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3 Chiefs takeaways after Week 1 win vs. Cardinals

NFL, Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Clyde Edwards-Helaire

The Kansas City Chiefs blew out the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1, 44-21.

The Chiefs and Cardinals clashed at the University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday, and the game was never close. It was already over, in fact, with plenty of time left in the fourth quarter, so both teams used their backup quarterbacks.

A huge halftime lead turned into an easy triumph for the defending AFC West winners, who jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. With the win, the Chiefs start the 2022 season 1-0 and will seek to maintain that momentum against the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night.

Before we look too far ahead, however, here are three takeaways from the Kansas City Chiefs’ convincing opening win over the Arizona Cardinals.

3. The Chiefs’ D was stout

This summer, few units in the NFL endured as much upheaval as defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s defense. They signed defensive ends George Karlaftis (draft) and Carlos Dunlap (free agency). They also released linebacker Anthony Hitchens and employed a virtually totally new secondary. The bottom line was that the Chiefs’ defense looks quite different now than it did in January.

It didn’t seem to matter much, though, as Spagnuolo’s youthful and athletic squad only allowed one touchdown after three quarters here. If we do nitpick, then yes, the Chiefs’ defense has a lot to improve on moving ahead, but it passed the first test.

To illustrate, second-year linebacker Nick Bolton continued where he left off in 2021 with another 10-tackle effort. Against the Cardinals, his improved instincts and playing pace were noticeable. He has the makings of an All-Pro LB.

Juan Thornhill, for his part, anticipated he’d be an All-Pro before the season began. Thornhill made at least a few intriguing plays in this game that made us think it may actually happen. His range and ball skills look to be as great as his confidence thanks to a number of outstanding pass breakups on deep downfield passes by Arizona.

2. The Chiefs’ RB corps looks strong

RB extraordinaire Clyde Edwards-Helaire had some great runs in the Chiefs’ first drive of the game, totaling 34 yards on four tries. He’d even scored two touchdowns in the receiving game by the conclusion of the first half. Jerick McKinnon also had many notable plays, while rookie Isiah Pacheco came on strong in the fourth quarter. Ronald Jones, who has almost 1,000 yards this season, was not even in the game. Thanks to this strong start to the season, the Chiefs’ running back corps looks to be a huge boost for Reid’s offense in 2022.

In the first half, the Kansas City offensive was practically unstoppable, and Edwards-Helaire was at the heart of it all. This was an excellent start to his season. He had some really explosive plays, including an 18-yard run and a 25-yard reception. The third-year running back finished with a combined 10 carries and receptions for a total of 74 yards and two touchdown catches.

The second half, meanwhile, was dominated by highly rated seventh-round rookie Isiah Pacheco. He stepped in to finish the game, and he did it with some powerful runs of his own. Pacheco topped all Kansas City running backs with 12 carries for 62 rushing yards. He appears to be a prime contributor to the offense this season.

1. Who missed Tyreek Hill?

Since the Chiefs dealt wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins in March, speculation has swirled about what their offense would look like without him. Many in the national media doubted Andy Reid’s team would be as effective this season.

Star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, however, silenced those doubts. His 21-for-28, 223-yard, three-touchdown first half set the tone for the rest of the game.

He then went on to dominate the second half as well. Overall, Mahomes controlled the game well and looked like the same player who’s a perennial contender for the title of “best quarterback in the league.” By the game’s end, Mahomes hit 10 different receivers in a brilliant performance. He also scored five touchdown passes despite an injured left wrist. Mahomes was even gracious enough to build a large enough advantage for his pal Chad Henne to receive some reps — and to chase down Pacheco’s first touchdown pass.

It also helped that 32-year-old Travis Kelce hasn’t lost a step. Some would have anticipated his performance to decline, but those are the ones who haven’t been paying close enough attention. Kelce looked like he could play another ten years on Sunday, scoring the season’s first touchdown and finishing with 121 yards on eight catches. He’s on pace for another record-breaking season.

It’s still too early, but the Chiefs did not seem to miss Hill at all.