There were no excuses from Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid following his team's 21-20 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday night -- the franchise's first season-opening defeat since 2014.
"No excuses, at all," Reid told reporters after the game of the impact of Kelce's absence. "We've got guys that can play that are right there to take care of business, and [the Lions] got us on special teams to continue the drive, they got us on the tipped ball. Listen, it's unusual for the guys that dropped the ball to drop the ball, that's not what I've seen from them, and I wouldn't expect them to do that. So, you do that, you take care of business there, and we'll be alright."
Reid referenced two of the biggest plays of the night for the Lions: converting a fake punt from their 17-yard line to continue what would be the game's first scoring drive and rookie Brian Branch's 50-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter.
However, it was largely the Chiefs' uncharacteristic struggles on offense that plagued the team. Kansas City was shut out of the end zone in the second half and held to 316 yards of offense in the game.
"There were some good things on offense, we've just got to be more consistent," Reid said. "I'll take that, I'll take the offensive part of this, we did have some good plays in there, but disappointing loss, good football team that we lost to. We've got to play better, we've got to coach better, so that's what we'll do."
The Branch interception came off a Kadarius Toney drop, which was the lowlight of an overall woeful night for the receiver. Without Kelce, quarterback Patrick Mahomes connected with 11 receivers, but a rhythm was rarely found, and outside of a 34-yard first-half hookup with Marquez Valdes-Scantling, big plays were seldom.
Mahomes found rookie Rashee Rice and tight end Blake Bell in the second quarter to forge KC ahead, 14-7, at the half, but the reigning Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player could conjure up no second-half magic.
Nonetheless, Mahomes mirrored his coach's stance of making no excuses regarding Kelce's absence.
"Yeah, I mean you're losing one of the best, I think the best tight end of all time, but other guys gotta step up," said Mahomes, who finished the night with 226 passing yards and a team-high 45 rushing yards. "It's going to have an impact on the game but other guys got to step up, and they're going to have to step up in moments, because I'm sure there'll be times where [Kelce] gets doubled, so just going to have to rely on these other guys that are young and talented to step up and make other plays, and I believe that they will."
Mahomes, at times, appeared to be a one-man band, perhaps most notably on a play in which a Lions pass rusher had him by the leg. Mahomes somehow stayed upright and got off a pass to Jerick McKinnon that was subsequently dropped.
Drops played a pivotal role in the Chiefs' loss, with Toney coming away with the harshest criticism, though Skyy Moore was also a culprit and had no catches on three targets.
Jones' defensive absence was certainly felt, particularly when the Lions salted the game away with runs up the gut to run out the clock, ending the Chiefs' overall eight-game (including playoffs) winning streak and their 16-game run of victories against NFC foes.
Still, the Lions were a top-five offense last season and were held to just 21 points.
It was the Chiefs' offensive hiccups that made the most noise in the loss.
No excuses or not, Kelce will be welcomed back with jubilant bear hugs, provided he returns for Week 2 at Jacksonville. And Thursday will stick as a major lesson for all of the offensive supporting cast that better ball needs to be played going forward.
"It'll be good for the young guys to know that we're not just going to walk in and win the game," Mahomes said. "You've got to play good football, play every team's best shot. I've preached it to them all preseason, but they know now, and we're gonna go to Jacksonville next week, and that's a good team, so hopefully guys learn from it and get better, and one loss just doesn't turn into two."