 third downs.

It was a thorough whipping, though in fairness the Bucs did keep most of their starters in the game much of the first half while the Chiefs did not.

Bucs coach Raheem Morris found it difficult to find much wrong with the way his Bucs executed.

“Hard to say that, you know, but I’ve got to watch the tape. I’ll find something,” he said. “We had missed personnels on defense, and us looking across and getting the right guys out there. And then on offense we have to cut the miscommunications. One play we didn’t even have a tailback. So little things like that we have to clean up.”

Freeman, who prepped just a few miles from Arrowhead Stadium and starred at Kansas State, led the Buds to points on three of the four series he played, going 9 for 13 for 73 yards.

In his first appearance in Arrowhead, he also ran 5 yards for a score on a second-and-goal after Casey Wiegmann(notes) and Matt Cassel(notes) fumbled the center snap.

The game figured to be sloppy after the NFL lockout wiped away the offseason. The Chiefs have been especially careful since opening camp under the broiling sun of St. Joseph, Mo.

They’ve barely worked out in pads and have not scrimmaged. But after a day off on Sunday, all that may change.

“We knew this first preseason game was part of a process that looks different as a whole than last year would have, or the year before that would have,” linebacker Andy Studebaker(notes) said. “So our approach to camp has been a little bit different. Obviously, the starters didn’t play a ton tonight. Different guys played. So a lot of the younger guys got a ton of reps. As the season gets closer, the intensity probably ramps up a little bit. Obviously, we’ve got some things to correct on tape.”

In addition to the fumbles and missed tackles, the pass protection was also lacking for the Chiefs.

Backup quarterback Tyler Palko(notes) get sacked for a safety after Chandler Williams(notes) let a Tampa punt reach the 3-yard line.

Freeman needed only two plays to turn the first fumble into a touchdown, then led Tampa Bay on an eight-play drive that Connor Barth(notes) capped with a 25-yard field goal.

In the second half, Josh Johnson(notes) drove the Bucs 55 yards against the backups, capping the drive with a 3-yard TD pass to Michael Spurlock.

Freeman is trying to build on a breakout season in which he threw for 3,451 yards and 25 touchdowns. The tall, strong-armed quarterback has looked sharp all camp, and he carried the momentum into his first preseason game.

Freeman checked off when warranted, eluded Kansas City’s pass rush when necessary, and deftly managed the offense.

“A couple of those first throws were a little bit off,” he said. “But for the most part, I felt great. Saw the field clearly and made some plays. It was great being back out there and moving the ball. I know the guys had a lot of fun, too.”

Johnson hit 7 of 12 passes for 108 yards and a TD and scrambled five times for another 57 yards.

Cassel did not attempt a pass. The Chiefs’ other two quarterbacks, Palko and Ricky Stanzi(notes), combined to go 8 for 16 for 68 yards.

But again, Haley found a positive.

“They know how to run for their lives,” he said.

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