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RECAP: Detroit Lions pull off gritty win vs. Super Bowl champion Chiefs

Live scoring updates, drive-by-drive analysis, and highlights from the Detroit Lions’ season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Detroit Lions v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t pretty. But the Detroit Lions did what only a few people thought they could. On banner-raising night, the Lions went into Arrowhead Stadium and beat the Super Bowl champions on their own turf.

The Lions defense was outstanding all night—although they were certainly helped by some Chiefs drops. The offense sputtered for most of the night, but the did what they needed to at the end of the game to pull out the victory in a gritty win.

Here’s how it happened.

First quarter

The Chiefs won the toss and deferred, giving the Lions the ball first. Despite picking up 7 yards on a first down run to David Montgomery, the Lions went three-and-out after two incomplete passes from Jared Goff. A solid punt from Jack Fox pinned the Chiefs inside their own 15-yard line.

Kansas City was first to move the chains, with Patrick Mahomes finding Jerick McKinnon on a third-and-2 for 10 yards with Malcolm Rodriguez a step behind. But that was all for the Chiefs first drive, as John Cominsky corralled Mahomes before he could scramble for a first down.

The Lions looked like they were going to go three-and-out again, but despite being at their own 17-yard line, Dan Campbell dialed up a fake punt and it worked:

That was the jumpstart the Lions offense needed. Helped by a 17-yard rush from rookie Jahmyr Gibbs and a 21-yard pass to Josh Reynolds, the Lions worked their way into the red zone. And the Lions capped it off with an brillian 9-yard pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown for an early 7-0 Lions lead.

The Chiefs looked to strike back and connected on a big third-and-8 to Justin Watson for a 19-yard gain near midfield. A scramble by Mahomes converted another third down and pushed the Chiefs into Lions territory for the first time in the game.

Second quarter

Mahomes continued to move the ball deep into Lions territory with a 14-yard strike to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Another scramble from Mahomes set up a first-and-goal for Kansas City and three plays later, he found rookie Rashee Rice for a 1-yard touchdown pass. 7-7 tie.

The Lions offense went back to work and had a promising drive on their hands, but two critical errors left them scoreless. After getting into the red zone, Frank Ragnow snapped the ball early, hitting Brock Wright in motion and causing Goff to fall on it for a 10-yard loss. After making the yardage up, the Lions went to Marvin Jones Jr. on a quick screen, and the veteran wide receiver fumbled the ball after a big hit from Trent McDuffie. Amazingly, that was Jones’ first fumble of his long career. The Lions couldn’t recover that one, and the Chiefs took over at their own 7-yard line.

Detroit’s defense forced a quick three-and-out, giving the offense good field position at their own 41-yard line with 3:47 left. But the Lions couldn’t take advantage, as Goff was sacked on third-and-5 for a three-and-out of their own.

The Chiefs would take the lead into halftime, as Mahomes led an effective two-minute drill. First, he found Rice for a big 25-yard gain with rookie linebacker Jack Campbell in coverage. Even though the Lions got the Chiefs into a third-and-17, Mahomes threw a bullet to Valdes-Scantling for 34 yards with Jerry Jacobs just a second too late.

Two plays later, Mahomes found a wide open Blake Bell for a 14-7 Chiefs lead.

The Lions had 34 seconds to get into field goal range, but failed to do so. That was how the first half ended.

Third quarter

Although Kansas City got the ball first, they didn’t hold it for long. Hutchinson continued to deliver consistent pressure, forcing Mahomes to throw the ball away and check the ball down. The Chiefs punted after just five plays, and the Lions took over—deep in their own side of the field at their own 7-yard line.

A Jones Jr. drop got the Lions drive off to a tough start and they couldn’t recover. LaPorta couldn’t break a tackle on third down, and Detroit quickly punted back to Kansas City, giving them strong field position at their own 42-yard line.

But Detroit would pick up a huge defensive play to swing the game back in their favor. A pass deflected off Kadarius Toney and rookie Brian Branch was there to pick it off and take it to the house. 14-14 tie.

The Lions defense continued to hold strong, forcing another punt with help from more Hutchinson pressure.

Detroit’s offense had a chance to retake the lead, and started the drive with a couple of positive plays—an 18-yard pass to St. Brown and a 12-yard toss to LaPorta. But a third-down drop from Josh Reynolds ended the drive, and Detroit ended up punting from the Chiefs’ 40-yard line.

The Chiefs quickly got out of the shadow of their own end zone, and a 41-yard pass interference penalty on Cameron Sutton suddenly put them into scoring position. A couple of dropped passes would bail the Lions defense out, and Kansas City settled for a 35-yard field goal and a 17-14 lead with a couple minutes left in the third quarter.

The Lions’ offensive woes continued. A tripping penalty on Montgomery put Detroit behind the sticks on the first set of downs and they never recovered. The Chiefs took over on their own 32-yard line for a chance to add to their lead. A 24-yard pass to Gray ended the third quarter, with rookie Brian Branch injured on the play on a non-contact play. He was listed officially as questionable to return with cramping.

Fourth quarter

Again, the Chiefs worked their way down deep into Lions territory, and again, the Lions defense got enough of a stop to force a field goal with 12:11 left. 20-14 Chiefs.

The Lions offense looked like they were about to go three-and-out yet again, but Goff connected with Josh Reynolds for a clutch third-and-12 conversion:

A few plays later, Goff went back to Reynolds for 33 yards, setting Detroit up inside the red zone. Detroit stayed committed to the run game and David Montgomery scampered in from 8 yards to give the Lions a 21-20 lead with 7:06 to go.

The Lions defense continued its excellent night with another three-and-out forced. This time it was second-year defensive lineman Josh Pashcal coming up with a huge stop on a trick play from the Chiefs.

The Lions took over with 5:07 left at their own 34-yard line with an opportunity to put the game away. Detroit was able to pick up a first down, but made a critical mistake. Going for it on fourth-and-2 from the Chiefs 45-yard line, Goff’s pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage.

That gave Chiefs and Mahomes the ball with 2:30 left at their own 45-yard line, but Detroit’s defense came up with one more stop. Gardner-Johnson picked up a couple of crucial pass breakups. The Chiefs opted to go for it on fourth-and-25, but Mahomes’ pass fell incomplete.

The Lions took over at the two-minute warning at the Chiefs’ 30-yard line. Kansas City had all three timeouts, though, so the Lions still needed to put the game away. Three straight runs did it, as the Lions got a first down and victory formationed their way to the win.

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