Chiefs

Chiefs 17, Chargers 12: Halftime observations from L.A. (Carson, Calif., to be exact)

Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill ran back a punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Chargers during Sunday’s football game in Carson, Calif.
Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill ran back a punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Chargers during Sunday’s football game in Carson, Calif. jsleezer@kcstar.com

The Chiefs are leading the Chargers 17-12 at halftime of the season-opener. Here’s what I saw:

Disciplined D … kind of

The Chiefs opened up on defense and promptly got off the field after forcing a three-and-out in the Chargers’ first series. The Chiefs held the Chargers to two field goals in the first quarter, first limiting the damage done by an unnecessary roughness penalty on safety Ron Parker and then mitigating Melvin Gordon’s hot start on the Chargers’ fourth drive. But in the second quarter, the Chargers put together a 96-yard drive and made it into the red zone for the first time thanks to more monster work by LA’s run game. The Chargers picked up 38 rushing yards on the drive and a 25-yard pickup by Gordon on a short pass from Philip Rivers. The series ended with a 13-yard touchdown from Rivers to running back Austin Ekeler over linebacker Anthony Hitchens. But the Chiefs recovered and ended the half with another 3-and-out.

Hill lights it up

Well that’s the way to start a football game: Tyreek Hill takes it 91 yards on punt return to score with 13:03 to go in the first quarter. And he was just getting started. He found the end zone in the Chiefs’ first offensive series, catching a side-arm throw from Mahomes on a crossing route and running 58 yards to his second score. Then, he ended the first quarter with a 30-yard grab in traffic on a similar route. Hill went into the injury tent after the catch to end the first quarter to go through the concussion protocol, but he passed the tests and returned to the bench in the second with his helmet in hand. He picked up his fourth catch of the day late in the second quarter to finish the half with 113 yards and a touchdown.

Built Ford tough

With the Chargers at the Chiefs’ 30 on 3rd-and-10 in the first quarter, Dee Ford exploded for the Chiefs’ first sack of the season. He trucked Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and demolished the offensive line, leaving right tackle Joe Barksdale injured after the play. He got pressure on Rivers throughout the first half, including a big hit as Rivers threw the touchdown pass to Ekeler midway through the second quarter. Ford had an unremarkable preseason, but that sack shows that he’s bringing the heat to the regular season.

Mahomes steady in first half

After a long awaited offseason and regular season, Patrick Mahomes finally made his second start as the Chiefs’ quarterback. He turned in a mostly steady performance in the first half, sprinkling in a few spectacular plays. The most memorable came on the 30-yard pass to Hill where Mahomes got a sidearm throw off with an LA player wrapping up his legs. Mahomes didn’t make any egregiously bad decisions and didn’t throw any interceptions. He had a couple of awkward slides when he opted to run the ball and he was sacked once. In the final drive of the half, he tried to throw the ball to Chris Conley, who was in double coverage, but Damien Williams managed to grab the ball and save a near-turnover. He finished the first half completing 7-of-14 attempts for 131 yards and touchdown. He also ran the ball twice for 11 yards.

Ware-ing it well

Spencer Ware played in his first regular season game since the 2016 game on Sunday, and he ended the first half with a 27-yard run up the middle through contact. Another time, he took a direct snap on third down in a trick play to gain a yard and convert the down. Kareem Hunt was the Chiefs’ primary runner, but with Ware’s significant injury last season, seeing him play on Sunday is a major win for the Chiefs.

The Kansas City Chiefs prepare on the field at StubHub Center for the start of the season opener against the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday September 9, 2018.

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