Interviews, Comment & Analysis @ch_skysports
Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell says he “expected” his side’s upset win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Thursday night’s season opener; Chiefs head coach Andy Reid insists he would make “no excuses” as his offense missed star tight end Travis Kelce.
Last Updated: 08/09/23 10:30am
Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell insisted he learned nothing he did not already know about his side as they ignited their season as surprise package candidates by taking down the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in Thursday’s opening game.
Perhaps ‘surprise package’ is the wrong term for a team that warned of its ascent with eight wins from its final 10 games last season, but optimism is as lofty as it has been in some time for Detroit, with victory over the league’s very best setting the perfect marker.
David Montgomery burrowed through for an eight-yard touchdown with five minutes on the clock to put the Lions on top for good having trailed 14-7 at half-time.
He would then power through for the first down to seal a 21-20 win after the Chiefs failed to convert on fourth-and-25 with two minutes remaining.
“I love the fact our guys never wavered, it was something we talked about,” Campbell told reporters. “We knew we’d hit some tough spots in this game and that happened and nobody got down and we hung in there. I told the team they’re built for this.”
For all the Lions were doing to frustrate the Chiefs early on, they were dealt an ominous reminder of the task at hand as Patrick Mahomes connected with Marquez Valdez-Scantling for 34 yards on third-and-17 to maintain a drive that would end in Blake Bell’s four-yard touchdown catch late in the first half.
The Chiefs had the opportunity to try and extend their cushion after the break, only for rookie safety Brian Branch to pounce on an inexcusable dropped-catch from Kadarius Toney to run in a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown, bringing Detroit level.
By the end of the third quarter they found themselves trailing again at 14-17, before fending off Mahomes in the fourth to earn themselves winning territory.
“I didn’t learn anything, I got verification on what I already knew, and this is a resilient team,” said Campbell. “It already was a resilient team and we added pieces to that resilient team, so we’re built to handle some stuff and we did that against a very good opponent.
“We expected to win this game. We came in here and we knew what we needed to do, and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy and we did that. Really what it means is that’s one [win]. That’s one. So, we’ve got to clean up our issues. It hurt us on some stuff and be ready for Seattle in 10 days. That’s what it is.”
While Ben Johnson’s Lions offense took the plaudits, Campbell was also full of praise for Aaron Glenn’s defense as it shut the Chiefs out of the end zone in the second half.
“It’s something we talk about, closing games out,” he continued. “Everybody knows the strength of our offense, but defensively I thought they showed up in a big way. We needed a takeaway and needed to be much better on third downs and we did that.”
Reid: No excuses
Mahomes had been without his right hand man Travis Kelce as the tight end watched on from the sideline having been ruled out due to a knee injury sustained during practice earlier in the week.
His absence became amplified by a series of dropped catches from Mahomes’ receiver group, the most notable being that of Toney before Jerick McKinnon also fumbled a simple grab to undo his quarterback’s fine work to keep his feet in a collapsing pocket.
“They know I’m going to keep firing, we’ll get it fixed in this next week and correct it going into the next game,” said Mahomes, who underlined his faith in Kelce’s supporting cast.
“You’re losing the best tight end of all time, but other guys have to step up in moments because there’s times when he gets doubled.
“We’re going to have to rely on these other guys who are young and talented to step up and make plays, I believe they will.”
He noted the defeat arrives as an early wake-up call for some team-mates of the depth in competition, coupled with the glowing target on their back as Super Bowl winners.
“It will be good for the young guys to know we aren’t just going to walk in and win the game, we’re going to have to play good football,” he added. “I’ve preached it to them all preseason and now they know. Hopefully guys learn from it and get better.”
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid played down the absence of Kelce and insisted he was confident of ironing out the mistakes that cost his side on Thursday.
“No excuses, at all,” Reid explained. “We’ve got guys that can play that are right there to take care of business, and [the Lions] got us on special teams to continue the drive, they got us on the tipped ball.
“Listen, it’s unusual for the guys that dropped the ball to drop the ball, that’s not what I’ve seen from them, and I wouldn’t expect them to do that. So, you do that, you take care of business there, and we’ll be alright.”
Week One of the 2023 NFL season continues Sunday as the San Francisco 49ers visit the Steelers, with coverage from 4.30pm ahead of kickoff at 6pm, followed by the Dolphins at Chargers at 9.25pm. Stream with NOW.