The start of the 2020 season has been heavily anticipated amid a year of chaos and uncertainty. Although football is not the first sport to come back during the pandemic, it had millions of people glued to their TV sets ready to grasp at some semblance of normalcy.
Well, folks. It finally happened. Thursday night football debuted as scheduled and delivered our visual comfort food while adding a new flavor that echoes topics rampant in 2020.
Singer/songwriter Alicia Keys sang the beautiful Black anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, singers Chloe & Halle sang the “Star-Spangled Banner”, and both teams joined together on the sidelines as a show of unity after the performances. The Texans chose to remain in the locker for both national anthems. The video boards in support of change in the country dominated television screens and created a message that was impossible to ignore. Despite jeers from the fans allowed to attend the game, both teams linked arms at midfield and shared a moment of silence. End zone messages and decals on helmets of players were additional reminders of what this year means.
Supporting a movement wasn’t the only change visible in this new year of football. Arrowhead Stadium, which normally seats over 76,000 people, hosted a fraction of that number while most stadiums aren't allowing fans to attend yet. The sparse attendance was grouped into pods all around the stadium as an attempt to follow social distancing guidelines. Masks were prevalent and HC Andy Reid dealt with a foggy face guard during the chilly, wet conditions.
This is just a taste of what we will see all year, regardless of whether the audience agrees or not.
One thing we should all agree on, Thursday night finally delivered what football fans have been anticipating for 222 days.
No Hangover for the Chiefs
The game started with the Houston Texans on offense and they looked shaky with two incompletions and an offside penalty. After Houston got its feet underneath them, they were able to post the first touchdown of the game by RB David Johnson.
Kansas City was quick to respond, despite having a long-bomb touchdown to WR Demarcus Robinson called back. TE Travis Kelce, rookie RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and K Harrison Butker took the Chiefs to a 17 to 7 lead into half-time.
The Chiefs were on a roll in the second half of the game and the Houston defense tried admirably to contain QB Patrick Mahomes. WRs Sammy Watkins and Robinson saw a heavy dose of targets all game, but WR Tyreek Hill finally got rolling in the second half. He ended the game with five receptions, 46 yards, and one touchdown.
Mahomes spread the ball around all game, sometimes looking a bit rusty, but there was one star on offense who stood out above the rest. I don’t think it’s too early to say that Edwards-Helaire is the real deal. He had some issues trying to bust through Houston’s defense at the goal line on two different drives, but his impact on the field was felt early and often. He had 25 carries for 138 yards and a touchdown, allowing fantasy GMs to heave a sigh of relief for taking him in the first round of their drafts.
Kansas City wasn’t the only team to target multiple pass-catchers, but QB Deshaun Watson and the Texans Offense couldn’t connect like the Chiefs. Watson completed 20 of 32 attempts for 253 yards and rushed in a touchdown in a very Watson-esque fashion. He also gave up a big interception that ultimately led to a Chief score.
Houston RB David Johnson led the team in rushing with 11 attempts for 77 yards and a touchdown. He was on the sideline for a drive having what looked like his wrist examined but returned to the game on the ensuing offensive possession. RB Duke Johnson was not so lucky, gaining the “questionable” tag after a leg injury in the second half.
Both offenses relied on the run and short passes, which isn’t really surprising given the abbreviated offseason. For the Chiefs, it was a matter of moving the ball and keeping possession, but for the Texans, it was clear they missed WR DeAndre Hopkins. WR Will Fuller stepped up as best he could, catching eight receptions for 112 yards, but the elite WR’s absence was blatant in deep, contested catches.
Despite missing Hopkins, there are bright spots for the Texans. Johnson stepped up in the run game and the wide receiver talent around Watson is stout if they can stay healthy. This is practically a brand-new offense with no preseason games. The chemistry may take some time to flourish.
Preseason games or not, the Chiefs arrived at Arrowhead Stadium to win and defend their title no matter what 2020 threw at them. After Week 1, it’s difficult to see them slowing down in their dreams for a second Super Bowl appearance.
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Buccaneers WR Mike Evans missed practice again on Thursday and will be a game-time decision on Sunday. … Jaguars RB Devine Ozigbo was put on IR with a hamstring injury and the team re-signed RB Dare Ogunbowale who had been released last week. … Giants WR Golden Tate continues to be hampered by a hamstring injury. … Bears RB David Montgomery fully participated in Thursday's practice but may have a snap count in Week 1. … Lions WR Kenny Golladay suffered a hamstring injury in Wednesday’s practice and was limited in practice on Thursday. … Denver WR Courtland Sutton suffered a shoulder injury in Thursday’s practice and was forced to leave early with the team’s trainers. He suffered a sprained joint in his shoulder and is considered day-to-day. … Eagles WR Jalen Reagor was a full participant in Thursday’s practice while RB Miles Sanders returned to practice in a limited capacity and is considered day-to-day. … Cardinals RB Kenyan Drake was a full participant in Thursday’s practice. … Miami TE Mike Gesicki (glute), WR DeVante Parker (hamstring), and WR Preston Williams (knee) were all limited participants in Thursday’s practice. San Francisco WR Deebo Samuel did not participate in practice while fellow WR Brandon Aiyuk was limited with a hamstring injury. … RB Duke Johnson left Thursday’s game early with a leg injury.
WRs Odell Beckham Jr. (Browns) and A.J. Green (Bengals) are 100% healthy and ready to go for Week 1. … Eagles TE Zach Ertz continues to work on contract talks and plans on playing 2020 as though it were his last year with the team. Per NFL’s Andrew Siciliano, Ertz wants to stay with the team but said, “I don't know for sure if that feeling is mutual.” ... Ravens OC Greg Roman says RB Mark Ingram is their starter and lead back while still rotating in three or four backs.