Jamaal Charles took a solid hit to the left knee on his very first carry, then bounced right up and helped the Kansas City Chiefs score touchdowns on their first two possessions en route to a 27-17 preseason victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Friday night.
Charles, the NFL's second-leading rusher in 2010, had 12 yards on three carries and caught one pass for 11 yards in his first action since ACL surgery on the left knee last September. 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, a huge relief for fans and coaches.
For the second straight game, the defense for Arizona (tied No. 23 in the AP Pro 32) yielded a touchdown on the opening drive, with Matt Cassel hitting Peyton Hillis on a 12-yard scoring strike to open the game.
In their second possession, the Chiefs (No. 18) romped 72 yards in just four plays, capped by Shaun Draughn's 4-yard run.
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.
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 Succup'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.
With 8:28 left, the Cardinals made it 27-17 when Richard Bartel connected with Jaymar Johnson on an 18-yard touchdown pass.
The replacement officials were not shy about throwing flags, calling six penalties on each team for a total of 149 yards.
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