The Kansas City Chiefs’ season started with a bang: a resounding 44-21 road victory over the Arizona Cardinals that was over early enough for the backups to get in some time during the second half. The new-look offense (and the young defense) both asserted themselves over an overmatched, shorthanded opponent.
Here are a few who stood out as the Chiefs got to 1-0 for the eighth straight year.
Note: Applying the labels “winners” and “losers” is not intended to be a judgment on the talent or character of any of these players. It’s just a simple way to grade their performance in a single game. No disrespect is intended.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire: The Kansas City offense was nearly unstoppable in the first half, and Edwards-Helaire was at the center of it all. This was a very good start for his season, which featured some fairly explosive plays that included an 18-yard run and a 25-yard catch. The third-year running back ended up with 10 touches for 64 yards and two receiving touchdowns. But if the game had been closer in the second half, you’d have to think that he might have gotten more work later.
Isaiah Pacheco: The back that did own the second half was the highly-touted seventh-round rookie. Pacheco came in to close out the game, getting the job done with some explosive runs of his own. His 12 carries for 62 yards led all Kansas City running backs. He certainly looks like he’ll be a part of the offense this season.
Patrick Mahomes: No Tyreek? No Problem. The quarterback targeted 10 different receivers in a masterful display that reminded the league that he’s still the best player in the world, collecting five touchdown passes while playing through an injured left wrist. Mahomes was even kind enough to run up a big-enough lead to get his friend Chad Henne some reps — and to chase down Pacheco’s first touchdown ball.
Travis Kelce: Now that he’s 32 years old, some might have expected a drop-off in Kelce’s play. But if they did, they haven’t been watching closely enough. On Sunday, Kelce looked like he could play another 10 years, scoring the season’s first touchdown and ending the game with 121 yards on eight catches. He’s well on his way to another record-breaking season.
Nick Bolton: The second-year linebacker picked up right where he left off in 2021 with another 10-tackle performance. His improved instincts and playing speed were evident against the Cardinals. He has the look of a potential All-Pro.
Harrison Butker: With a hat tip to Justin Reid — who filled in for a few kicks — Butker put in an impressive, gritty performance on Sunday. After sustaining an injury to his ankle — which made it very difficult to plant and approach his kicks — he came back on the field to nail a 54-yard field goal almost flat-footed. And he was perfect on four extra points.
Juan Thornhill: Before the season, he predicted he’d be an All-Pro. In the first game, Thornhill made at least a couple of plays that might make us believe that it could happen. With a couple of spectacular pass breakups on long downfield passes, it appears his range and ball skills are as strong as his confidence.
Mecole Hardman: After scoring a touchdown in the opener, it might seem odd to see the fourth-year wideout on this list. But with only three catches on six targets, Hardman definitely left some plays on the field — including at least one that would have been a touchdown if he had finished the play. Hardman was even outshined in his punt-return duties by rookie Skyy Moore, who took over after Hardman’s first attempt went for for only three yards. Hardman will have some big moments this season — but other than his touchdown, Week 1 didn’t give us much to be excited about.
George Karlaftis: It was a very quiet debut for the Purdue rookie — but some of that could have been by design. The defensive end didn’t make any impact plays against the Cardinals, logging just a single tackle. But the game plan against Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray likely called for Karlaftis and fellow defensive end Frank Clark to hang back and contain Murray, preventing him from escaping the pocket. (Murray had only 29 rushing yards in the game). Perhaps on Thursday, we’ll see Karlaftis’ newly improved sack celebration.
The Chiefs’ depth chart: OK... so this isn’t a specific player — and we can’t blame anyone for injuries — but on Sunday, they really piled up. Along with Mahomes’ wrist and Butker’s ankle, cornerback Trent McDuffie, wide receiver Justin Watson and right guard Trey Smith also turned up with injuries. With the Los Angeles Chargers game looming on Thursday night, the timing couldn’t be worse. This season, Kansas City’s depth will be tested early.