By Terrance Turner
Sept. 11, 2022 (updated Sept 15)
The Kansas City Chiefs opened their season today in Glendale against the Arizona Cardinals. Fans in a sea of red filled State Farm Stadium to cheer on the Cardinals (and the Chiefs). Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes had a field day, throwing five touchdowns, and the Chiefs offense proved that it can score even without former star receiver Tyreek Hill.
The Chiefs got the scoring started right away, putting together an 11-play, 75 yard drive. It started with running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire running up the middle for nine yards. After a 1-yd scramble by Mahomes, Edwards-Helaire continued gaining yardage with seven yards on one play and 18 on the next. The drive culminated in the end zone: Mahomes threw to tight end Travis Kelce for the touchdown.
After a punt by the Cardinals, the Chiefs regained the ball and Edwards-Helaire again got the drive started with a three-yard rush. In the meantime, word broke that injuries were starting to pile up. Mahomes injured his wrist after the touchdown, and on the ensuing kickoff, Kansas City kicker Harrison Butker slipped and injured his ankle. It got so swollen that he had to be carted off to the locker room.
In the meantime, the Chiefs kept their high-powered offense going. Mahomes threw an incomplete pass to JuJu Smith-Schuester, but Cardinals’ Dennis Allen (who tackled Mahomes) was flagged for roughing the passer – a 15-yard penalty. That was followed by Mahomes on the short pass to Edwards-Helaire for a 25-yard gain. Four minutes later, Mahomes heaved a shovel pass to Edwards-Helaire, who rushed in for the touchdown.
The Arizona Cardinals, down 14-0, had to score fast. They did, after a drive that took them 75 yards in 11 plays – and brought them to the end of the first quarter. With 13:05 left in the second, Cardinals tight end James Conner went up the middle for a two-yard touchdown. It was 14-7.
Remarkably, the Chiefs’ next drive was identical to the Cardinals’: 11 plays, 75 yards. Mahomes had back-to-back passes to Juju Smith-Schuster for seven yards apiece. That brought them to Arizona’s 12-yard line. Three plays later, on the 4, Mahomes found Edwards-Helaire again for the touchdown. (Justin Reid, stepping in for Butker, missed the extra-point kick.)
With the score 20-7, both offenses stalled. Both Arizona and Kansas City had to punt on their subsequent drives. Then after another punt by Arizona, Kansas City lost possession when Smith-Schuester fumbled. Arizona recovered but later turned the ball over on downs.
Kansas City had one last chance to increase its lead before halftime. In just 33 seconds, they put together a six-play, 30-yard drive that ended dramatically. After being carted off in the field in the first quarter, Harrison Butker returned to practice his kicking — then drilled a 54-yard field goal. The Chiefs led 23 to 7 at halftime.
Kansas City picked up right where it left off in the third quarter. Its offense exploded when Mahomes located Kelce for a 35-yard catch, the most yards in a play by either team thus far. Two minutes later, Mahomes passed to tight end Jody Fortson for a 1-yard touchdown. Butker successfully kicked the extra point, making it 30-7. (After his fourth touchdown, he turned toward the Cardinals’ sideline for a little trash talk, holding up four fingers to remind them of the damage he had already caused to Arizona’s defense.)
Before the quarter ended, Kansas City had assembled yet another successful scoring effort. Arguably the highlight of this 66-yard drive was a 26-yard pass caught by Kelce. But it was receiver Mecole Hardman who scored, grabbing a pass for a 2-yard touchdown. With 3:56 remaining in the third, the Chiefs now led 37 to 7.
Arizona desperately needed to answer, and they did. After a lengthy drive that extended into the beginning of the 4th quarter, Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray found receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown for the touchdown. Arizona elected to attempt a two-point conversion, which they successfully did: thanks to Murray finding tight end Zach Ertz, the Cardinals tacked on two. It was 37-15.
It was at this point that CBS chose to cut away from the Chiefs-Cardinals game and go to something “more competitive”:
While viewers watched Raiders quarterback Derek Carr get sacked and turn the ball over, both the Chiefs and Cardinals scored touchdowns after the cut by CBS. In the end, Mahomes threw for 360 yards and five touchdowns, Clyde Edwards-Helaire caught two touchdown passes, and the Chiefs won handily, 44-21.
He’s now 5-0 in season openers, throwing 18 touchdowns and zero interceptions. But Mahomes said no matter how successful he becomes, he’ll always feel like the underdog, according to ESPN.
“I’m just a guy from Texas Tech they said couldn’t play in the NFL,” Mahomes said after the game. “I’ve always had that mindset of proving we’re the Kansas City Chiefs, we still can win the AFC Championship, win the AFC West and win the Super Bowl.”
Tonight, the Chiefs narrowly beat the Los Angeles Chargers at home. Tonight’s premiere of “Thursday Night Football” took place in Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the Chiefs. It also marked a new frontier in broadcasting: for the first time, an NFL game was broadcast exclusively on Amazon Prime Video.
The Chargers took a 10-0 lead after a field goal by kicker Dustin Hopkins (in the first quarter) and a touchdown by Zander Horvath (in the second.) But Mahomes threw a sidearm pass to receiver Jerick McKinnon for the touchdown. Kicker Matt Ammendola (who replaces injured kicker Harrison Butker) drilled the extra point kick. It was 10-7, with 11:38 remaining in the second quarter. And it remained a three-point game at the half.
The Chargers went up 17-7 after a one-handed grab by receiver Mike Williams.
Los Angeles had a 10-point lead before Kansas City put together a 7-play, 75 yard scoring drive. The game appeared to be getting away from the Chiefs when Mahomes was intercepted by Asante Samuel Jr. on their next possession. But replays showed Samuel didn’t control the ball and the call was overturned. The drive continued; receiver Mecole Hardman got injured, and Justin Watson came in to replace him. Just one play later, Mahomes fired a 41-yard downfield pass to Watson for the touchdown.
On the Chiefs’ next drive, Kelce got thrown down and body-slammed by Chargers defender Derwin James.
The ball came out upon impact. But Kelce was ruled down by contact. So there was no fumble. The Chiefs retained possession as the third quarter ended. They could’ve gone for it on 4th down; instead they elected to tie the game with a field goal by Ammendola. It was tied at 17 just seconds into the fourth quarter.
The Chargers took over. Quarterback Justin Herbert took the offense down the field with a series of short passes, until tight end Gerald Everett took a catch 26 yards, all the way to first and goal. Starting at the three-yard line, the Chargers were poised to take the lead. But cornerback Jaylen Watson intercepted the pass at the one-yard line and took it all the way to the end zone for a pick-six.
Instead of taking the lead, the Chargers were down one score. And things got worse on their ensuing drive. Herbert got hit hard by the Chiefs defensive end Mike Danna, who brought him to the ground. Herbert clutched his side and thigh in pain and left the field still holding his side.
Herbert exited the field for one play, but then came right back — and got hit again. On the ground, clearly in pain, Herbert rose to his feet and tried to gut it out — but couldn’t convert on 4th down. The Chiefs took over.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire took off on 52-yard run, with both his hands around the ball. LA’s defense got flagged for grabbing his facemask. The drive continued; Edwards-Helaire had gone far enough to put the Chiefs within field goal range. Ammendola kicked a successful field goal to give the Chiefs a 27-17 lead. The Chargers scored a touchdown on their next drive and attempted an onside kick. But it was the Chiefs who recovered. They let the clock run out.
Kansas City won, 27-24. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw for 235 yards with TD passes to Jerick McKinnon and Justin Watson, and fill-in kicker Matt Ammendola was perfect in place of injured Harrison Butker. But it was the Chiefs’ defense, and Watson’s highlight-reel interception, that allowed the Chiefs to go to 2-0 Thursday night.
“The thing that I’m most proud of,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, “is that we stuck together. Nobody pointed any fingers.” “This is what it’s going to be. We know we’re playing in the toughest division,” Chiefs safety Justin Reid said. “We know we’re going to get everyone’s best shot. We have to come out and we have to perform.”
UPDATE (Sept. 16): Justin Herbert has suffered a rib cartilage fracture and is listed as day-to-day, according to Chargers coach Brendon Staley. Luckily, the Chargers don’t play again until Sept. 25, giving Herbert a nine-day recovery period.
Asked if he was optimistic that Herbert would be available for Week 3, Staley responded, “I think we got good news in terms of what the CT scan expressed. So that’s good news. I think playing quarterback, you don’t want it to be to the bones. The fact that it’s cartilage is a good sign.”