By Terrance Turner
Tonight, the NFL season began with a highly anticipated match. The Super Bowl-defending Kansas City Chiefs played against the Houston Texans — but not before a major statement. The national anthem was performed by Chloe and Halle, who wore T-shirts that honored George Floyd and Breonna Taylor — both Black people slain by police this year.
After the anthem, Alicia Keys’ version of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (informally known as “the black national anthem” played at Arrowhead Stadium. The Texans remained in the locker room for both anthems, then emerged for an unusual display. After they came on the field, both teams locked arms in a show of unity; in the center were Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Remarkably, fans (who only filled 22% of the stadium) began booing.
There were many opinions about this development:
Another distressing development: the absence of intros. Despite being a Thursday night game, tonight’s contest happened on NBC, which typically airs “Sunday Night Football”. Tonight’s match unfolded much like a typical Sunday night contest, with SNF commentators Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. But the very thing that made “Sunday Night Football” different from every other broadcast — the player introductions, where each player appears on the screen to state his name and the college he went to — were gone. Michaels explained the disappearance of the intros by saying that “we couldn’t get into [training] camps to do them.”
Do players not have smartphones? Are they not able to record their introductions on the field before (or after) the game? Are they not allowed to be filmed in the locker room? Can the players not record intros during the Zoom press conferences while they answer questions? Many observers lamented their absence during tonight’s broadcast:
OK. Back to the game.
The first touchdown of the NFL season came courtesy of running back David Johnson, who rushed into the end zone early to put the Texans up 7-0. Johnson temporarily silenced the deafening chatter of fans who objected to the trade that brought him to the Texans and sent DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals. But it would be the last time the Texans held the lead.
The Chiefs responded almost immediately, with a successful 11-play drive. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw a touchdown to tight end Travis Kelce, tying the game. Then the Chiefs gained the lead when Mahomes found Sammy Watkins in the end zone. A field goal by their kicker Harrison Butker put the Chiefs up 17-7 at the half.
In the third quarter, we saw further dominance by rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. (He replaces Chiefs RB Damien Williams, who opted out this season due to concerns about COVID-19. His mother has cancer.) Edwards-Helaire made his debut with a sensational performance, running for 136 yards. His 27-yard touchdown in the third quarter padded the Chiefs’ lead. Then Chiefs rookie L’Jarius Sneed picked off Watson’s pass near the end of the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Mahomes’ interception was negated by a pass interference call against the Texans. Saved by the flag, Mahomes threw a dart to wide receiver Tyreek Hill. That gave the Chiefs a commanding 31-7 lead early in the fourth quarter. The Texans managed to make things more respectable: Watson himself rushed in for a touchdown, then later found Texans tight end Jordan Akins for another score. But that would be the end of the scores for the Houston Texans. The Chiefs sealed their fate when Butker drilled another field goal to give them the win: 34-20.
“There’s a lot to fix,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said after the Texans’ loss. “It’s only one game. We have to improve pretty quickly. But it’s only one game . We have to get back to work pretty soon and fix these things.” They play the Ravens on Sept. 20.