The Chiefs got the ball first Sunday in Nashville, and on their first play they dodged trouble.
Mahomes’ deep-middle pass intended for Tyreek Hill was jumped by Tennessee Titans safety Kenny Vaccaro. Was this Mahomes’ second interception of the season, as it was called on the field? No. A replay overturned the call.
Instead of the opening possession ending with a turnover, it concluded with a touchdown, Mahomes’ 3-yard shovel pass to Travis Kelce — the tight end’s third scoring reception of the season.
Sunday marked Mahomes’ 25th career start, and 66th touchdown pass. That’s the most in NFL history for a quarterback through his first 25 games.
On the same drive, Mahomes and Hill mis-timed a pass and the ball actually hit Titans cornerback Adoree Jackson. That’s twice Tennessee defensive backs had a shot at an interception on the first series and failed to take advantage.
Mahomes’ mobility did not seem limited. He moved well in the pocket and was 21 of 27 for 213 yards. The Chiefs dominated the game offensively, gaining 251 yards.
But a Tennessee fumble return for a touchdown was a turning point play in the first half.
Offensive line injuries
Mitchell Schwartz had played 7,894 consecutive snaps before apparently injuring his knee on a Mahomes sack in the second quarter.
Schwartz watched the next play from the sideline and saw the person who replaced him, Martinas Rankin, moved from guard to tackle, also get injured on the next play.
The Chiefs had seven offensive linemen active for the game. When Schwartz and Rankin down, they went with Cam Erving at left tackle, Stefan Wisniewski at left guard, Austin Reiter at center, rookie Nick Allgretti at right guard and Andrew Wylie at right tackle.
Rankin has been ruled out with a knee injury, and Schwartz was deemed questionable to return, also with a knee injury.
Running back LeSean McCoy was inactive by design.
Andy Reid wanted to rest his 31-year-old back for the stretch run. The Chiefs have depth there with Damien Williams, Darrel Williams and rookie Darwin Thompson.
Also, with McCoy’s fumble problems this year — he’s lost two — it seemed like that wouldn’t be an issue Sunday. But it was. And the fumble was a major moment.
With the Chiefs leading 10-7 in the second quarter, Damien Williams lost a fumble that was returned by linebacker Rashaan Evans 53 yards for a touchdown.
Did Chiefs catch a rules break?
The Chiefs made a huge defensive play and might have caught a break on their first defensive possession.
Chris Jones sacked Ryan Tannehill on a third-and-4 and the ball came loose. Tannehill appeared to trap the ball against his body. Chiefs defensive lineman Tanoh Kpassagnon grabbed the ball from the quarterback and the play was ruled a fumble recovery.
The call surprised the CBS crew of Jim Nantz and Tony Romo, who said the trapped ball was in effect a fumble recovery. Their opinion was later affirmed by Gene Steratore, a former referee and now the rules analyst for CBS.
“It breaks away from the philosophy of protecting the quarterback as well,” Steratore said.
The Chiefs got a Harrison Butker 30-yard field goal from the possession to take a 10-0 lead.
Oh, those penalties
After the Kpassagnon recovery, the Chiefs took over at the Titans’ 25, and Mahomes and Kelce connected once again for an apparent score from 16 yards out.
But Hill was called for offensive pass interference, a pick, and that was one of three flags on this possession. In the first quarter the Chiefs were penalized five times for 50 yards. For the half, the Chiefs were flagged seven times.