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Lions stun Chiefs in Thursday opener at Arrowhead

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The Detroit Lions ventured into the electric atmosphere of Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday night, where the Kansas City Chiefs have established themselves as nearly invincible. They aimed to kickstart their latest Super Bowl title defense with a win, and in doing so, they exemplified what Detroit coach Dan Campbell has instilled in the franchise’s resurgence.

Campbell expressed, “This is a resilient team. We’re designed to handle adversity.”

This resilience became evident to all under the NFL’s season opener spotlight. Jared Goff, quarterbacking for the Lions, delivered a performance with 253 passing yards and a touchdown. Running back David Montgomery, a recent addition to the Lions, secured the go-ahead score late in the game, allowing Detroit to claim a hard-fought 21-20 victory over the Chiefs.

Campbell further emphasized, “We came into this game expecting to win. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we executed our plan and emerged victorious.”

Amon-Ra St. Brown stood out with six receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown, while Lions rookie Brian Branch intercepted Patrick Mahomes’ pass and returned it 50 yards for another crucial touchdown. This interception played a significant role in ending the Chiefs’ eight-game winning streak in Week 1 matchups.

Additionally, the Lions put an end to their five-game losing streak in season openers.

Goff and the Lions were trying to run down the clock when a crucial fourth-down pass near midfield was knocked down with 2:30 left, offering the Chiefs a glimmer of hope. However, the Chiefs squandered their opportunity with mishaps, including dropped passes and penalties, ultimately leaving Mahomes to attempt a fourth-and-25 throw downfield, which fell incomplete. The Lions regained possession and successfully ran out the clock.

Mahomes ended the game with 226 passing yards and two touchdowns, despite facing challenges such as dropped passes by his receivers. He also emerged as the Chiefs’ leading rusher. Unfortunately, the Chiefs’ self-inflicted errors proved insurmountable.

The anticipation leading up to the game in Kansas City was palpable, as the Chiefs celebrated their previous Super Bowl victory amid pandemic restrictions, with approximately 18,000 fans in attendance. Hundreds of fans began tailgating outside Arrowhead Stadium’s parking lots a full 14 hours before kickoff. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell joined around 80,000 spectators to witness the Chiefs raise their latest championship banner.

However, the anxiety stemmed from the absence of Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and All-Pro Chris Jones, who was in the midst of a contract holdout. Kelce’s knee injury, sustained in practice, led to his late withdrawal from the game.

Detroit scored first in the matchup of two high-powered offenses from the previous season. Goff capitalized on a solid pocket and connected with St. Brown for a 9-yard touchdown pass, aided by Jones’ absence from the field.

The Chiefs responded with a diverse passing attack led by Mahomes, targeting five different wide receivers on a lengthy drive. Rookie Rashee Rice redeemed himself for an earlier drop by securing a short touchdown pass, leveling the score at 7-7.

The game remained tied until a questionable decision by Campbell late in the first half. The Chiefs faced fourth-and-2 near midfield but were penalized for holding. Rather than declining the penalty, Campbell chose to push the Chiefs back, giving Mahomes an opportunity to convert a third-and-17 situation. Mahomes capitalized on this with a 24-yard pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling and a 26-yard completion to Justin Watson. He capped off the drive with a short TD pass to Blake Bell, giving the Chiefs a 14-7 halftime lead.

In the second half, with the Lions’ offense struggling, the defense stepped up. Branch intercepted a pass that had bounced off Kadarius Toney’s hands and returned it for a touchdown, resulting in a 14-14 tie. Up to that point, Mahomes had thrown 20 touchdown passes without an interception in five-plus season openers.

Although the Chiefs added two field goals, their inability to find the end zone proved costly. The Lions responded with a 75-yard drive, converting on third down twice, and Montgomery sealed the deal with a 9-yard touchdown run, granting Detroit the lead that they held until the end.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid acknowledged, “The Lions did a heck of a job. They capitalized on a couple of things, and we’ve got to fix it. I liked the aggressiveness on the defensive side. There were some good things on offense. We just have to be more consistent.”

Notable moments from the game included Marvin Jones fumbling deep in Kansas City territory, ending a scoring opportunity for the Lions. This marked the first fumble in Jones’ 12-year career, snapping his 563-touch streak, the longest active streak in the NFL.

Regarding Travis Kelce, he had a bone bruise and knee swelling, with tests revealing no ligament damage. Despite an early workout on game day to assess his condition, Reid and Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder decided to rest Kelce, especially with their next game scheduled 10 days away.

In terms of injuries, Lions player Brian Branch, who scored a pick-6 in his Lions debut, left the game with cramps on the final play of the third quarter. Additionally, DT Levi Onwuzurike left the field with trainers with approximately 12 minutes remaining in the game.

Upcoming for the Lions, they will host their home opener on September 17 against Seattle, while the Chiefs are set to visit Jacksonville on the same day for a rematch in the divisional playoffs.

Week 1 NFL scoreboard:

Sunday, 9/10/23: 

Atlanta 24, Carolina 10

Baltimore 25, Houston 9

Cleveland 24, Cincinnati 3

Jacksonville 31, Indianapolis 21

Tampa Bay 20, Minnesota 17

New Orleans 16, Tennessee 15

San Francisco 30, Pittsburgh 7

Washington 20, Arizona 16

Green Bay 38, Chicago 20

Las Vegas 17, Denver 16

Miami 36, LA Chargers 34

Philadelphia 25, New England 20

LA Rams 30, Seattle 13

Dallas 40, NY Giants 0

Monday, 9/11/23:

NY Jets 22, Buffalo 16 (OT)