Arrows Up: Sunday’s stars for the Chiefs

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The Kansas City Chiefs got out of the starting blocks well to begin their 2015 campaign. They escaped NRG Stadium with a 27-20 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday afternoon. For the first two quarters, all three phases of the team fired on all cylinders. In 2014, that level of precision and execution was missing with head coach Andy Reid and company. With year three just underway, expectations are the highest they’ve been since the current administration took office. They can’t afford a slow start with arguably the best roster the franchise has had in a decade. It’s time to “put up or shut up” for this bunch and they had quite a lot to say over the weekend.

It’s always good when you can start the regular season on the road and come away with a win. It’s even better when it comes against an AFC opponent who could figure into the playoff picture down the stretch. Kansas City got a late scare, but had firm control of the game for roughly three quarters. We all know that football at any level, and especially in the pros, is the ultimate team game. Though, the Chiefs got a number of standout individual performances in Week 1. Let’s take a quick look at which players are trending upward after the season opener.

Alex Smith — Key Stat: 118.6 passer rating

Alex Smith is one of the most polarizing players ever to don the color red in Kansas City. Ask ten people how they feel about him as a quarterback and you’re likely to get four different answers, but even his staunchest critics have to suspend their loathing from time-to-time. Sunday’s performance was one of those moments. In the game, he completed 22-of-33 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns. It’s tough to apply the “game manager” title to such an outing. He was as good as perhaps we’ve seen him in Kansas City. If I’m being honest, only his performance in the playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts comes to mind as superior.

Travis Kelce — Key Stat(s): 106 receiving yards and two TDs

Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

In case you’ve been in hiding, the Chiefs have another bona fide offensive superstar-in-the-making. NFL fans who haven’t watched Kelce on a regular basis likely scoff at the suggestion that he’s in the same stratosphere as New England’s Rob Gronkowski. A few more games like Sunday in Houston might quickly change their minds. Kelce was clearly aided by the presence of vertical threat Jeremy Maclin (more on that later), but his open-field running ability and nose for the end zone and have become calling cards of his game. His 42-yard reception is a clear indication that the middle of the field may be much wider for him in 2015. He’ll be a headache for defensive coordinators as the season wears on. He’s one of the toughest tight ends in the league to cover and he’s still ascending.

Next: A trio from offense, defense, and special teams...