Lions edge Super Bowl champion Chiefs in NFL season opener
Kansas City, Missouri - The Detroit Lions, touted as NFL contenders after decades of playoff futility, stunned the Super Bowl champion Chiefs 21-20 in Kansas City on Thursday to kick off the 2023 season.
Detroit quarterback Jared Goff threw for 253 yards and a touchdown, rookie defensive back Brian Branch returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown, and Detroit's defense came up with a huge stop late to end Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes' perfect record in season-opening games.
"It was a long, hard game," Goff told NBC. "We probably didn't play our best, but we're built for this, we really are – playing the four-quarter game like this."
David Montgomery had 21 carries for 74 yards for Detroit, including the go-ahead touchdowns midway through the fourth quarter.
The Lions haven't won an NFL playoff game since 1991, and last played for an NFL title back in 1957.
An 8-2 run over their last 10 games last season had many thinking this is the year Goff and Co. can turn things around.
Goff, however, wasn't getting ahead of himself when asked what the win meant for the long-struggling Lions.
"It means we're 1-0," he said.
Patrick Mahomes' Chiefs fall short
Mahomes, who had been 5-0 in openers, threw for 226 yards with two touchdowns. He was also the Chiefs' leading rusher with 45 yards on six carries.
But the Chiefs clearly missed star tight end Travis Kelce, who was out with a knee injury. Kadarius Toney struggled unsuccessfully to fill the void, one of his missed catches bouncing into the hands of Branch who returned it for a TD in his NFL debut.
Goff connected with Amon-Ra St. Brown on a nine-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
The Chiefs answered with Mahomes' short scoring pass to rookie Rashee Rice and took a 14-7 lead less than a minute before halftime on Mahomes' pass to Blake Bell.
Branch's pick-six tied it up again. After two field goals from Harrison Butker put the Chiefs up 20-14, Montgomery's scoring run capped a 75-yard Detroit drive.
Kansas City had a last chance when the Lions turned the ball over on downs near midfield with 2:30 remaining. But a dropped pass by Toney was followed by two penalties, and Mahomes' last-gasp fourth-down throw was incomplete.
"Our defense stepped up today and held us in this game," Goff said.
Week one continues on Sunday, when the marquee match-ups include the big-spending Baltimore Ravens hosting the Houston Texans and the Philadelphia Eagles, who fell to Kansas City in the Super Bowl in February, at the New England Patriots.
On Monday, the New York Jets host the Buffalo Bills with four-time Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers making his debut for a Jets team aiming to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Cover photo: USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Connect