The ugly part wasn't the scoreboard, although things got out of hand in a hurry. It wasn't the egregious stream of turnovers, or the pass protection, or the fact Jon Baldwin looks like Fred Biletnikoff in practice and Fred Flintstone against live competition.
No, the really ugly part of the Kansas City Chiefs' 31-17 exhibition loss in St. Louis was safety Kendrick Lewis, leading with his shoulder and then seemingly going limp. It was Kendrick Lewis, slamming his helmet against the Edward Jones Dome turf in frustration. It was Kendrick Lewis, in the locker room late Saturday night, wearing a sling.
Scores in exhibition games are window dressing. The goal is to get out of August with your roster intact -- and hey, if your dignity makes it out clean through the other side of the tunnel, swell. The Rams looked hungry and crisp, the way the Chiefs looked hungry and crisp against Arizona. It's a practice tilt, a dress rehearsal with opening-night prices. There's nothing about the Governor's Cup itself that should cause you to lose much sleep.
The Lewis situation, now, that's different.
By all accounts, Eric Berry's running mate appeared to ding his shoulder late in the second quarter while corralling the Rams' Brian Quick -- the same shoulder that required off-season surgery. As of early Sunday morning, we didn't know the severity of the injury, although after Lewis' sideline outburst, one starts to fear the worst.
While a tough break, it's also a manageable one: The Chiefs signed safety Abram Elam, a veteran of six NFL seasons, to serve as an understudy. But when you combine Lewis with the mysterious status of starting cornerback Brandon Flowers, that's where our script starts to turn a little bit -- well, dark.
Flowers has been out of the picture since July 31 with what was initially reported to be a heel injury. During the preseason rout of the Cardinals on August 10, the No. 1 defense was clicking on so many beats that nobody seemed to notice that the former Virginia Tech standout, who's averaged four interceptions and 19 pass break-ups over the past three seasons, was even gone.
Saturday, you noticed. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford made a point to pick on corners Jalil Brown and Javier Arenas, Flowers' replacements, and sliced them up over more than a quarter-and-a-half of work. The St. Louis signal-caller marched the hosts quickly down the field on each of their first two possessions, zip, zip, zip, while completing five of his first six throws. For the evening, Bradford was positively surgical, connecting on six of nine attempts for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
Meanwhile, former Chiefs corner Brandon Carr, now with Dallas, collected two interceptions for the Cowboys. That poured more salt on an old wound. So did this: In 2011, Bradford -- nice kid, not a star yet -- ranked No. 27 in the NFL in terms of passing yards (2,164). As a point of comparison, health permitting, here are the first four quarterbacks on the Chiefs' docket once the regular season gets underway are Atlanta's Matt Ryan (No. 8 in the league with 4,177 yards); Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick (No. 11 with 3,832 yards); New Orleans' Drew Brees (No. 1 with 5,476 yards); and San Diego's Philip Rivers (No. 6 with 4,624 yards).
So, yeah, on the whole, picnic lunches figure to be few and far between. Kansas City resides in a division where it figures to see Rivers twice, Oakland's Carson Palmer (275 passing yards per game in '11, seventh-most in the league) twice and (deep breath) Peyton Manning twice. If you're trying to hold a secondary together by chewing gum, duct tape and rosary beads, those cats are liable to find the weak link and tear your backside to shreds. In the AFC West, every week is Shark Week.
A defense without Flowers and Lewis in August is an occupational hazard. In September, it's an issue. Is it too early to panic? Absolutely. But brother, it's never too early to pray.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org