On Thursday night, the Kansas City Chiefs were swiftly reminded about what it means to be the defending Super Bowl champions, receiving the Detroit Lions’ best shot and losing on their home field 21-20 to start the season 0-1.
Let’s get into the initial reaction from the loss.
Not having Travis Kelce and Chris Jones very nearly didn’t matter — but in the end, it did.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is only one man — and he can only do so much. While he did not have a perfect evening by his standards, by looking back at the game you can see that he did everything he could.
Mahomes was unafraid to run when it was necessary (alarmingly finishing as the Chiefs' leading rusher) connected with teammates during crucial moments (like when Marquez Valdes-Scantling was open downfield on a gifted extra down) and hit his receivers in the hands (to the tune of six drops on the evening).
Kelce tried to push through the nasty knee hyper-extension he suffered 48 hours before the game — and even knowing the result, I would still say it was the correct call to hold him back.
But here’s the thing: when you don’t have your future Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end in the lineup, you can’t make mistakes. And the Chiefs made plenty of them on Thursday night.
The defense only gave up 14 points — prevailing admirably without Jones — but you can’t help but wonder about the game’s result if he had he suited up rather than bizarrely watch the game from a suite at Arrowhead Stadium.
Could the Chiefs have won the game without Kelce and Jones? I think so. Would they have made a two-point difference? Yes... I think so.
Kadararius Toney and Skyy Moore’s awful nights stood out
No game is lost by one single player, but it would be difficult to look at the game and fail to wonder what happened to Toney — whom the Chiefs often described as their No. 1 wide receiver this offseason — on Thursday night.
In limited snaps after rehabbing through training camp, Toney fought to make it back for the Week 1 opener. But he looked like anything but a No. 1 receiver, dropping three passes on the evening.
: #Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes says he “has trust” in Kadarius Toney after crucial drops in their loss tonight, via @adamteicher— JPAFootball (@jasrifootball) September 8, 2023
“I have trust in Kadarius Toney. Stuff doesn’t always go your way.”pic.twitter.com/yPfHnBNFzn
One of Toney’s dropped passes bounced off his hands, becoming a Detroit pick-six to tie the game at 14 — and another one in the fourth quarter could have saved that mistake and the game. For a player who had so much to say this offseason, you would have liked to see him perform better in this first look.
Perhaps a case could be made that it was difficult for Toney to get into a rhythm with limited snaps. But that could not be said for Moore, who earned top-receiver playing time — and came with a lot of preseason hype. (Admittedly, a lot of that came from yours truly).
It’s pretty simple: the things from training camp and the preseason that made us hopeful for Moore’s second-year season did not translate to this first game of the regular season. 11 Chiefs caught at least one pass on Thursday night. None of those players was named Skyy Moore — despite three targets on the evening.
The bright spot of the evening
Head coach Andy Reid revealed there were no new injuries after the game. Even when the team has underperformed, that’s always a good thing.
I was pleasantly surprised with the performances of the pass rushers — particularly Mike Danna and rookie Felix Anudike-Uzomah. Danna knocked a ball down at the line and earned his first sack of the year while Anudike-Uzomah appeared to be a Day 1 contributor, tallying at least a couple of pressures upon first look.
When the Chiefs do finally work things out with Jones, that pass rush may be pretty good. When that happens, however, still remains to be seen.