The 2020 NFL season kicked off in primetime Thursday night with what might be considered an AFC rivalry game. The Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans have a competitive history, and each features a quarterback impossible to root against. The Chiefs started their title defense off with a relatively comfortable win that was not as close as the final score might indicate.
We saw good performances from familiar faces, including Travis Kelce, Patrick Mahomes, Tyrann Mathieu, Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins, but let’s highlight others who are new to the scene — or stood out in more unexpected ways in this week’s edition of winners and losers.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire: It was the worst-kept secret in the offseason; the kid is going to be a star. Nearly all of the abilities we saw on film from LSU translated to the NFL right away, including his ability to bounce off contact (106 yards after contact!) and break tackles (7) running inside and outside. The only thing we didn’t see was his pass-catching ability, but it is a safe bet that it is coming very soon.
Edwards-Halaire became the youngest player with 130+ rush yards, 1 rush TD in an NFL debut (21 years, 152 days. He also, per @WillSelvaTV tweets from a minute ago, hasn't lost a football game since 2018.— Peter Schrager (@PSchrags) September 11, 2020
Tommy Townsend: It can’t be easy taking the place of Dustin Colquitt, the guy was here through multiple eras and made a habit of pinning teams inside the 10-yard line. Townsend looked like an old pro in his debut, with a 54-yard punt and one downed inside the 5-yard line.
L’Jarius Sneed: What a debut for the rookie, who might have been under the most pressure on Thursday night. To start his first NFL game in primetime and on an island, then to have the other starter go down with an injury and still perform the way he did is remarkable. He showed a nose for the ball, with two passes defensed and an interception, and he was solid in coverage. He’s a guy that will compete on every snap, and it doesn’t appear that the stage is too grand for him.
Brett Veach: Look at the list above, and the players have one thing in common: they’re all part of the Chiefs’ 2020 rookie class. We expected a big day from the first-round pick, but to have a fantastic start from a fourth-round rookie corner and an undrafted punter is truly remarkable. Also, defensive end Mike Danna and defensive lineman Tershawn Wharton both saw significant snaps and combined for five tackles on the night. We’re expecting Willie Gay to eventually get into the linebacker rotation and make an impact as well. To have at least six rookies making significant contributions on a Super Bowl-winning roster where nearly everyone returned is insane. It’s a testament to the work being done by the general manager and his personnel staff.
Dorian O’Daniel: The guy we thought might get cut just a week ago saw only five defensive snaps. But in those snaps? He was in on four tackles and a sack. Perhaps he’ll see an increased role going forward — the Chiefs can clearly use the speed in their linebacker corps.
#SackNation: Chris Jones was involved in two sacks (credited for 1.5) and six pressures, and Frank Clark had another. Both were a problem for the Houston offensive line all game long. These guys are both going to make their case for Defensive Player of the Year and have a real chance at establishing a reputation as the best defensive tackle-defensive end duo in the league.
Kelechi Osemele: There was a different feel to this game, with the Chiefs running the ball 34 times, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Much of that had to do with the new face on the offensive line. Osemele took over a starting guard job when Laurent Duvernay-Tardif opted out, and so far, it appears to be an upgrade. Osemele and the rest of the line were able to impose their will in a way that we haven’t seen from the Chiefs in the past.
Football fans everywhere: We needed this game. With everything else going on in the world, it feels like it’s been several long years since the 49ers and Chiefs played in Miami. Just seeing the Texans and Chiefs on the beautiful field at Arrowhead Stadium Thursday night made the world feel a bit more normal again. Yes, there were some unusual sights, including the limited number of fans in attendance, the masks and other precautions being taken. But it was football in primetime, featuring two young quarterbacks that represent the best of the present and future of the NFL. As witnesses of that, we are all winners.
The Chiefs linebackers: Watching the Chiefs linebackers tackling and in coverage was the most frustrating part of Week 1. Ben Niemann led the group in snaps, struggling at times, and Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson were outplayed as well. When will Willie Gay (zero defensive snaps) get his opportunity?
Demarcus Robinson: Two catchable balls in the end zone, yet no touchdowns. He took the bulk of the snaps and was targeted six times, but he just wasn’t able to finish when he got opportunities.
Mahomes to Demarcus Robinson: "Sorry bro, didn't mean to hit you in the hands...again" pic.twitter.com/VgJmzeApV7— Pick Six Podcast (@picksixpod) September 11, 2020
Mecole Hardman: The other story at wide receiver was Hardman, who was in for only 28% of the snaps and had only one short target, resulting in a 6-yard catch. We expected a larger role for the second-year receiver who showed a knack for big plays in 2019.
Andy Reid’s facemask: See tweet below.
Andy Reid showing off this year by outcoaching the rest of the NFL without actually being able to see the field pic.twitter.com/v9FoDNZPKL— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) September 11, 2020
Who are your winners and losers from Week 1? Weigh in below.