KANSAS CITY — The Kansas City Chiefs are heading toward their preseason finale Thursday night at Green Bay with what appears to be an identity problem.
Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis give Kansas City one of the league's best backfields — a quintessential thunder-and-lightning look. And with the play of Matt Cassel at quarterback one of the biggest question marks entering the regular season, there's little doubt the Chiefs prefer to be a defensive-minded, ball-control team this season.
That makes the way last Friday night's 44-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks played out all the more surprising. New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll aired it out 44 times.
Sure, the preseason is an opportunity to test out plays and formations that might not be seen the rest of the year. Sure, the Chiefs have been cautious with using Charles, who is coming off a torn left ACL that knocked him out nearly all of last season.
But even Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel sounded a bit perplexed by the direction the team is headed and admitted that it needs to figure out quickly what it does well.
"You have to get yourself fixed before you can try to attack anybody else," Crennel said Monday. "You have to know what you're good at and what you can do and try to correct the mistakes that we made. Then once we get those corrected, then we might be able to work on somebody else."
The preseason has been a bizarre road for Kansas City, which opened training camp with high expectations but has suddenly begun to feel a bit anxious about playing Atlanta on Sept. 9.
After a thorough whipping of Arizona, injuries started to pile up, and the Chiefs were run out of town by St. Louis. They returned home last week to face the Seahawks and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, and he ripped apart a defense expected to be one of the NFL's best this year.
It didn't help how quickly the offense kept sending the defense onto the field.
Kansas City went three-and-out on three of its first four possessions, and eight of the first 14 plays called against the Seahawks were passes. Cassel was sacked twice, scrambled for a short gain once and threw four incomplete passes to an array of targets.
Cassel finished 19 of 34 for 168 yards and a touchdown and also threw an interception that was brought back 75 yards for another score. Brady Quinn was 5 of 10 for 44 yards.
The running game generated 145 yards on 25 carries, though most of that came in the fourth quarter when undrafted rookie Nate Eachus ran 10 times for 98 yards and a score.
Charles and Hillis combined for eight carries and 31 yards.
"Obviously, we need to play better all around. It's disappointing to come out here and play like we did," Cassel said. "At the same time, I know with this group of guys and the coaching staff we have we will do what we need to do to get it fixed and make it right."
Of course, the Chiefs first need to decide what "right" looks like.
Most teams leave their starters on the bench for the preseason finale or at most play them for a series. But Crennel indicated that he's willing to leave the Chiefs' starters in much longer against Green Bay, hopeful that they'll finally get into some sort of rhythm.
"This will be the fourth week, and I tell them the same thing every week, to be ready to play and I'll take them out when I take them out," Crennel said. "In this last game though what you want to see is some efficiency, so if they can show some efficiency, then I might feel good enough to take them out early. If they cannot show efficiency, then they might have to stay longer."
Whenever the starters do come out, Quinn will be working with the second unit.
Crennel told the team before practice Monday that the former Browns starter had won the job over Ricky Stanzi, who was the third-string quarterback last season, ending one of the few places on the roster where there was legitimate competition.
Quinn's experience coupled with Stanzi's poor play made the decision simple.
"Both guys have good ability, and both guys competed hard," Crennel said.
"Competition is always tough, but I think the experience Quinn has gave him the edge."