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After red-zone meltdowns against Minnesota, Chiefs trying to figure out how to get on track

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Chiefs are not expected to play their starters much on Thursday night in Green Bay — if they play at all. And that means they might not step on the field having scored a touchdown when they open the regular season Sept. 7 against Tennessee.

"We need to do a better job," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "Offensively, it clearly wasn't good enough, whether it was protection or blocking or seeing holes. Throwing the ball. There just was no rhythm, and again, that's my responsibility as the play caller to get guys in rhythm."

Get guys in the end zone, too.

It hardly helps that the Chiefs have been ransacked by injuries and suspensions, especially on offence, and were without several key contributors against the Vikings.

Right tackle Donald Stephenson was benched after the NFL handed down a four-game suspension for violating its performance-enhancing substance policy. Jeff Allen slid over from left guard to fill his spot, and Ricky Henry and Jeff Linkenbach alternated filling in at guard.

None of them fared too well as the Vikings piled up five sacks.

"There are no excuses in this league. Period," Linkenbach said afterward in a quiet Chiefs locker room. "We need to do better as a unit, not just any one player."

Running back Jamaal Charles sat out the second straight preseason game as he recovers from a foot injury. He's expected to be available for the regular season, though.

The same can't be said of wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and Junior Hemingway, who both were out of uniform against Minnesota. Bowe has been dealing with a groin injury and Hemingway has been out with a hip injury, and it's unclear exactly when they'll be able to get on the field.

Besides, Bowe is also suspended for the season opener after his arrest last November.

"We have to be realistic. Dwayne's not going to be there for the first game," Smith said. "but it's just not the guy that's going to be playing his position. We all need to step up."

That includes Smith, who was intercepted by the Vikings' Captain Munnerlyn on a late throw into the end zone, and again by Chad Greenway on a poor throw near the goal line.

"We all would have loved to end it here on a better note," Smith said, "but I'm still very comfortable with where we're at. We got a ton of great work in here. Just need to finish."

Smith finished just 14 of 24 for 140 yards against Minnesota. Backup quarterback Tyler Bray threw a late touchdown pass to Albert Wilson for the Chiefs' only touchdown.

The running game fared little better without Charles. Knile Davis got the start and carried 12 times for 27 yards, an average of just over 2 yards per carry. Cyrus Gray had a couple of long runs as he fights for a roster spot, but they came against the Vikings' backup defence.

In all, the Chiefs managed barely over 300 yards of total offence against a defence that was among the worst in the NFL in every notable statistical category last season.

"We have to get it going. We have to get it rolling," Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said. "We have yet to have two consistent drives or a consistent offensive flow going through the game. Time is ticking, but I've got faith in the guys around here and the leadership around here to get this thing rolling."

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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