The Kansas City Chiefs opened up their 2019 NFL campaign in ominous style. It was a week 1 performance that could have come out of a late November play off push. Somehow, scarily for the rest of the league, they looked even better than 2018 in a 40-26 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The writing was on the wall for the Jaguars from the opening Chiefs drive. After bottling Damien Williams up for a 1 yard loss, Patrick Mahomes connected with Tyreek Hill to set up a 3rd and 3. Next play, last years league MVP found Sammy Watkins over the middle. The speedy wide receiver picked the ball out of the air, evaded multiple defenders, and raced to the end zone for a 68 yard touchdown.
3 plays. 75 yards. 1:36. 7-0. Welcome back, Pat.
Watkins breaks out, as Hill breaks down
Sammy Watkins had a career day for the Chiefs. He snagged another long touchdown in the first quarter. In the fourth quarter he beat Jalen Ramsey for a 3 yard score. His night ended with 9 catches for 198 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The former Buffalo Bills WR has been behind Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce as a target for Patrick Mahomes. His career has been beset by injuries. It’s ironic that his opportunity to be the top receiving threat for the Chiefs comes due to an injury to Tyreek Hill.
Hill suffered a nasty injury after landing badly on his shoulder. He was transported to hospital after suffering a sternoclavicular joint injury. He remains under medical care. It’s likely he will miss significant time, potentially the entire season. Hill’s injury will mean that Mecole Hardman, the rookie out of Georgia, will likely see more snaps early on in his career than originally planned.
Travis Kelce contributed 88 yards on Sunday and will be, as always, a reliable target alongside Watkins and Hardman. He was denied an easy touchdown, after Mahomes overthrew him on a no look pass.
Shady slides straight in to rushing attack
Damien Williams was expected to be the lead back for the Chiefs in 2019. After Sunday, those expectations may need to be revised.
LeSean McCoy was a late addition to the Chiefs roster after his surprising cut from the Bills. He played like he’d been with the team all pre-season. Although it was Williams who accounted for the teams only rushing touchdown of the day, it was McCoy who contributed the most on the ground.
Williams was largely bottled up, averaging a meagre 2 yards per carry. By contrast, McCoy racked up 81 yards on 10 carries. He showed he still has some juice in the tank on a 31 yard run.
Spagnuolo’s defence still a work in progress
It seems forever ago that the Chiefs made the hire of defensive co-ordinator Steve Spagnuolo. After giving up a number of big plays, in big games, his remit is to make the Chiefs defense more aggressive than last season. On the evidence of week one, there’s still some work.
There were some bright spots.
The switch to a 4-3 defense is designed to be tougher against the run, and they held the Jaguars rushing attack to just 81 yards. Linebacker, Damien Wilson, forced Leonard Fournette to fumble the ball, the first fumble of his NFL career.
Frank Clark was the big defensive pick up of the off-season. Although he failed to open his sack tally, the former Seattle Seahawk caught an interception off of a tipped pass.
Rookie safety Juan Thornhill had a promising debut. He led the team in total tackles to continue his impressive form from training camp and pre-season. However, he did draw a penalty flag on the Jags first touchdown drive which cost the Chiefs 15 yards.
Head coach, Andy Reid, and Spagnuolo will be concerned, however, that the Chiefs defence still gave up some big plays. They also gave him 275 yards and 2 touchdowns to rookie backup QB, Gardner Minshew. They allowed a total of 428 yards at an average of 8.6 yards per play. Second year Jaguars WR, D.J. Chark, helped himself to 146 yards and a touchdown off just 4 receptions. He twice had the better of Kendall Fuller, including on his 35 yard touchdown.
The Chiefs will need to address some of these defensive issues before the rivalry game against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday night.
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports