It wasn’t what we envisioned from the Super Bowl champions as they opened their season with Banner Night at home on national television.
It wasn’t all bad, though. Despite its championship experience, this is a very young team — and we saw some flashes of upside among its first and second-year players.
Here are a few who stood out — for both good and bad — during Thursday night’s 21-20 loss.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes: You won’t see this game on a highlight reel of Mahomes’ career — and judging only by the box score, it looked like a tough day for the MVP. Still, Mahomes did just about everything he could to carry his team. Working without his primary target (tight end Travis Kelce, who was injured two days before the game), he spread the ball around to twelve different receivers and put the team in position to win. The fact that it didn’t happen simply reminds us that no one player can do it all on their own. Mahomes did his part — and as the season goes on, will undoubtedly bring the young offense along with him.
EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah: Without defensive tackle Chris Jones on the field as he continues his contract holdout, it wasn’t a banner day for Kansas City’s pass rush — but in his first NFL action, the team’s first-round pick provided a glimpse of what is to come. Against Detroit, Anudike-Uzomah got into the backfield and around the edge in a hurry, leading the team with two quarterback hits in just 13 pass-rushing snaps. It was a positive sign for not only his development, but for the future of the Chiefs’ defensive line.
Wide receiver Rashee Rice: The rookie receiver showed some real flashes in his NFL debut. He not only scored his first touchdown, but also showed off his yards-after-catch ability with a 25-yard play. He moved the chains twice and had the team’s highest passer rating when targeted (115.8). We can’t expect Rice to be the team’s No. 1 receiver just yet — but in Week 1, we saw pretty much what we could have realistically hoped to see.
Cornerback Trent McDuffie: Meanwhile, 2021’s first-round pick was displaying his ascension into a top-tier corner. On Thursday night, McDuffie had eight tackles and a forced fumble — and didn’t allow a single completion in coverage. The sky is the limit for this guy.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo: Working without his best player (and against a very good Lions offense), the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator’s unit held the opposition to only 14 points in primetime. When you can do that on a team where Mahomes (and head coach Andy Reid) are running the offense, you should expect to win nearly every single week.
Wide receivers Skyy Moore and Kadarius Toney: On Thursday night, Moore led all Kansas City receivers in snaps but only gained four yards on a run, failing to bring in any of his three targets. Toney was targeted five times and fared even worse, gaining just one yard on one catch. He had a couple of ugly drops and also lost a yard on a run. One could argue that the pass that bounced off his hands to become a Detroit pick-6 was the difference in the game. For the Chiefs, Moore and Toney might be the most important (and relied-upon) wideouts this season — and in the opener, both fell completely flat. But we should expect the team to go right back to these guys in Week 2. They are too important to bench — and the team has no way to replace them anyway.
The Kansas City running game: Forty five yards (and 3.2 yards per carry) is what the Chiefs’ running backs combined to do against the Lions. That isn’t good enough. Mahomes matched that total on on six carries to lead the team. The team boasts the best interior offensive line in the business — and have now added two tackles who are more than competent. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to have a running game that can help when key players are missing. Since neither Isiah Pacheco nor Clyde Edwards-Helaire had much success, it’s probably not just a running back issue. It might be a schematic problem, a play-calling issue or poor blocking — or all of these things.
Wide receiver Richie James: It’s difficult to pin the wide receiver issues on any one player — but against the Lions, there were problems other than drops that made things difficult for the Chiefs’ passing offense. On more than one occasion, it seemed that James may have run the wrong route — or wasn’t otherwise quite on the same page with the offense. He was targeted just twice, catching one pass for six yards. While didn’t get a chance to run back a kickoff (every kickoff in the game was a touchback), he was, however, OK on punt returns. Overall, his contributions were very limited. So rather than being the reliable veteran presence we expected, he was simply part of the chaos of the passing game.