The Kansas City Chiefs came back to beat the Cleveland Browns in dramatic fashion, 33-29. Let’s round up the winners and losers from Week 1:
Patrick Mahomes: The script seemed familiar. The Chiefs were down early, the defense couldn’t get a stop and it was clear that Mahomes would have to carry the team on his back if they were to win. He quietly kept the game within reach with a rushing touchdown and a short toss to Travis Kelce. When the defense finally got a break, forcing a fumble, Mahomes took a sack on a deep drop, and they settled for a field goal. When the Browns scored again, it looked like trouble. But, one play, 75 yards later, and the Chiefs were in business again thanks to Mahomes and Tyreek Hill. Then, after a special-teams turnover, Mahomes had the team in the end zone and in the lead on his next passing attempt. Enjoy it, Chiefs fans; every game is winnable with the leadership and competitiveness of No. 15. Oh, and statistically, he’s been pretty good too:
In the midst of today's thrilling victory, Patrick Mahomes broke the NFL records for passing yards (14,489) and passing touchdowns (117) through a player's first 50 career starts.— Matt McMullen (@KCChiefs_Matt) September 13, 2021
The crazy part? This was start No. 47. The dude is rewriting the record books in front of our eyes.
Juan Thornhill: There was a lot of pressure on Thornhill to produce in the opener without Mathieu, and he really came through as the game went on. Thornhill was active and physical, with highlight-reel plays like the downfield pass breakup to go along with seven tackles. He looked like the old Thornhill, which is a great sign, especially when he has his running mate back next week.
Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce: Hill’s monster day (11 for 197) included a 75-yard touchdown that changed the game. Kelce (6 for 76) was on the receiving end of the other two scores from Mahomes. There shouldn’t be a single doubt that these two are among the elite in the NFL and on Hall of Fame trajectories. Their respective connections with Mahomes are on a whole other level, and the season began with the dominant performances we’ve come to expect.
Chris Lammons: Vindicated in his presence on the 53-man roster, Lammons was a force on special teams in this game. His two tackles felt like momentum and field position shifts as the Chiefs fought their way back in this one. There’s value in what Lammons does for this team, and he might just stick around. Uncle Dave might just know what he’s doing.
Chris Jones: He was quiet early, as the defense struggled around him, but Jones came through in some huge spots, including the sack that kept the Browns off the scoreboard before the half. With his sack in the fourth quarter, the inside-outside experience is off to a great start in 2021.
Nick Bolton: Stepping up into a substantial role early in his rookie season, Bolton looked like a seasoned veteran — seven tackles, including one for a loss in his debut, were more than should have been expected from Bolton. He’ll continue to get extended snaps going forward, as we haven’t seen any reason to be concerned so far.
Mike Hughes: What a play to end the game for the Chiefs’ newly-acquired CB3. When his primary competition, Deandre Baker, was listed as inactive, the pressure was on Hughes to play a substantial role. He was close to making several plays, but Mayfield was putting him in some impossible spots. Hughes kept battling, though, and he sealed the victory with a leaping interception, pulling the ball away from the receiver.
Chiefs receiving targets not named Hill and Kelce: For all the talk around the new faces at receiver and tight end, the results just weren’t there in Week 1. After the big two, the rest of the Chiefs' weapons combined for 70 yards— including 19 for Mecole Hardman (who ran out of bounds short of a first down) and 9 for Demarcus Robinson (who also cost the team a first down with a backward run). Jody Fortson and Noah Gray were both shut out in their respective debuts. There will come a time when a game will depend on the secondary receiving targets stepping up, and they’ll have to do better.
Run defense: This one looked like one of those games before rebuilding the Chiefs' defense, where they were just outmatched and too soft to slow down an opponent, much less stop them. The Browns racked up 153 yards on 5.8 yards per carry and four touchdowns allowed on the ground. While the second half was better, and the defense got off the field when it counted the most, there were plenty of reasons for concern.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire: Expectations are high for the second-year running back who has the skill set to be a force in the passing and running game. Against the Browns, Edwards-Helaire had his moments, but he seemed to miss opportunities to break a few plays by making the wrong cut or not following his blockers. His 72 total yards felt like a disappointment, but there will be plenty of opportunities for him to watch the film and get better.
Chiefs’ pass rush: Outside of the two sacks by Chris Jones, this team wasn’t able to generate any pressure on Baker Mayfield— at all. This week, they were missing Frank Clark and needed other complementary pass rushers to step up and make plays. Jarran Reed, Turk Wharton and Mike Danna have high expectations coming into the season, and they’ll need to improve upon this performance to live up to them.
The Chiefs offensive line: We understood that it was a difficult matchup this week, and there was the fact that it might take some time for these guys to become a cohesive unit. We didn’t expect a complete shutout of Myles Garrett and company. However, we thought that the running game would improve behind the massive new additions. But, the Chiefs could only muster 73 yards on the ground, and Mahomes was sacked twice. There were some quick and ugly losses by the tackles, especially Brown — and the longest run on the night was 9 yards. They’ll get better after this first test, but the difference in the offensive line from last year to this year wasn’t as clear in game one as we would have liked.