Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes did everything he could to will his team to a victory on Thursday Night in the season opener against the Detroit Lions. Alas, it wasn’t in the cards as the Chiefs lost 21-20, getting their title defense off on the wrong foot.
A big reason for the loss was the inability of anyone to step up offensively for the Chiefs. They were without Patrick Mahomes’ favorite weapon, tight end Travis Kelce, who suffered a hyper-extended knee during practice this week.
Without Kelce, it was expected that there would be some bumps in the road. He is a key cog not only in the passing game but in the running game as well as a blocker. Without him, the game plan has to be adjusted. But, not even the most pessimistic of people could have envisioned Thursday’s outcome.
“It’s going to have an impact on the game,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said of Kelce’s absence. “But other guys have to step up and they’re going to have to step up in moments. Sure, there’ll be times [after Kelce returns] that he gets doubled and so we’re just going to have to rely on these other guys that are young and talented to step up and make plays, and I believe that they will.”
It is certainly nice to have the backing of your star quarterback, but the Chiefs’ pass catchers woefully underperformed on Thursday night. It was a downright embarrassing performance by most of them, who left Patrick Mahomes out to dry.
Numerous drops killed any momentum they were building, none bigger than the ones committed by Kadarius Toney. Toney’s biggest flop came in the second quarter when a ball hit him in both hands and deflected into the hands of Lions’ safety Brian Branch, who went 50 yards for a pick-six.
Toney had two more egregious drops later in the game; one that would have gone for a first down in the red zone and another on the Chiefs’ last drive of the game, which would have put them in scoring position.
Expectations were high for Toney, a 2021 first-round pick of the New York Giants whom the Chiefs acquired in a trade last season. They hoped he could develop into a No. 1 option for Patrick Mahomes, but that has not been the case yet.
Toney’s inability to stay healthy and be on the field has been a major detriment. He missed chunks of training camp after having a torn meniscus and was questionable for Thursday’s game. Despite the disappointing performance, Patrick Mahomes hasn’t lost faith in him.
“I have trust in [Toney],” Mahomes said. “He missed a lot of training camp, and obviously he wanted to play and fought [during] rehab hard so he could play and stuff’s not always going to go your way.
“Obviously he would’ve wanted to catch a few of those in the game, but I’ve trusted he’s going to be that guy that I go to in those crucial moments, and he’s going to make the catch and win us some games like he did last year. So we’re going to continue to work him in, get him more and more reps, and I’m sure that those drops will kind of disappear.”
Thursday night was the least efficient passing night of Patrick Mahomes’ career when targeting wide receivers. He completed 10-of-22 passes, but a majority of those incompletions were not his fault.
This will be something to keep an eye on throughout the regular season. The Chiefs are going to need someone to step up even when Kelce is in the lineup to help take the pressure off of him. If Toney or Skyy Moore don’t step up, Kansas City will have to look for help outside of the organization.