KANSAS CITY, Mo. >> About all that stood out about tonight’s highly anticipated return of the NFL was the sight of Patrick Mahomes effortlessly guiding the Kansas City Chiefs up and down the field.
The Super Bowl MVP threw 211 yards and three touchdowns, Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran 138 yards through the rain and one more score, and the Chiefs started to defend their first championship in 50 years by beating the Houston Texans 34-20 tonight for a socially aloof crowd of about 17,000 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill each received TD passes for the Chiefs. They have won 10 consecutive dates from last season. That run includes a come-from-behind 51-31 win over the Texans in the division round of the playoffs.
“I am proud of our players, but I am also proud of our fans. They came out. They were noisy,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who claimed he hadn’t noticed any fans during a pregame moment. unit involving both teams.
“Obviously our players, both sides of the ball and special teams, I thought they were solid,” Reid continued. “For the first game, there were some great things that were done, some great individual achievements.”
The Texans’ Deshaun Watson threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score, but he was also under relentless pressure and was intercepted once. David Johnson provided the biggest bright spot for Houston, with 77 yards and a score.
“There is a lot to fix,” said Texas coach Bill O’Brien. “It’s only one game. We have to improve pretty quickly. But it’s only one game. We have to get back to work quickly and fix these things.”
>> PHOTOS: Texans Chiefs Meet in NFL Opener
The world has changed dramatically in the seven months since the Chiefs hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in Miami.
Within six weeks, the term COVID-19 had become a part of everyday life, with the disease killing more than 900,000 people around the world. George Floyd’s death on the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer in May touched upon the Black Lives Matter movement, which in turn has sparked a summer of social unrest that has gripped the country.
Against that backdrop came an NFL opener like no other: masks worn by everyone from fans to the coaching staff; a series of videos that raise awareness of social justice initiatives and encourage the public to vote; and eventually both teams close their arms in a demonstration of unity prior to the toss.
Much to the relief of many, the kick-off eventually brought 4 hours of normality.
The Texans, who blew a 24-point lead against Kansas City in the playoffs, struck first when they marched 80 yards for a touchdown. The elusive Johnson finished it off by running 19 yards to the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
But just like that cold January day, the red-hot Chiefs quickly overcame their slow start.
They tied the score moments later when Mahomes threw a short touchdown-pass to Kelce, then took the lead when they forced a quick kick to find Mahomes Watkins in the end zone. Harrison Butker covered the first half by kicking a field goal that sent the Chiefs to the locker room with a 17-7 lead.
Edwards-Helaire, their first-round pick, filled the lead in the third quarter. After snatching a 11-meter gain early in the ride, the little LSU alternator unleashed a bad stutter step before running 27 meters for another score.
“This is just another weapon I have in this offense,” Mahomes said.
The Chiefs dropped the game when rookie L’Jarius Sneed knocked off Watson’s jump ball in the closing seconds of the third quarter. Mahomes was saved from a fourth-down interception by end-zone pass interference, then threw a dart at Hill who shot across the field for a 31-7 lead early in the fourth quarter.
“We just trust what Coach Reid calls,” said Kelce, who finished with six catches for 50 yards. “They do an incredible job of preparing us and devising defenses and we just trust what they do.”
Watson threw a touchdown pass and ran for a TD later in the quarter to make the final score a bit more respectable.
“It was a little bit different, but the fans did what they did for their home team and that was pretty much it,” said Watson. “We just have to get on with our work, find the rhythm, get guys in line and that’s about it.”
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW
The Chiefs had reduced a touchdown to their opening run when the referees determined that Demarcus Robinson was failing to control Mahomes’ 36-meter pass into the end zone. They had another setback when Watkins caught a 9-yard pass in the second quarter, though he caught a screen pass for a TD twice later.
The Chiefs lined up along the goal line about 30 minutes before kick-off and watched Alicia Keyes perform “ Lift Every Voice and Sing, ” often considered the black anthem, in a video designed to tackle racial inequality .
The Texans had already left the field when the demonstration took place. They stayed there until the R&B duo Chloe x Halle finished a virtual performance of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, after which they ran onto the field amid a chorus of fans’ booing.
Some fans were still wailing when the teams met in midfield and shook hands. The teams then lined up together that stretched from one end zone to the other for a moment of silence before the coins were tossed.
“Look, I didn’t really notice,” said Reid of the booing. “I thought that was quite a good deal, both parties come together for a goal. There the story was told. Whether it was the national anthems and how they were presented, the singers – Alicia Keyes was phenomenal – and then the boys joined forces for a good cause. Truly to make us all better and a stronger country than we all are. We don’t have the chance to stop when we all come together. “
In a relatively muted party, the Chiefs unveiled their Super Bowl banner and presented the Lombardi Trophy to their fans – along with a 20-foot replica wheeled onto the field – about 15 minutes before the game began.
Chiefs: DT Khalen Saunders (elbow) took off in the first quarter with an elbow injury. DE Alex Okafor hurt his hamstring in the third inning and never came back. CB Charvarius Ward left in the fourth quarter with a hand injury.
Texans: RB Duke Johnson left in the fourth quarter with a leg injury. He did not return.
The Texans will play their home opener against the Ravens on September 20. The Chiefs visit the Chargers the same day.