KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Todd Haley has complete confidence the Kansas City Chiefs can figure out a way to get their offense going in the right direction.
Even if they manage to score once in a while going the wrong way.
The Chiefs' high-profile starters struggled in their third consecutive preseason defeat Friday night, this time to the St. Louis Rams. The first team's only scoring drive came after an interception set up prime field position, and it went one yard backward before Ryan Succop kicked a short field goal.
With one preseason game left, time is running out to get things straightened out.
"The body of work off the games this far hasn't been too great, just in number of reps, so you've got to be smart about overjudging it or underjudging it," Haley said Sunday. "I feel like again, we're on schedule for how we've kind of decided to go about it."
Even if that's a marked departure from the rest of the league.
The Chiefs have been slow getting up to speed throughout training camp, wary about putting players on the field who aren't in the proper condition. That approach has carried over into preseason games, where Haley has played his starters sparingly and given the second team considerable reps.
Matt Cassel, coming off his first Pro Bowl selection, is just 12 of 27 for 132 yards in the preseason. Among expected starting quarterbacks to have played three games so far, Cassel has attempted and completed the fewest number of passes for the least amount of yards.
The league's top-ranked running attack has been equally quiet. Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, who combined to rush for 2,363 yards last season, each carried twice for four yards against the Rams. That despite the addition of former All-Pro fullback Le'Ron McClain, who was brought in as a free agent to help pave the way for his more elusive backfield mates.
"You know the difference between the preseason and the regular season. The regular season, it counts," said Jones, who's been in the league 12 years, tied for the second-longest tenure of anybody on the Chiefs roster. "So I don't think it's a situation where you turn it on right now. We're just focused on getting better every day, we're using every day to get more fundamentally sound."
The problem is the Chiefs weren't even fundamentally sound Friday night.
Right tackle Barry Richardson was dinged for three holding penalties, left tackle Jared Gaither earned one of his own, and Rodney Hudson was called for another one that wiped out Charles' 7-yard TD run. Even Cassel caused a flag to fly when he called back-to-back timeouts - a delay of game.
"We have to take some things out of that game, like I said the other night, specifically some of the areas of discipline and making good decisions on the football field to now get ready for the regular season," Haley said. "I do feel we've made progress. I think we're on schedule."
The rest of the Chiefs believe that to be true, even though the results so far this preseason have given little indication that Haley's cautious approach has been the correct one.
Charles said that he isn't worried about the offense coming alive when games starting counting Sept. 11. He also acknowledged that he hasn't had many carries this preseason - none in the opener and six the last two weeks - but thinks the offense can quickly get up to speed.
"Whenever the coaches get me in the game, that's what I have to go with. I have to respect Coach Haley," said Charles, who remains No. 2 on the depth chart behind Jones despite running for 1,467 yards last season, an average of nearly 6 Â½ per attempt.
Haley limited Charles' carries during the regular season to keep him fresh down the stretch last year, and that seemed to pay off. He had plenty of zip over the final few weeks, when Kansas City made a push for the AFC West title and a playoff berth.
Now, the question is whether Charles' limited carries in the preseason - and the limited reps for the rest of the starters - will pay off when Buffalo comes to town for the regular season.
"When the real season comes, that's when you can really say, 'Get up to speed,'" Charles said. "Right now I'm not even playing into the fourth quarter. When my times comes I've got to go."