Chiefs vs. Browns score, takeaways: Kansas City survives Week 1 scare, bounces back late to beat Cleveland

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Getty's Jamie Squire

The Cleveland Browns were looking to wash away the misery of an AFC divisional round loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, but it ended up being more of the same for the AFC North franchise. The Browns held the lead for nearly 53 minutes in Kansas City before the Chiefs registered what would be the game-winning score. 

Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes exchanged blows, but Cleveland ran out of steam in the season-opener. Mahomes was able to lean on his stars -- tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. The two combined for 273 receiving yards and three touchdowns whereas all four of the Browns' touchdowns were scored on the ground.

Why did it happen? Here are our takeaways:

Why the Chiefs won

Cleveland had eight months to come up with an answer to the Kelce and Hill riddle. They drafted cornerback Greg Newsome II and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah with their first two picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. They signed cornerback Troy Hill and safety John Johnson III in free agency. Those additions amounted to very little change. Kelce and Hill accounted for 273 receiving yards and three touchdowns. The rest of the roster registered a whopping 124 total yards. 

A significant share of that yardage came when quarterback Patrick Mahomes escaped the pocket and extended the play with his feet. Cleveland got too deep in their rushes and Mahomes climbed the pocket. If they had stopped their rush short, the quarterback would have slipped out the back to extend the play. Those are the challenges of defending such a talented player.

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Why the Browns lost

Cleveland had three turnovers in the second half: one fumble lost, one interception and a turnover on downs. Kansas City had zero. Those mental lapses are what ultimately doomed the AFC North franchise. A fourth stroke of misfortune is laid out in the turning point section below. 

Turning point

Poor timing torpedoed the Browns in the fourth quarter. A scrambling Mahomes found Hill for a 75-yard touchdown where safety John Johnson III was turned around. When he was able to locate the ball, it was already too late. Cleveland had an answer every time Kansas City scored throughout the game ... until they didn't.

After the Hill touchdown, the Browns went three and out, trotting punter Jamie Gillan onto the field. A perfectly normal snap was sent to Gillan but he dropped it, scrambled and was tackled in the red zone. Mahomes found Kelce for the second touchdown in 15 seconds. It was the first lead of the game for Kansas City and the last time that Cleveland would hold an advantage. 

Play of the game

It has to be the Hill touchdown described above. Mahomes senses pressure from Takk McKinley and Jadeveon Clowney so he escapes the pocket to the right and throws an off-kilter pass in the direction of Hill. It was not the display of pinpoint accuracy so commonly associated with Mahomes, but it was a perfect example of the truly one-of-a-kind talent packed into that 6-foot-3, 230 pound frame. His trust in Hill made that game-changing play possible.

What's next

Cleveland returns home for a manageable stretch of games against the Texans and Bears. The Brown travel to Minnesota on Oct. 3. If they can avoid the mental disappointment that comes with losing a hard fought game, then they should bounce back in a big way. 

Kansas City will head to Baltimore to take on the Ravens, who do not play their first game until Monday night. The following two games will be home against the Chargers and away against the Eagles, both of whom won in Week 1. 

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KC -5.5, o54.5
KC -5.5, O/U 54.5

Season Leaders

passing
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B. Mayfield 2413 YD, 11 TDS, 6 INTS
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B. Mayfield 2413 YD, 11 TDS, 6 INTS
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P. Mahomes 3200 YD, 25 TDS, 11 INTS
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P. Mahomes 3200 YD, 25 TDS, 11 INTS
rushing
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N. Chubb 150 ATT, 867 YD, 6 TDS
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N. Chubb 150 ATT, 867 YD, 6 TDS
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C. Edwards-Helaire 77 ATT, 367 YD, 1 TD
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C. Edwards-Helaire 77 ATT, 367 YD, 1 TD
receiving
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D. Njoku 27 REC, 407 YD, 3 TDS
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D. Njoku 27 REC, 407 YD, 3 TDS
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T. Hill 84 REC, 932 YD, 8 TDS
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T. Hill 84 REC, 932 YD, 8 TDS
Live updates
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@Browns via Twitter
September 13, 2021, 12:00 AM
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Thank you to everyone that followed along with this evening's coverage! We look forward to seeing you back in Week 2.

September 12, 2021, 11:34 PM
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Baker Mayfield's first mistake of the game comes at the worst possible time. Kansas City is going to win in their home opener. It was Cleveland's third turnover of the second half. The Chiefs had zero turnovers.

September 12, 2021, 11:28 PM
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The AFC divisional game ended without Cleveland getting a chance to take the lead. The Browns get that chance here in Week 1.

September 12, 2021, 11:22 PM
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Arrowhead Stadium is rocking as the Chiefs take their first lead of the season.

September 12, 2021, 11:05 PM
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@Browns via Twitter
September 12, 2021, 11:05 PM
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And here comes the punt team. Baker Mayfield short-armed a throw to David Njoku after he worked open late. It looked as though Njoku stopped his route. 

Cleveland punter Jamie Gillan drops the punt, scrambles and gets tackled inside the red zone. Kansas City with a golden opportunity to assume their first lead. It only takes a field goal.

September 12, 2021, 11:02 PM
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@Chiefs via Twitter
September 12, 2021, 11:01 PM
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Cleveland has still not punted. Only two of their six possessions have not ended in a touchdown; the one to end the first half and a second half Nick Chubb fumble. Chris Jones has them behind in the down and distance with a first down sack.

September 12, 2021, 11:00 PM
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@TheOBR via Twitter
September 12, 2021, 10:59 PM
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Two touchdowns in 15 seconds pushed the Over/Under at Caesars Sportsbook up to 66.5; currently at 56 points, which is higher than the pre-game Over/Under.

https://www.williamhill.com/us/nj/bet/football

September 12, 2021, 10:58 PM
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