Jamaal Charles, on his first carry since ACL surgery on his left knee last September, took a solid shot from the Arizona cornerback right where the scar is. But he jumped up and hustled back to the huddle, helping KC score touchdowns on its first two possessions en route to a 27-17 victory over the Cardinals in a very satisfying preseason opener.
"That was a relief," said coach Romero Crennel. "For him to take that hit, I think that helped clear his mind about where he is with that injury. Until you get hit on it, you just never know. You're always wondering about it. Now he's been hit in a game and I think that will help him going forward."
Charles, the NFL's second-leading rusher in 2010, had 12 yards on three carries and caught one pass for 11 yards. Two other key starters who also sat out last season with ACL surgery -- safety Eric Berry and tight end Tony Moeaki -- also played with no apparent problem, lifting the spirits of coaches and fans alike.
Charles insisted he "wasn't even paying attention" to the hit to the left knee.
"It was good just to be on the field again and running the ball again in a real live game," he said. "It was great to be out there with my teammates."
Did he feel like the old Jamaal, the one whose 6.4 yards per carry in 2010 was just under Jim Brown's NFL record?
"I don't know. You tell me," he said with a grin. "I feel fresh. My body feels real good. I feel ready to go."
In their second possession, the Chiefs romped 72 yards in just four plays, capped by Shaun Draughn's 4-yard run.
"It's disappointing that we didn't play better," said Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt. "I don't accept that. I just don't think it was a good effort by our team and I'm glad we've got three [preseason] games left to clear that up."
Little was decided in the battle between John Skelton and Kevin Kolb for Arizona's starting quarterback job. But William Powell, a second-year running back from Kansas State, had a big game, rushing for 92 yards on nine carries. He scored the Cardinals' first touchdown on a 2-yard run on fourth down after exploding for 67 yards a moment before.
Skelton started and was 3 for 6 for 35 yards and one interception. Kolb, who started in the Hall of Fame game against New Orleans, came off the bench and was one for 5 for 21 yards. The Cardinals, who spent the week practicing at the Chiefs' camp in nearby St. Joseph, Mo., dropped to 0-2 in the preseason, while the Chiefs matched their preseason victory total for the past three seasons.
"I thought John looked comfortable," Whisenhunt said. "He made a mistake when he called a run the wrong way. But he made some good, accurate throws. Kevin looked good early, but we continue to have protection issues when he's in there. I thought they did OK."
Cassel, who missed most of the second half last season with a hand injury, looked sharp. He connected with a wide-open Hillis to finish a 12-play, 72-yard march for a 7-0 lead the first time the Chiefs had the ball and was 5 for 6 for 67 yards. He rifled a 29-yard completion to Dexter McCluster to set up Draughn's TD run with 4:13 left in the first quarter.
Hillis, an offseason free agent signing, had 41 yards on four carries. He broke through a big hole on the right side of the line for a 28-yard run in the second TD drive, helping the first-teamers to touchdowns on the only two possessions they played.
Abram Elam intercepted Skelton's pass intended for Larry Fitzgerald and returned it 37 yards to set up Ryan Succop's 22-yard field goal in the third quarter. Succop's 24-yarder following Devon Wylie's long punt return made it 20-10.
Ricky Stanzi, the Chiefs' third-string quarterback, found backup tight end Steve Maneri for 19 yards in the fourth period to help set up a 7-yard touchdown run by Cyrus Gray. Gray had 15 carries for 65 yards and Maneri had three catches for 69 yards.
The replacement officials were not shy about throwing flags, calling six penalties on each team for a total of 149 yards.