We’ve reached the final stage of the NFL preseason. Week 3 of exhibition play featured two football games, confusingly in the same time slot. At 8 PM ET, the Green Bay Packers kicked off against the Kansas City Chiefs, and 15 minutes later, the San Francisco 49ers began their battle with the Houston Texans.
But that’s ok. We’re not complaining about the return of football or that we’re now one week closer to the regular season. Before we get that far, let’s review the action from Thursday night by looking at the biggest winners and losers from the four teams’ preseason finales.
Related: NFL games today – 2022 NFL schedule
NFL preseason winner: Dameon Pierce, Houston Texans show grit
The Houston Texans are sick of being punched in the mouth. They want to win. Even though the games don’t count yet, the Texans showed they’re ready to change their outside perception. No one gives them a chance at reaching the postseason, even in an AFC South division that isn’t among the NFL’s best.
Right from the jump, the Texans had some spunk, and Davis Mills never let his foot off the gas. They gained 85 yards in 11 plays on their first drive, with fourth-round rookie Dameon Pierce rushing for 37 and the one-yard touchdown to cap off the series.
Defensively, they held San Francisco’s Trey Lance-led first-team offense to two punts and a turnover on downs.
Where did Kurt Hinish come from? He’s an undrafted rookie defensive tackle from Notre Dame, but on Thursday, he looked like Aaron Donald. Not quite, but he routinely made his way into the backfield. He finished with two tackles for loss, a sack, and a QB hit. The 6-foot-1, 296 lb tackle was a wrecking ball in the trenches.
Head coach Lovie Smith’s roster decision’s got a lot tougher after Hinish’s performance. They have Roy Lopez and Maliek Collins penciled in as starters and 2020 second-round pick Ross Blacklock as a backup, yet they also drafted Thomas Booker IV in the fifth round. But Hinish’s play has to garner strong consideration for a roster spot. Blacklock could suddenly find himself on the trade block ahead of Tuesday’s cutdown date.
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs rookie class already flashing talent
It’s only preseason, but so far, so good for the top members of the Kansas City Chiefs draft class.
Well, it wasn’t all good, as a first-round pick and projected starting cornerback Trent McDuffie had to leave the game in the first quarter due to a concussion. He should be healthy enough to bounce back for their Week 1 matchup with the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 11. While McDuffie missing valuable reps during exhibition play isn’t something to celebrate, the ones who managed to stay healthy reinforced the team’s confidence in their abilities on Thursday night.
After picking up a sack in each of his first two preseason games, fellow first-round pick George Karlaftis continued to wreak havoc in the trenches. He only tallied another tackle before leaving early on as well, though not due to injury. He, too, looks to have a Week 1 starting spot wrapped up.
Second-round rookie Skyy Moore also flashed on Thursday night. His first touch of the night saw Moore return a punt 35 yards. He later added a 17-yard return. In this case, it wasn’t so much Moore’s blazing speed, as he didn’t look to be giving it his all, but his elusiveness and acceleration were enough to carve out some space.
Fellow second-round rookie safety Bryan Cook intercepted a Jordan Love pass and added four tackles plus a pass deflection. Fourth-round rookie cornerback Joshua Williams led the team with six tackles, he also deflected a pass.
Finally, seventh-round rookie running back Isiah Pacheco’s effort can’t go unnoticed either. He took 10 carries for 52 yards and added a 17-yard punt return as well. It’s odd seeing a smaller, speedy No. 10 running around out there knowing it’s not Tyreek Hill, but Pacheco gets the job done.
Winner: Shane Buechele continues strong preseason QB play
Chiefs’ backup quarterback Shane Buechele is entering his second season after being undrafted out of SMU. He may not be competing for the QB2 role, as veteran Chad Henne likely has that gig locked down, but he’s looking more and more like he could enter next year as the primary backup to Patrick Mahomes.
- Shane Buechele preseason stats: 31-of-51 (60.7%), 335 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
Buechele sat on the practice squad for the Chiefs all of last season. His play this preseason likely assures he won’t be able to slip through waivers again.
This was probably the easiest throw of the preseason for Buechele as Matt Bushman broke loose, but that’s just the Chiefs’ offense sometimes.
He’s displayed a rocket arm and an ability to get the ball out quickly this preseason. For being a player nobody wanted to draft two years ago, Buechele has shown a lot of teams were wrong.
Loser: Jordan Love delivering mixed results
While he hasn’t had much on-field experience, especially with his new receivers, it’s Jordan Love‘s third NFL season. As a former first-round quarterback, he should be shredding preseason defenses. That hasn’t exactly been the case after making three preseason appearances in which he played a healthy amount in each game.
- Jordan Love 2022 preseason stats: 41-of-74 (55.4%), 437 yards, 3 TDs, 4 INTs
Yet it’s not that Love has been bad per se. He’s made several good throws, but his receivers have just dropped a lot of passes. On Thursday, Love generated 10 points on seven drives while struggling downfield.
Love still has a few things to work on, but the Packers have to be happy with his progress so far. Does he look like he can easily step into the cleats of Aaron Rodgers? Not exactly, but nobody expects Love to be a four-time MVP.
Loser: 49ers’ backups weren’t thrilled about preseason finale
As a team that only played their second-string defense, it’s not like the 49ers’ disappointing effort should be overblown. It was likely just a case of going against the Texans’ first-team offense, combined with the fact that Houston is looking to prove themselves. The 49ers just aren’t torqued up about playing out the string of exhibition action. Who can blame them?
But it wasn’t just the defense. The offense didn’t exactly flourish either. The Texans held Kyle Shanahan’s crew to a shutout, yet it’s not like we saw many opportunities for Deebo Samuel or George Kittle, who both finished with one target apiece.
Aside from this brilliant Samuel Womack coverage leading to a Tarvarius Moore endzone interception, tonight wasn’t all that exciting for 49ers fans. Bring on the regular season.
Bonus winner: Amazon’s Thursday Night Football debut
Debuting their Thursday Night Football broadcast crew of Al Michaels, Kirk Herbstreit, and sideline reporter Kaylee Hartung, Amazon has to be happy with their early returns. Michaels is an absolute legend, and Herbstreit has decades of experience as well. Hartung brought charisma in her various sideline interviews, which included Andrew Whitworth suggesting he may not be retired yet.
The actual 1080p picture was crystal clear. It’s not quite 4K, as Amazon has announced they won’t be broadcasting in 4K this season, but it provides hope for other streaming services, perhaps even for them landing NFL’s Sunday Ticket package in the near future. For now, we caught a glimpse of what to expect on each Thursday night this season, with Amazon being the exclusive home for the Thursday Night Football package.