Final score: Kansas City Chiefs 44, Arizona Cardinals 21
In Week 1, the Chiefs handled their business — and the Cardinals were no match for head coach Andy Reid’s squad. Kansas City leapt out to a quick 14-0 lead and never looked back. After the first two scores, this game never felt like it was in question.
Offense (Talon Graff)
The offense picked up right where they left off in the preseason. They marched up and down at will during the first half, scoring a touchdown on each of their first three drives. The offense throttled down a bit after that, but the Chiefs took a 23-7 lead to the locker room at intermission. The second half wasn’t much different; the defense held Arizona in check while quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the offense continued to put up yards and points.
The offensive line prevented the Cardinals’ pass rush from notching any sacks, but Mahomes took his fair share of hits. On his touchdown throw to tight end Travis Kelce in the first quarter, he landed hard on his non-throwing wrist and was clearly in discomfort for the rest of the game. It was heavily taped and he was using his right hand for his handoffs. Despite this, he was near-perfect with 223 yards and three touchdowns in the first half.
Second-year starting right guard Trey Smith left the game early and was not able to return. Fourth-year pro Nick Allegretti stepped in to take over. The unit looked solid as run blockers, opening up lanes for Kansas City ball carriers. The pass protection will need to be improved for Thursday’s matchup against a Los Angeles Chargers team that now has Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire was a key piece to the offense’s hot start, totaling 74 yards of offense and accounting for two receiving touchdowns. He looked fresh and was playing with an extra gear. Seventh-round rookie Isiah Pacheco received a healthy amount of carries in the second half — and punched in his first NFL touchdown. Pacheco led all running backs with 62 yards on 12 carries. Jerick McKinnon contributed on the ground and through the air as well.
As Mahomes predicted, he was finding all kinds of different receivers. The Chiefs’ signal-caller targeted 10 different receivers; nine of them hauled in at least one reception. Kelce provided what he always does, finishing his day with eight catches for 121 yards and a touchdown. Fellow tight end Jody Fortson also hauled in a touchdown pass — while Noah Grey was present on multiple plays.
New free-agent wide receivers Juju Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling each had solid debuts for Kansas City. Smith-Schuster caught six for 79 yards and Valdes-Scantling had four receptions for 44 yards. Rookie Skyy Moore had a big 30-yard catch and was also the team’s primary punt returner. It feels like only a matter of time before he breaks one of his touches for his first career score.
Offensive Player of the Game: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes
No. 15 was as good as we have seen, completing 30 of 39 passes for 360 yards and five touchdown passes to four different receivers. He was surgical with his throws and his decision-making, but he took some lumps. We will have to see how severe his wrist injury is — but at least on Sunday, he was able to play through it.
Defense (Bryan Stewart)
On the defensive side, three rookies — cornerback Trent McDuffie, defensive end George Karlaftis and linebacker Leo Chenal — all earned starting nods.
In the first half, there weren’t a lot of flashy or exciting plays beyond a lone sack by cornerback L’Jarius Sneed. But by halftime, the defense had allowed just seven points. They’ll take that every single week.
Chris Jones was often disruptive in the Arizona backfield, even forcing an early fumble by running back James Conner.
The second half wasn’t much different. The Chiefs didn’t give up more points until very late in the game — when they had built up a 37-7 lead. In the last half of the fourth quarter, we saw some depth defenders getting valuable playing time.
Linebacker Nick Bolton led the team with 10 total tackles, while defensive linemen Carlos Dunlap and Tershawn Wharton both recorded sacks in the second half.
The big thing to watch coming out of this game is the health of cornerback Trent McDuffie. He started his first game playing quite well, but pulled a hamstring in the second quarter and was quickly ruled out. It feels unlikely that he’ll be ready for Thursday night’s game — especially Reid’s history of being cautious with injuries. In the meantime, Kansas City will have to trust its depth.
It should be noted that the Chargers are also dealing with injury questions. Their star wide receiver Keenan Allen left their opening game with a hamstring strain.
Defensive Player of the Game: Linebacker Nick Bolton
In a game with so few highlight plays, Sunday’s defensive MVP is the second-year linebacker.
If he remains healthy, Bolton is the kind of player who can lead the league in tackles this season. Against Arizona, we often saw him around the football — a staple of his skill set. Sometimes it doesn’t show up in the stat sheet, but you can be certain his communication and smarts on the field helped limit dynamic Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray to just 29 rushing yards.