The Kansas City Chiefs were without two of their best players as they opened the 2023 season on Thursday night. Travis Kelce was sidelined with an injury while defensive tackle Chris Jones sat out as part of an ongoing holdout amid contract negotiations.
And while Jones didn’t play, one might say that he had a pretty good day.
For much of the game, Kansas City’s defense kept Detroit’s well-regarded offense in check. With just over 12 minutes to go, the Chiefs led 20-14, with one of the Lions’ touchdowns being scored on defense. But Detroit the lead on a nine-play, 75-yard drive. That included two third-down conversions. The Lions rushed for 21 yards on that drive, including an eight-yard touchdown run from David Montgomery.
Now trailing 21-20, the Chiefs made the controversial decision to go for it on 4th-and-25 from deep in their own territory, despite having all three time-outs and the two-minute warning. Unsurprisingly, the decision failed. It was made worse by the fact that the unsuccessful fourth down play ended right at the two-minute warning.
Still, the Chiefs had a chance to get the ball back. If Kansas City could stop the Lions from getting a first down, Patrick Mahomes would take the field with well over a minute left, likely trailing by either one or four. It didn’t happen.
Montgomery ran for five yards on first down, three on second down and two on third down to put the game on ice.
The Detroit Lions get a first down on 3rd-and-2 and can enter the victory formation! pic.twitter.com/UnzyBIbcj4
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) September 8, 2023
The Lions finished the game with 118 yards rushing and we’re able to get big gains at the end of the game running right into the heart of the Kansas City defense.
As the Chiefs fell to 0-1, the general consensus was that Jones has more bargaining power now than he did before the game.
Chris Jones right now: pic.twitter.com/nyMNIMU5Dl
— Mike Wright (@FFHitman) September 8, 2023
Chris Jones watching the game hyperventilating at the generational wealth that's about to wire into his bank account
— Ahmed/The Ears/IG: BigBizTheGod 🇸🇴 (@big_business_) September 8, 2023
That inability to stop the run is why Andy Reid went for it, by the way. Paging Chris Jones. Please come get your bag.
— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) September 8, 2023
Chris Jones in the Chiefs locker room after they lost to the Lions pic.twitter.com/Z7gr7eeNrz
— Josiah Johnson (@KingJosiah54) September 8, 2023
Chris Jones right now pic.twitter.com/RHvxoOIQ5k
— OddsStack (@OddsStack) September 8, 2023
Watching the Lions run plays into not-Chris-Jones is all I need to know about that negotiation.
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) September 8, 2023
Chris Jones watching the Chiefs lose tonight pic.twitter.com/ZURR6Lj66e
— FanDuel (@FanDuel) September 8, 2023
An extended holdout is risky. There’s a lot of money lost, especially if the holdout actually extends into the season. But if a holdout extends into the season, it can paint a clear picture on how much the team misses a player. With that, the player gets leverage. That’s exactly what happened on Thursday.