The defending champion Kansas City Chiefs hosted an upstart Detroit Lions team on Thursday night inside Arrowhead Stadium to open the 2023 NFL season.
Fireworks were the name of the game from the start, including the Chiefs being honored for winning the Super Bowl back in February. But it was not going to be all celebrations for one of the NFL’s best teams.
The Lions made that clear after opening the scoring following an epic fake punt. Kansas City countered with reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes hitting Rashee Rice for the rookie’s first touchdown in the pros.
In what was a back-and-forth game, Detroit made the plays it needed in crunch time. Meanwhile, drops and penalties impacted the Chiefs without stars Travis Kelce and Chris Jones in the mix.
As a result, the Lions pulled off what has to be considered a franchise-altering 21-20 win as Goff played well and the defense stepped up when it counted the most. Below, we recap this awesome season-opening game between the two teams.
Top performances from Detroit Lions win over Kansas City Chiefs
Jared Goff, quarterback, Detroit Lions
A lot was made of Goff’s road splits a season ago despite putting up a stellar overall performance for Detroit. He threw just six touchdowns against four interceptions on the road. Heading into Arrowhead Stadium, the former No. 1 pick had to know it would be a hostile environment.
Throughout the game, Goff showed the veteran presence Detroit needed from him. That included connecting on multiple first downs. But it was in crunch time that Goff showed himself. He led Detroit on a 75-yard touchdown scoring drive, completing 3-of-3 passes for 59 yards in the process. The numbers tell us a major story here.
If Detroit has Goff playing like this and outperforming elite-level quarterbacks, it will go a long way in terms of the team actually competing with the best of the best.
Mike Danna, defensive line, Kansas City Chiefs
With holdout Chris Jones absent, the Chiefs needed to find a way to provide pressure against Jared Goff. Most were looking at second-year EDGE guy George Karlaftis. But it was Danna who came up big in this one.
The former Michigan star put continual pressure on Goff throughout the evening, including a sack and two quarterback hits. At least to a degree, it did mess with the Lions’ timing offense through the air. We also have to give veteran defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo for employing Danna more with Jones inactive. In part-time action over the past two seasons, he recorded 20 quarterback hits and eight sacks.
Related: Top NFL Week 1 storylines
Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Detroit Lions
Selected No. 2 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft, Hutchinson was licking his chops going up against the defending Super Bowl champions to open his sophomore season. For good reason. Hutchinson was brilliant a season ago (15 QB hits, 9.5 sacks).
While Hutchinson did not record a sack of Mahomes Thursday night, he was continually in the face of Kansas City’s star quarterback. It was relentless.
The backdrop here includes Chiefs offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor being out of alignment throughout the game, as pointed out by NBC rules analyst Terry McAulay.
All of that as an aside, Hutchinson still got the Mahomes for three quarterback hits and five pressures. If this is any indication, the youngster is in for a heck of a second year.
David Montgomery, Detroit Lions
Most of the running back talk surrounding Detroit heading into the season was on rookie first-round pick Jahmyr Gibbs (more on him later). But it’s this underrated free agent signing from the Bears who made his name known for Detroit.
After being relatively quiet throughout, Montgomery took hold behind an increasingly dominant Lions offensive line to help give Detroit a lead in the fourth quarter. He was on the field throughout a nine-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in an eight-yard touchdown run from the former Iowa State star.
In particular, that one run displayed the field vision that Montgomery showed during his four-year run with the division-rival Bears. When all was said and done, Montgomery tallied 74 yards on 21 rush attempts. The numbers might not have been great, but his consistency helped create balance on offense for Goff.
Top Detroit Lions takeaways from Thursday night
Jahmyr Gibbs is more of a change of pace right now
Detroit selected Gibbs with the 12th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to be a dynamic threat out of the backfield. It’s something that Lions head coach Dan Campbell addressed ahead of Thursday’s opener.
“He carries the scalpel, and he can slice you up. He can hurt you in the pass game potentially. I’m talking about Gibbs obviously — get him out there and do a few more things because that’s kind of what I know,” Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell on Gibbs.
We didn’t necessarily see this in Gibbs’ regular-season NFL debut. Veteran free agent signing David Montgomery (21) had more opportunities on the ground than his younger counterpart (seven). While Gibbs added two catches for 18 yards, it became clear how Detroit plans on using its new backfield tandem. At least initially, Montgomery will get the bulk of the touches with Gibbs being the change of pace. It worked out well Thursday night.
Detroit Lions are the real deal
We can talk about Chris Jones (holdout) and Travis Kelce (injury) being sidelined for this one all we want. But the Lions went into Arrowhead Stadium and defeated the defending champions to open the 2023 NFL season. Let that sink in. The Detroit Lions defeated Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Despite some questionable in-game coaching decisions (punting from plus territory when down by a point in the third), Dan Campbell showed that he had his team ready to play in this one. After winning eight of 10 to close last season, the Lions are no longer that underdog darling. They are absolutely the real deal.
Top Kansas City Chiefs takeaways from Thursday night
Kadarius Toney will soon be in Andy Reid’s doghouse
The Chiefs envisioned Toney being a jack-of-all-trades type after they acquired the former first-round pick from the New York Giants last season. He displayed this to an extent in seven games with Kansas City last season (82.4% catch rate).
The opening of Toney’s first full season with the Chiefs did not go swimmingly for Toney. He dropped a perfect pass from Mahomes in the third quarter. The ball landed directly into safety Brian Branch’s hands for a 50-yard pick-six to tie the game up at 14.
You just can’t have that happen. Whether Toney heard footsteps or took his eyes off the ball, it doesn’t matter. Later in the third quarter, Toney dropped a would-be first down from Mahomes with the Chiefs driving. Instead, of the drive continuing with the Chiefs looking to take a touchdown lead, they had to settle for a field goal.
If that weren’t enough, the Toney dropped yet another pass late in the fourth quarter that would have put Kansas City in position for the game-winning field goal.
All said, Toney caught 1-of-5 passes for one yard. Yeah, he’s going to be in head coach Andy Reid’s doghouse after this one.
Chiefs offensive line was a complete mess
Starting left tackle Donovan Smith had a bad holding call as Kansas City was looking to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. We’ve focused on Jawaan Taylor multiple times in this article. But his false start on 3rd-and-20 on that final drive was pretty much a killer, too.
As for the interior of the Chiefs’ offensive line, Trey Smith played some terrible football with multiple penalties and missed blocking assignments. With the wide receiver issues in Kansas City, it can’t afford to have the offensive line break down in front of Mahomes. That happened Thursday night.
Detroit Lions stats
- Jared Goff: 22-of-35 passing, 253 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 94.1 QB rating
- David Montgomery: 21 attempts, 74 yards, 3.5 average, 1 TD
- Jahmyr Gibbs: 7 attempts, 42 yards, 6.0 average
- Josh Reynolds: 4 receptions, 80 yards
- Amon-Ra St. Brown: 6 receptions, 71 yards, 1 TD
- Sam LaPorta: 5 receptions, 39 yards
Kansas City Chiefs stats
- Patrick Mahomes: 21-of-39 passing, 225 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 77.5 QB rating
- Isiah Pacheco: 8 attempts, 23 yards, 2.9 average, 4 receptions, 31 yards
- Marquez Valdes-Scantling: 2 receptions, 48 yards
- Justin Watson: 2 receptions, 45 yards
- Noah Gray: 3 receptions, 31 yards
One Final note
Back to Chiefs right tackle Jawaan Taylor for a second. Former NFL player Michael Robinson pointed it out. But it was evident throughout the game. Not only was the big-time free-agent signing out of alignment on a consistent basis, he was tipping whether Kansas City was running or passing.