Kansas City stepped up with big plays down the stretch to overcome Cleveland at Arrowhead.
From the first few snaps of the game, it was clear the Cleveland Browns planned to push the Kansas City Chiefs around in the trenches. And by the end of the first half, they had — jumping out to a 22-10 lead. But the Chiefs came back in the second half, notching a 33-29 victory in their season opener at Arrowhead Stadium.
Cleveland had the ball first, proceeding to march methodically 75 yards up the field in 13 plays — leaning heavily on its running game both for chunk yards and to open up play-action and bootleg passes, mixing in a healthy dose of tight end Austin Hooper and running back Nick Chubb. Hooper had three catches for 27 yards, including a first-down conversion when it was fourth-and-3 in the red zone. Chubb added eight yards receiving and 17 on the ground, including a four-yard touchdown run. After an encroachment penalty called on Chris Jones during the extra-point attempt, the Browns brought its offense back on the field. Running back Kareem Hunt jumped over the pile to put the Browns up 8-0.
After running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage by Malik McDowell on first down, the Chiefs’ offense began to move the ball down the field. The team got its stars involved early. Travis Kelce had a 17-yard catch from Patrick Mahomes on an RPO, following it up with another catch for a first down. Edwards-Helaire had a strong run after the catch on a screen pass up the sideline. After the play, Browns safety Ronnie Harrison was ejected from the game for pushing a Chiefs’ assistant coach on the sideline. Then the Chiefs started to get wide receiver Tyreek Hill involved with a short pass and a reverse for a few yards. Browns safety John Johnson III had an outstanding diving pass breakup on Hill at the goal line. A holding penalty by Joe Thuney cost the Chiefs in the red zone — negating a completion to Kelce that was downed at the Browns’ one-yard line and bringing up third-and-long. Mahomes completed a pass to Demarcus Robinson two yards short of the sticks. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid elected to kick a 28-yard field goal, which kicker Harrison Butker sent through the uprights.
On its second drive, the Browns offense picked up where it left off. On first-and-10, quarterback Baker Mayfield completed a deep play-action pass to Anthony Schwartz for 44 yards. The Chiefs struggled with Schwartz’s speed early — and the Browns targeted him often. Mayfield completed a bootleg pass for 17 yards on the next play. In the red zone, the Chiefs stopped Kareem Hunt a yard short on third down, but Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski elected to go for it again on fourth down. Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry took a handoff and ran tough around the edge — spinning off a Chiefs defender into the end zone.
The Chiefs continued to get Hill involved on its second drive. But with the two-high safety shells the Browns were using, many of his receptions were for short-to-intermediate gains. The Browns defensive line continued to generate pressure from both due to one-on-one wins against Chiefs offensive linemen and because of miscommunication between the offensive linemen. Jadeveon Clowney came through the line unblocked to bring down Hill for a loss of seven yards on a designed run. Malik Jackson had a big hit on Mahomes on a play where he hung in the pocket to complete a pass to Hill for a first down. The aggressiveness of the Browns’ defensive front also generated a few offsides penalties on Cleveland early in the game. Browns cornerback Denzel Ward had a pass breakup on Hill down the field that potentially could have been flagged for pass interference. Later in the drive, Mahomes and Hill would finally connect for a big gain when Hill dragged across the field on a deep corner route. The Chiefs attempted a trick pass to Mike Remmers in the red zone, but the Browns defense sniffed it out and tackled Remmers for a loss. On the next play, Mahomes took a deep dropback, evaded pressure from McKinley, faked another Browns defender with a pump fake and waltzed into the end zone for a rushing touchdown.
On the next drive, Mayfield tried to once again leverage Schwartz’s speed, connecting with him on a nine-yard completion and giving it to him on a reverse for a 17-yard gain. Landry took a pass behind the line of scrimmage — which was designed for him to throw — and ran up the field for a first down. Derrick Nnadi was called for a facemask on the play, adding an additional 15 yards. On the next play, Chubb took a handoff and ran outside the left tackle untouched for an 18-yard touchdown.
On the next Kansas City drive, Mahomes kept feeding Hill, connecting with him early for gains of nine and 28 yards. However, stout play by the Browns’ defensive line would disrupt the drive. Myles Garrett beat Orlando Brown Jr. off the edge — something he did on multiple occasions during the game — to cause a pass incompletion. On the next play, Jackson brought pressure up the middle and tipped a pass. On third-and-10, Hill was called for pass interference after grabbing Ward to prevent an interception. Garrett came off the edge unblocked on the play, causing Mahomes to get rid of the ball early. The Chiefs were forced to punt.
Pinned deep in their own territory, the Browns apparently planned to run out the clock. However, after two Hunt runs for 20 yards, the Browns opened up the playbook again. Mayfield rifled a pass to David Njoku, who muscled through Charvarius Ward for a 43-yard reception. Chris Jones came up big to stall the drive. He bull-rushed the interior of Cleveland’s offensive line — causing an offensive holding call — and followed it up with a sack for a big loss. Mayfield threw a pass out to Landry on fourth-and-31, which the Browns ran all the way to the 10-yard line after several laterals. The clock ran out with Cleveland up 22-10 at the half.
The Chiefs marched the ball up the field to start the second half. Edwards-Helaire took three early handoffs for plus yardage. Mahomes scrambled for another. Edwards-Helaire took a carry up the middle for nine yards. Hill caught yet another ball on an underneath route for six yards. In the red zone, the Chiefs attempted another trick play, but Hill was called for a false start. On second-and-8, Kelce exploited a mismatch with a linebacker, shaking him on a route to catch a pass from Mahomes for a touchdown.
Then the Browns resumed their early-game dominance on the ground; Chubb took carries for six and 17 yards to start the drive. But on his next carry, Juan Thornhill came up to make a stop — putting his helmet squarely on the ball cause a fumble. Ben Niemann recovered, giving the ball back to the Chiefs.
The Chiefs continued attacking the Browns on the ground — and with underneath passing routes. After a nine-yard completion to Mecole Hardman, Blake Bell took a direct snap to convert a first down. Edwards-Helaire made a few nice plays in the running game and took a pass in the flat up the sideline for a first down. A sack by Joe Jackson brought up third-and-10. Mahomes and Robinson miscommunicated on a potential touchdown pass in the end zone — and the Chiefs had to settle for a 43-yard field goal.
The Browns responded. Mayfield hit Landry on a slant for a first down, then in the flat for another first down on a play where Landry hurdled a Chiefs’ defender at the sticks. The Browns continued to exploit matchups between Njoku and Kansas City cornerbacks. Dragging across the field, Njoku beat L’Jarius Sneed to catch a play-action pass for a gain of 30 yards. Once in the red zone, Cleveland turned to the running game, feeding Chubb a few times before capping the drive on a Hunt touchdown run.
But then, the momentum of the game flipped irrevocably to the Chiefs. On the next play, Mahomes scrambled right and launched a deep pass to Hill — who adjusted to the ball to beat Johnson for a 75-yard touchdown reception.
The Chiefs’ defense followed suit with a three-and-out. Jones beat the left tackle on first down for his second sack of the game. Nick Bolton made a nice tackle in the flat on second down to bring up third-and-13 — when Mayfield had time but could not connect with Njoku.
After a bobbled snap by Browns’ punter Jamie Gillan, the Chiefs started the next drive from the Cleveland 15-yard line. After a few runs by Edwards-Helaire, Mahomes hit Kelce for another touchdown reception. The pre-snap motion by Reid gave Kelce another mismatch with a linebacker on the play. Mahomes rolled out right on a two-point conversion attempt but was unable to find a receiver.
The Chiefs’ defense continued to step up on the next drive. Bolton flashed on a tackle-for-loss to bring up third-and-2. Thornhill had a nice pass breakup to get the defense off the field.
The Chiefs tried to ice the game with Edwards-Helaire on the next drive, but a Garrett sack .forced the Chiefs to punt the ball back to the Browns. The team fed the ball to Hunt, giving him a few handoffs for intermediate gains. Donovan Peoples-Jones caught a slant for a first down. Hunt got the ball again on a screen pass and barreled for a big gain to midfield. But the Chiefs would end the drive with pressure up the middle — tripping up Mayfield on a pass attempt that would be intercepted by Chiefs cornerback Mike Hughes, icing the 33-29 victory.
Holding his arm, Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens briefly exited the field in the first half — but returned to the game.
Browns left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. left the game near the end of the first half with an ankle injury and did not return. It would prove to be a big loss, as Jones had several sacks off the left side of Cleveland’s offensive line.
Butker was 3/3 on extra-point attempts and 2/2 on field goal attempts. His longest for the day was 43 yards.
Punter Tommy Townsend looked sharp on the day — twice pinning the Browns deep in their own territory. Chris Lammons had great coverage on both punts.
Byron Pringle returned two kicks for a total of 44 yards.
Hardman returned the only punt for the Chiefs for seven yards.
|Yards per play||8.2||6.8|
|Yards per rush||5.90||3.60|
|Passing Gross Yards||298||337|
|Passing Net Yards||281||324|
|Yards per pass||10.40||8.50|
|Rushing first downs||9||4|
|Passing first downs||12||17|
|Penalty first downs||1||0|
|Third down (Made/Att/Pct)||1/6/17%||9/13/69%|
|Fourth down (Made/Att/Pct)||3/4/75%||0/0/0%|
|Goal to go (Made/Att/Pct)||2/2/100%||1/1/100%|
|Red Zone (Made/Att/Pct)||4/4/100%||3/5/60%|
|Extra Points (Made/Att)||4/4||3/4|
|Field Goals (Made/Att)||0/0||2/2|
|Two-Point Conv (Made/Att)||1/1||0/1|
|Gross Punting Avg Yds||52.0||45.5|
|Net Punting Avg Yds||45.0||43.5|
|Total Rtn Yds (No KOs)||4||7|
|Punt Returns (Num/Yds)||1/4||1/7|
|Kickoff Returns (Num/Yds)||1/13||2/44|
|Int Returns (Num/Yds)||0/0||0/0|
|Time of Possession||26:22||31:38|
|Anthony Walker Jr.||9||8||1||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|John Johnson III||5||4||1||0.0||0.0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0|
|M.J. Stewart Jr.||4||3||1||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Mack Wilson Sr.||3||2||1||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Ronnie Harrison Jr.||2||1||1||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Greg Newsome II||1||1||0||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|CHIEFS KICK RET||NO||YDS||AVG||LG||TD|
|BROWNS KICK RET||NO||YDS||AVG||LG||TD|
|CHIEFS PUNT RET||NO||YDS||AVG||LG||TD|
|BROWNS PUNT RET||NO||YDS||AVG||LG||TD|