KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With one snap of the ball, Patrick Mahomes likely showed enough to take the remainder of the preseason off.
Travis Kelce started in the slot, running an out route that turned into a wheel down the left sideline. A few steps before the Pro Bowl tight end turned his head, Mahomes had already flicked his wrist.
On the money, 36 yards downfield, Mahomes sent a fiery preseason crowd into a crowd, and sent Kelce to the sideline to end his day quickly.
“It’s him getting open versus man coverage,” Mahomes said of Kelce. “I’m going to have the trust in him that he’s going to get open and I’m going to put it out there. He made a great catch on the ball, and it got the series going.”
Mahomes was in control in his lone series of a 38-17 win against the Bengals in Saturday’s preseason opener. The reigning NFL MVP finished 4-for-4 for 66 yards, including a 10-yard rush down near the goal line that promptly ended his night, though he was likely done regardless.
Mahomes could’ve ran out of bounds to the right, instead opting to juke a defender and slide just short of the end zone instead of taking a hit unnecessary in the preseason.
The MVP trotted back into the huddle with a smile, giving coach Andy Reid and the sideline a thumbs up.
“They get on me sometimes about how in the Chargers game, the first (regular-season) game of the year last year, I got stood up at the goal line twice trying to get in there,” Mahomes said of the coaching staff. “It was an inside joke.”
Although the drive ended with a 1-yard rushing score by Carlos Hyde, who started the game with Damien Williams out with a hamstring injury, Mahomes gutsy run in the red zone sent a jolt into Reid to end things before a potential injury — with a fun jab.
“That’s why you take him out of the game,” Reid said with a laugh. “Getting yourself prepared and kind of feeling that little burn that you get in there. That competitive burn where you have to raise it up a notch and prep for a game. So, he did all of that and we got him out of there.”
Even before the offense took the field, it appeared the defense had a picture-perfect start in its first action under Steve Spagnuolo.
Kendall Fuller punched a ball free during a tackle, eventually ending up in Tyrann Mathieu’s hands as a fumble recovery. The play was overturned after it was determined to be an incompletion.
Cincinnati responded with a 14-play, 75-yard drive that lasted more than eight minutes.
The defense took the field without Frank Clark and Alex Okafor due to injury, giving Breeland Speaks and Tanoh Kpassagnon the opportunity to start.
The Bengals didn’t score a touchdown again until early in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs scoring 24 straight between the first and third periods.
“We were good. Communication is always key on defense,” defensive tackle Chris Jones said. “Making sure that everybody is on the same page. For the first preseason game, it was good. We had a lot of fun.”
Kansas City allowed just 21 yards rushing, sacked the quarterback three times, picked off two passes and recorded two muffed punts. While the defense usually gets the challenge of facing the NFL’s top offense, the switch to playing a lacking Bengals squad still proved the team has more to give.
“It’s a change up from going against our offense,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “I feel like we have a long way to go. We have to stay committed, stay focused and make plays when we get the opportunity.”
Williams, Clark and Okafor were among the starters to miss, while Gehrig Dieter, Jordan Lucas and Emmanuel Ogbah also didn’t suit up. Wide receiver Davon Grayson didn’t finish the game due to a sore left knee, and halfback John Lovett left the game with a separated shoulder.