Mahomes threw two touchdown passes, including one to returning star Travis Kelce, and the Chiefs overcame three early turnovers to beat Jacksonville 17-9 on Sunday for their third victory against the Jaguars in 10 months.
“You play bad and win, it’s a lot better than playing bad and losing,” Mahomes said. “So I was glad we were able to find a way to get a win at the end of the day, but a lot of stuff that we have to be better at.”
At the top of the list: 12 penalties for 94 yards in stifling heat and humidity that caused numerous issues for fans baking in the sun and players cramping on the field.
“It’s still early in the season and you guys just saw the second game, bringing all the new pieces together,” Kelce said. “But right now, hats off to the defense, the way they’re planning to keep us in games. We love them for it. We got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot on offense.”
The Chiefs (1-1) won their eighth straight in the series and avoided becoming the first defending Super Bowl champions to start 0-2 since Denver in 1999.
The Jaguars (1-1), who insisted all week they owed the Chiefs because of a loss in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs in January, pretty much no-showed in their home opener.
“We got our shot here at home and laid an egg offensively,” Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. “It’s pretty frustrating. … It’s definitely really, really frustrating when you leave that much out there.”
Coach Doug Pederson’s team endured another slow start, failed to capitalize on two of three turnovers and struggled to protect Lawrence, who was 0 for 7 passing in the red zone.
The Jaguars had to settle for a field goal after having first-and-goal at the 1 to start the fourth quarter and Lawrence later threw incomplete on a fourth-and-12 play with 4:16 remaining. Kansas City didn’t let the Jaguars get the ball back.
“No surprises,” Jacksonville tight end Evan Engram said. “Just disappointing. We’re better than this. We missed. We missed our shot. We’re going to definitely move on from this. … We’ll see ’em again.”
The Jaguars certainly should have a better plan for All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones in a potential rematch.
Making his season debut after ending his holdout and signing a one-year contract, Jones dominated his one-on-one matchups. He manhandled rookie right tackle Anton Harrison and was equally effective against the rest of Jacksonville’s line. He finished with 1 1/2 sacks on five QB pressures.
With extra time to prepare following a loss to Detroit 10 days earlier in the NFL opener, the Chiefs had hoped to look a lot more like their normally dynamic selves on offense. But Richie James muffed a punt, Justin Watson fumbled and Mahomes threw an interception. Kadarius Toney, who dropped three passes in the opener, fumbled late in the third but was able to scoop up the loose ball and avoid another turnover.
“Too many procedure penalties, turnovers,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “We’ll get that taken care of.”
Mahomes completed 29 of 41 passes for 305 yards. He found Kelce all alone in the end zone to extend KC’s lead to 14-6. CBS play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle slipped in a song reference to reports linking Kelce to pop superstar Taylor Swift by saying “Kelce finds a blank space for the score.” One of Swift’s many hits is “Blank Space.”
Kelce, who missed the opener because of a hyperextended knee, punted the ball into the end zone to celebrate. He finished with four catches on nine targets for 26 yards.
The Chiefs converted twice on fourth down and outgained Jacksonville 399 to 271 in total yards.
“It’s Week 2. I mean, my gosh,” said Pederson, who fell to 0-4 against his mentor, Reid. “Those guys are ticked off in there. They’re mad. But it’s so early in this season that one game’s not going to define who we are and it’s not going to define our season.”
Chiefs right tackle Jawaan Taylor, who spent the first four years of his NFL career with Jacksonville, had a rough homecoming. Taylor was penalized five times and ultimately benched for a series. He was flagged twice for false starts, once for an illegal formation and twice for holding.
Jaguars: LB Josh Allen (shoulder) returned late. WR Zay Jones (knee) returned after spending time in the locker room. WR Calvin Ridley ran into the padding surrounding the goal post and was shaken up. RB Travis Etienne and S Andre Cisco dealt with cramping issues.
Chiefs: Host Chicago next Sunday.
Jaguars: Host Houston next Sunday.