The Kansas City Chiefs opened the season with a bang on Sunday afternoon, defeating the Arizona Cardinals, 44-21, at State Farm Stadium to kick off the campaign with a victory.
"I'm happy for our football team. The guys played hard, [they played] aggressive and they didn't let up," said Head Coach Andy Reid. "I thought we played fast defensively…and on offense, the question was [how] the [new] receivers would work with [quarterback Patrick Mahomes]. We all wanted to see that full-speed, and I thought they worked well."
Indeed, Mahomes completed 30-of-39 passes for 360 yards and five touchdowns in the victory, tallying the sixth five-touchdown performance of his young career. Mahomes is one of only six players in NFL history with that many five-touchdown games, joining Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Dan Marino.
Mahomes led the Chiefs to a touchdown on each of Kansas City's first three possessions, finding tight end Travis Kelce for a 9-yard score on the opening series of the game. It was the beginning of what turned out to be a big day for Kelce, who finished the contest with a team-most eight receptions for 121 yards. The veteran tight end now has the third-most 100-yard games (30) for any tight end in NFL history, trailing only Rob Gronkowski (32) and Tony Gonzalez (31).
Coincidentally, State Farm Stadium was the site of Kelce's first 100-yard game way back in 2014.
"Whether it was my first day on the job or a day like today, I feel like I always have something to prove," Kelce said. "I feel like I always have to take my game to the next level. That's the mentality I've always had of wanting to keep getting better at my craft."
Kelce was one of nine players to haul in a reception on Sunday and contributed to an offensive onslaught that racked up 33 first downs and averaged 7.4 yards-per-play. In fact, of the Chiefs' 66 total offensive snaps, 14 of them gained at least 15 yards.
Tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire was right in the middle of that production, finding the end zone on each of the Chiefs' next two possessions following Kelce's touchdown. The latter score, which took place on fourth down, put Kansas City ahead by a score of 20-7.
The game was far from over at that point though, and a critical juncture soon took place just prior to halftime following a Chiefs' fumble in their own territory. Arizona took over at Kansas City's 42-yard line with one minute remaining in the half, and armed with a renewed sense of momentum and the benefit of receiving the second-half kickoff, the Cardinals seemed primed to pull themselves back into the game.
The Chiefs' defense had other ideas, however, forcing a turnover on downs that not only kept Arizona off the scoreboard, but also provided Kansas City's offense with an opportunity to score before the break. It was a chance that Mahomes didn't waste, as he marched the Chiefs into position for a 54-yard field goal by kicker Harrison Butker with only seconds remaining.
The successful kick was no small feat for Butker, who injured his left ankle during a kickoff early in the game. The injury forced the veteran kicker to miss much of the first half, thrusting safety Justin Reid – who connected on an extra point try during the preseason – into duty. Reid was successful, too, converting 1-of-2 extra point tries while also handling the game's remaining kickoffs.
"I had a ton of fun out there," said Justin Reid. "It brought me back to my high school days…I always wanted to put it on tape to let people know that I really can kick. It's out there now, and it'll be out there forever."
The Chiefs went on to continue the momentum ignited by Butker's 54-yard boot following halftime, scoring touchdowns on three consecutive possessions while holding Arizona scoreless until early in the fourth quarter. Tight end Jody Fortson, wide receiver Mecole Hardman and tailback Isiah Pacheco were each responsible for a trip to the end zone as part of an effort that piled up 488 net yards of offense and went 6-for-6 in the red zone.
"The guys were just ready to go," Mahomes said. "They were excited to get out there and show what we have. All offseason, people have asked us what this team was going to look like. We've always believed that we were going to go out there and put on a show, and I thought the guys did that."
Kansas City's defense, meanwhile, continued to frustrate the Cardinals' offensive attack throughout the game. Arizona went just 3-of-12 on third down and punted five times. To further illustrate the Chiefs' defensive dominance, Mahomes recorded more passing yards (360) than Arizona's overall yardage total (282).
The Chiefs also tallied three sacks in the game and repeatedly harassed Cardinals' quarterback Kyler Murray, who only accounted for 222 yards of total offense.
"We played OK – we missed a lot of opportunities – but, overall, I thought we got better as a group," said defensive lineman Chris Jones.
It all culminated in a complete showing that helped Kansas City record a Week 1 victory for the eighth-consecutive season. The Chiefs have outscored their opponents 291-198 (+93) in those eight wins.
In terms of injuries, Coach Reid mentioned offensive guard Trey Smith (ankle), cornerback Trent McDuffie (hamstring), wide receiver Justin Watson (chest), and Harrison Butker (ankle) following the game. Reid also added that Mahomes injured his left wrist early in the game, but was able to continue.
The Chiefs will now head back to Kansas City and quickly turn the page in preparation for a divisional matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday night.