By Matt McMullen – Chiefs.com Reporter
The Kansas City Chiefs dropped a tough one on Thursday night, falling to the Detroit Lions, 21-20, to kick off the regular season.
Kansas City held a six-point lead at the mid-point of the fourth quarter until Detroit executed a nine-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a go-ahead, 8-yard touchdown run by tailback David Montgomery. The series included a conversion on a 3rd-and-12 early in the drive, and despite not possessing the lead since early in the second quarter, Detroit found itself with a one-point advantage late in the game.
The Chiefs went three-and-out on their next possession, but a defensive stand on fourth down at midfield provided Kansas City with a final chance and ample time remaining. The drive resulted in a turnover on downs, however, and Kansas City didn’t possess the ball again.
The game’s final moments were a microcosm of the Chiefs’ struggles throughout the second half, which included several uncharacteristic mistakes and dropped passes. The Lions utilized those errors to take the lead and ultimately win the game.
“The Lions did a heck of a job capitalizing on a couple of things. We’ve got to fix those,” said Head Coach Andy Reid. “We had some good plays in there, but it’s a disappointing loss. That’s a good football team that we lost to, but we’ve got to play better, and we have to coach better. That’s what we’ll do.”
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes completed 21-of-39 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns in the game, finding rookie wide receiver Rashee Rice for a 1-yard score early in the contest. Mahomes then had Kansas City back in the end zone two possessions later, connecting with tight end Blake Bell for a 4-yard touchdown.
The latter possession covered 82 yards in just one minute and 28 seconds in the closing moments of the first half, providing Kansas City with a 14-7 lead and plenty of momentum heading into the break. Several errors plagued the Chiefs through the third and fourth quarter, however, preventing Kansas City from putting the game away.
That run of miscues began when Lions’ defensive back Brian Branch hauled in an interception off a tipped pass and returned it all the way for a game-tying, 50-yard touchdown. The Chiefs managed to re-claim the lead soon after, but rather than pull away with touchdowns, Kansas City had to settle for a field goal on each of its next two trips deep into Lions’ territory due to drops.
“I think they know that I’m going to keep firing it,” said Mahomes when asked about the Chiefs’ drops in the passing game. “We’ll try to get it fixed this next week and get it corrected heading into this next game.”
Still, despite those mistakes, the Chiefs’ defense played well enough to win throughout the night. Kansas City held Detroit – which was the No. 5 scoring offense in the NFL last season – to 5-of-15 on third down. In fact, Kansas City forced Detroit to go three-and-out on four different occasions.
That strong defensive effort included a forced fumble and an ensuing recovery in the red zone early in the game, and when it mattered most, the Chiefs held on a Lions’ short fourth-down attempt late in the fourth quarter.
That fourth-down stop appeared to put Kansas City in excellent position to potentially win the game, but the Chiefs’ final offensive drive couldn’t get going, and the Lions escaped with the victory.
Despite the loss, Mahomes emphasized the need to learn from Thursday’s result.
“It will be good for the young guys to know that we’re not just going to walk in and win the game. You’re going to have to play good football, and we’re going to get every team’s best shot,” Mahomes said. “I preached it to them all preseason, but they know now, and we’re going to go to Jacksonville next week. That’s a good football team, and hopefully guys learn from it, get better and this one loss won’t turn into two.”
In some good news, Coach Reid had no injuries to report following the game.
The Chiefs will now look to get back on track with a matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars next Sunday.