Quarterback Patrick Mahomes passed for 193 metres and three touchdowns as the Kansas City Chiefs opened the NFL season and defence of their Super Bowl title with a 34-20 win over the Houston Texans on Thursday.
After being named the Super Bowl MVP in February, the last time the preseason-less NFL took the field, Mahomes looked every bit worth the half-billion dollars wrapped into a 10-year deal he received in the offseason. He completed 24 of 32 passes.
Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire also commanded attention. Kansas City's first-round pick from LSU gained 126 metres and a touchdown on 25 carries.
Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson, who was also rewarded with a lucrative offseason contract extension, could not sustain any rhythm until it was too late. He connected on 20 of 32 passes for 231 metres, while passing and rushing for fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Players from both teams gathered and locked arms before the game in a moment of unity. Some Chiefs fans, comprising the restricted attendance (15,895) imposed as a COVID-19 safety measure, booed the midfield demonstration.
The Chiefs were on the field for both the national anthem and "Lift Every Voice and Sing." The Texans remained in their locker room during both songs.
The victory was the sixth straight for Kansas City in a season opener. Counting last year's postseason, the Chiefs have won 10 in a row.
Sammy Watkins caught seven passes for 75 metres and a touchdown for Kansas City, who scored 31 consecutive points after Houston struck for the first score. The Chiefs drew just one penalty.
Another Chiefs rookie, cornerback L'Jarius Sneed, set up a fourth-quarter touchdown with a 35m interception return to the Houston 17. Six plays later, Tyreek Hill snagged a 2m scoring pass.
The touchdown drives that contributed to Kansas City's 17-7 halftime lead consisted of 11 and 16 plays, which Mahomes capped with strikes to Travis Kelce and Watkins.
Oft-injured running back David Johnson, acquired by Houston in an offseason trade that sent featured receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona, scored on a 17-metre burst to give the Texans a 7-0 lead with 4:54 left in the first quarter.
Johnson finished with 70 metres on 11 rushes. Texans wide receiver Will Fuller caught eight passes for 102 metres.