The instant Chiefs running back Knile Davis decided to return the opening kickoff inches from the back of the end zone on Thursday night, the message was clear.
The Chiefs’ special teams were going to be just as aggressive as they were last season.
Davis, remember, returned a kickoff a club-record 108 yards last season against Denver, as special teams coach Dave Toub encouraged his return men to be aggressive and take chances.
Though Davis returned the opening kickoff just 22 yards to the Kansas City 13, that set the tone for the rest of the returns in the Chiefs’ 41-39 victory in the preseason opener.
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Rookie Albert Wilson brought a kickoff out from 5 yards deep and bolted through the wedge to the Cincinnati 40 for a 65-yard return that set up the Chiefs’ first score, a 27-yard field goal by Ryan Succop.
And rookie De’Anthony Thomas produced the most explosive play of the night when he burst 80 yards on a punt return that some players may have chosen to fair catch because Cincinnati’s Dre Kirkpatrick was in his face.
“I know I was screaming ‘fair catch …’” said Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. “He’s the type of player that when he touches the ball, everybody is kind of holding their breath a little bit.”
Thomas never considered calling for a fair catch.
“I didn’t want to fair catch it all,” Thomas said. “I wanted to see what I could do. When I got the opportunity, I wanted to make the best of it.”
The other phases of the Chiefs’ special teams were nearly flawless.
Dustin Colquitt punted just once in the first three quarters, but it was a beauty — a 71-yard rocket that sailed out of bounds at the Cincinnati 7.
The Chiefs’ battle for place-kicker was slightly in veteran Ryan Succop’s favor over rookie challenger Cairo Santos, based on kickoffs.
Succop kicked three touchbacks out of the end zone and another kickoff 4 yards deep. Santos had one touchback, one kickoff to the goal line; another to the 4 and one 5 yards into the end zone.