LOS ANGELES: Patrick Mahomes threw three touchdowns as the Kansas City Chiefs launched the defense of their Super Bowl crown with a comprehensive 34-20 defeat of the Houston Texans in the NFL season-opener Thursday.
Mahomes, the star of the Chiefs victorious Super Bowl campaign last season, picked up where he had left off with an assured display to pick apart the Texans.
"It's fun to be back out here given the offseason that we had, as a world, as a nation, to be doing something normal again," Mahomes said afterwards.
"I'm glad we got the win," added Mahomes, who finished with 211 passing yards from 24 completions.
It was the opening skirmish of an NFL season kicking off under a cloud of uncertainty as the league attempts to plot a course through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the United States.
The Chiefs are one of only six teams who are allowing limited numbers of spectators into their home games. A total of 15,985 fans were admitted into the clash at Arrowhead Stadium.
There was controversy before kickoff after some Chiefs fans booed players from both sides as they linked arms in a symbolic "moment of unity" in a show of support against racism.
Before that, the Texans players had remained in the locker room during the playing of the U.S. national anthem and "Lift Every Voice and Sing", a song often described as the "black national anthem."
The Chiefs players meanwhile remained on the pitch for both songs with most players standing. One Chiefs player, defensive end Alex Okafor, dropped to one knee during the playing of the U.S. national anthem.
Texans stalwart J.J. Watt voiced dismay at the boos, describing it as "unfortunate."
"I don't fully understand that," Watt told NFL media. "There was no flag involved. There was nothing involved other than two teams coming together to show unity."
When play began, it was the Texans who opened the scoring in the first quarter, with running back David Johnson galloping over from 19 yards to cap an 80-yard drive.
The Chiefs levelled immediately however with Mahomes marching his team downfield on an 11-play drive that culminated with a short pass that picked out tight end Travis Kelce for a close-range score.
With the Texans struggling to make hard yards against the Chiefs defense, the home team struck again in the second quarter.
Another time-consuming 16-play drive ate up more than nine minutes, and ended when Mahomes arrowed a pass to wide receiver Sammy Watkins who skipped over to score from two yards out.
The Chiefs extended their lead to 17-7 just before half-time when kicker Harrison Butker drilled a 29-yard field goal.
The Chiefs maintained the pressure after the break, with diminutive rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire accelerating away from the Texans defense for a 27-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
That left the Chiefs 24-7 ahead as the game entered the fourth quarter.
Any hopes of a Texans comeback faded with the first drive of the final quarter, when quarterback Deshaun Watson was picked off after pressure by safety Tyrann Mathieu.
Watson's hurried pass was plucked by L'Jarius Sneed who sprinted to the Kansas City 17-yard line before being shoved out of bounds.
From the ensuing possession, Mahomes made the game safe after drifting right and picking out receiver Tyreek Hill wide open in the end zone to make it 31-7.
The Texans reduced the deficit with two late touchdowns from Jordan Adkins and quarterback Watson, but the late flurry flattered Houston.
A failed onside kick attempt was safely gathered by the Chiefs Armani Watts, who raced deep into Houston territory to leave Kansas City in striking distance.
From there the Chiefs ran down the clock, before Butker added his second field goal to complete the scoring.