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Winners and Losers from Week 1 Home Opener

Week 1 Winners and Losers

LIONS CHIEFS
Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown runs with the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. (Photo by: AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

The Kansas City Chiefs had their banner night. After celebrating their new 2022 Super Bowl championship, the defending champions didn’t finish the home opener like the team we’ve seen since the beginning of the Mahomes era. Without Travis Kelce, the Chiefs had numerous chances to come away with a win, but was ultimately done in by mistakes from its crew of wide receivers, being defeated by the Detroit Lions, 21-20.  Against the Lions with Chris Jones, the Chiefs allowed Jared Goff to never throw a pick on a night where he completed 22 of 35 passes for 253 yards and one touchdown. There were plenty of winners and losers from the Lions game and in this article i’ll list the ones that stood and the ones that need to step it up.

Winners

Rashee Rice, WR, #4:

Chiefs rookie wide receiver Rashee Rice proved why he was what the doctored ordered in a limited capacity when he caught 3-of-5 targets for 29 yards and a touchdown in Thursday’s 21-20 loss to the Lions. The Chiefs countered a long Detroit scoring drive with a lengthy touchdown drive of their own across the first and second quarters after Rice got free near the back of the end zone for his first career TD. The second-round pick also registered a nice 25-yard gain before the first-half’s two-minute warning. Rice tied Noah Gray and Ladarius Toney for the team lead in targets in this game. The 23-year-old man out of SMU should be getting more reps at the X receiver spot. Even if Kelce is ready to go next week, Rice should be viewed as an 2nd security blanket option for Patrick Mahomes going forward.

Trent McDuffie, CB, #22:

Man, Trent McDuffie looked like the best cornerback in the NFL on the field yesterday. Despite the absence of Chris Jones, the Chiefs’ defenders played with intensity that gave the offense chances to win this game and they could thank McDuffie’s performance for part of that. McDuffie forced a fumble from Lions receiver Marvin Jones Jr., giving the Chiefs a chance to take the lead. He also recorded 8 tackles and according to PFF, had three defensive stops grading as the highest graded defensive player from the game with a 73.3. McDuffie is a dog and Chiefs fans should acknowledge that he’s the best defensive player not named Jones or Bolton.

George Karlaftis, DE, #56

George Karlaftis did a little bit of everything with Jones being out. On 29 pass rush snaps, Kalraftis had recorded 3 tackles, 2 defensive stops on 3 pressures and a pass deflection. Karlaftis is showing the improvement he’s worked on since he’s worked out with Tamba Hali. Karlaftis showed last night he is capable using a variety of pass rushing techniques, but he is at his best when he takes advantage of his length and natural leverage to drive back a blocker. Against Penei Sewell, he expertly placing his powerful hands on the shoulder pads of the right tackle and presses him backwards and off-balance all night.

Losers

Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore, WR, #19 and #24

Yes, the main reason for this defeat was our pass-catching group of youngsters Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore repeatedly struggling to hang onto the ball. 1 catch (Toney) out of 8 total targets and 4 drops with one early in the third, where Mahomes and Co. were looking to extend their lead to two scores up 14-7 and driving toward midfield when Brian Branch snagged his game-shifting pick-six from Toney, announcing his arrival to the NFL. Mahomes basically had zero ground support (other than his own legs), it was painful to watch him constantly spread the ball around, only for Toney and Moore to forfeit several wide-open opportunities. Time for Toney and Moore to work now.

The Run Game:

The Chiefs couldn’t get anything going on the ground. The Chiefs consistently fielded a primary early-down back and a secondary early-down back last season in Isiah Pacheco and Jerk McKinnon. McKinnon often the secondary player, but in this game, it was Clyde Edwards-Helaire. A healthy Edwards-Helaire might hurt Pacheco’s chances of more snaps, but in this game, he mostly cut into snaps that would have gone to McKinnon. That was the main factor that was just as costly as the drops from the younger receivers. The Chiefs still need to get Pacheco and McKinnon more chances and stick with what works.

The Punt Runt Team (The Fake Punt Play):

Chiefs special team’s coach Dave Toub has to get his players to work on scenarios that include fake punts because this is the second time in the last 12 months since the Rams game where there was another fake punt that they’ve fallen for. The Lions head coach Dan Campbell called a fake punt on fourth-and-2 from his own 17-yard line on the game’s second drive. It was a gutsy call that, if it had backfired, would have led to heaps of criticism Friday. Instead, the Lions converted, the offense settled down after six poor plays to open the game, and rattled off a 14-play, 91-yard touchdown drive. Those plays are very vital to the success of the team and Dave Toub has got to work on those little things still.

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