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Lions open 2023 NFL season with roar, win 21-20 over Super Bowl champion Chiefs

The Lions’ hot streak from last season continues into 2023.

Detroit Lions v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The 2023 NFL regular season is underway, and just like last season, the reigning Super Bowl champions took an L at home.

With no Chris Jones on defense and no Travis Kelce on offense, the Kansas City Chiefs lacked the pass rush (and at times, the run defense) to bother the Detroit Lions’ offense, while Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense looked very out of sync. The end result was a 21-20 win for Detroit at Arrowhead to spoil Kansas City’s Super Bowl celebratory mood.

There was a lot of hype surrounding the Lions after their big push to end 2022, only missing the playoffs because of the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Seattle Seahawks. Even acknowledging who the Chiefs didn’t have, these are the types of games we’re used to seeing Detroit lose, but not on this night. No one cares about style points when you’re trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

The Lions opened the scoring with a Jared Goff crossing route to Amon-Ra St. Brown to cap off a 14-play, 91-yard drive. None of this would’ve been possible had Dan Campbell not called a fake punt on 4th and 2 from his own 17 (!!!). Go big or go home, I suppose.

Inevitably, Patrick Mahomes had a response and found rookie Rashee Rice in the back of the end zone to knot it up at 7-7. Detroit was ready to regain the lead, only for Marvin Jones to fumble in field goal range. It’s incredibly the first fumble of Jones’ entire career, and it cost the Lions at least a shot at 3 points.

Another brutal moment for the Lions occurred when they accepted a penalty on the Chiefs to push them back to 3rd and 17 instead of 4th and 2. Understandable against most teams, but it’s a big risk with Mahomes, who converted on a brilliant throw to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who survived a big hit to move the chains. Two plays later, tight end Blake Bell caught the go-ahead score.

In the 3rd quarter, Detroit tied the score on a fortuitous pick-6 by rookie safety Brian Branch. Kadarius Toney had a very catchable pass go right through his hands and Branch was able to reel the ball in with one hand and run it back for a touchdown in his debut.

Curiously, the Lions opted to punt on 4th and 3 at Kansas City’s 40, which turned into a field goal drive for the Chiefs. As Jared Goff and the offense continued to sputter, the Chiefs were able to extend their lead to 20-14 early in the 4th quarter on another Harrison Butker field goal.

Facing another punting situation, Jared Goff made a clutch throw to Josh Reynolds on 3rd and 12 to beat the blitz and move the sticks. Goff was surgical and hit Reynolds with another explosive play. Detroit got their running game going and former Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery put the Lions on top with his first touchdown in a Detroit uniform.

The Chiefs got too cute for their own good on a 3rd and 1 direct snap to Blake Bell, who handed it off to Rashee Rice and lost three yards. Detroit went for the KO punch by going for it on 4th and 2, but oddly went for a straight dropback and Jared Goff’s pass was knocked down.

Kadarius Toney’s stinker of a night continued with a brutal drop that would’ve put the Chiefs on the outer edge of field goal range, and then a big pass to Skyy Moore was called back for a holding penalty. On 4th and 25, Mahomes flung a prayer in the air and fittingly it went off of Moore’s hands. With two minutes to go, the Lions still needed to run the clock out and get at least one first down, and Montgomery was able to do just that on 3rd and 2. Game, set, and match. There were plenty of Lions fans in Arrowhead, and they were the ones cheering loudly as Goff kneeled down three times.

Goff finished 22/35 for 253 yards and 1 touchdown, while Montgomery had a workmanlike 74 yards on 21 carries and the winning score. Exciting rookie Jahmyr Gibbs had 42 yards on 7 carries, as well as 2 catches for 18 yards.

For the Chiefs? Just 21/39 for 226 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception for Patrick Mahomes, although we know the INT was clearly not on him. The Chiefs right tackle Jawaan Taylor got away with about 50 false starts but somehow was only flagged once, and it was a topic of discussion all night. Mahomes was Kansas City’s leading rusher with 45 yards, which I can comfortably say is not a good thing.

If Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore are supposed to be the Chiefs’ top two wide receivers, they were just doing cardio. Toney had 1 catch for 1 yard, a rush for -1 yard, and several drops. Moore had 0 catches on 3 targets and a 4-yard run. It’s just one game, but the Chiefs don’t have any chance of a repeat with that receiving group even when Kelce is back from injury.

We will see the Detroit Lions take on the Seattle Seahawks on September 18 at 10 am PT. It will be a raucous atmosphere at Ford Field, especially since Barry Sanders will have a statue unveiled outside the stadium. There’s a culture shift in Detroit and this level of optimism and excitement is something we’ve not seen in a long time.