The Kansas City Chiefs dominated the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1 there were plenty of notes to be made, but these numbers in particular tell the story.
The Kansas City Chiefs kicked off their 2022 regular season with a dominant road win over the Arizona Cardinals. The final score of 44-21 speaks for itself, but in between high speed and flashy offensive displays were plenty of minor details that not only led to the win, but offered a great deal of reassurance for fans.
The jury is still out on whether or not this past offseason can be qualified as a full-blown rebuild for the Chiefs or not, but, nonetheless, there were many questions to be answered on Sunday. A lot of them were, and in ways that created hope for the potential of this team and its revamped personnel.
There was a lot of good that came out of the Chiefs‘ week 1 victory over the Cardinals, but four numbers in particular can tell the story of the lopsided affair.
With the Chiefs putting up 44 points on offense, Sunday’s entire game could be broken down by Patrick Mahomes’ statistical success. The most obviously apparent number that sums up week 1 action for Kansas City, however, is Mahomes’ passing touchdown total: 5.
Sunday made for the sixth time in his 64 career starts that Patrick Mahomes racked up five passing TDs, a feat that no other quarterback in NFL history has accomplished more than three times in a career. With months of opinions built up around whether or not the Chiefs offense would be able to maintain recent success without Tyreek Hill, Mahomes took matters into his own hands.
Since the first Week 1 contest that Mahomes appeared in four years ago, he has thrown at least three touchdowns and averaged over 300 passing yards in each season opener he’s played. On Sunday, he set a personal record for consecutive completions in a game (12), hooked up with nine different receivers, and, most importantly, looked as good as ever in his debut with the Chiefs’ new-look offense.
In his debut as the full-time mike linebacker, Nick Bolton led the team with 10 total tackles on Sunday. Among all of the uncertainties surrounding the Chiefs’ 2022 campaign, the ceiling for the young and rebuilt defense was the most pressing. To see Bolton step up on the stat sheet in his first game wearing the green dot felt like a major reassurance to Chiefs Kingdom, and it made a huge impact on the outcome of the first game of the year.
Other than Bolton, the rest of the linebackers were relatively quiet on Sunday. Willie Gay, Darius Harris, and Elijah Lee combined for just six tackles, which reinforced Steve Spagnuolo’s decision to put Bolton in his leadership role.
The Arizona Cardinals averaged over 26 points per game in 2021 and were a legitimate top-10 offense in terms of efficiency. For the Kansas City defense to hold them to 21 points on Sunday—shutting them out in the first and third quarters—was more than just a good outing, it offered rejuvenated hope that the Chiefs are a fully complete team this year. It is only fitting that the captain of the defense led the charge.
Following a year where the defense was ranked among the bottom of the league in most categories, there were a lot of questions about just how much improvement could come in a single offseason. The pass rush has been the source of gravest defensive concerns, and the complementary nature that exists between pass rush and success in the secondary tends to get overlooked.
On Sunday, the defensive line and the defensive backs were working in tandem. Most notably in the fact that there were seven passes defended—five by DBs and two by defensive linemen.
Juan Thornhill, Rashad Fenton, and L’Jarius Sneed stood out as playmakers in the secondary, and rookie Jaylen Watson broke up a pass as well. Up front, Chris Jones and George Karlaftis put pressure on Kyler Murray all afternoon and also swatted one pass a piece.
Pass defenses are individual acts of athleticism and execution, and seeing them so regularly on each level of a defense is rare in one game. The seven racked up by the Chiefs made a huge impact on Sunday’s outcome. Kyler Murray threw the ball 34 times yesterday, so the Chiefs got credit for knocking down over 20% of his attempts. That’s not just a good sign for the Chiefs against a good quarterback, that is an impressive note for any team on any given Sunday.
What life after Tyreek Hill would resemble for the Chiefs offense has been a source of endless speculation since March. One of the most common questions asked within that narrative was, ”How will his absence affect Travis Kelce?” The answer to that question was crystal clear on Sunday: it won’t.
Kelce caught the first touchdown pass of the season on the game’s opening drive and went on to lead all Chiefs pass catchers with eight receptions and 121 receiving yards—good for 15.1 yards-per-catch. Somehow, in year 10, Kelce is continuing to build upon his craft and impress the masses.
For anyone who thought that regression was coming for the best tight end in the game, you were wrong. It was an honest stance to take with so much turnover in the offense, but as far as success in the NFL goes, continuity is king, and the Patrick Mahomes/Travis Kelce connection is still the backbone of the team.