KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Even without their star players, the Kansas City Chiefs had plenty of opportunities to win their season opener.

The Detroit Lions came into Arrowhead Stadium and out-executed the Chiefs on every level on the way to a 21-20 win.

But several miscues down the stretch doomed the home team.

Wide receiver Kadarius Toney was the biggest story of the game because of how he hurt the Chiefs with his drops.

He had several drops throughout the game including a deflection that bounced into the hands of Lions rookie safety Brian Branch who scored on the play tying the game in the third quarter.

His night got even worse late in the third quarter when he dropped a ball at his knees on third down in the red zone where the Chiefs had to settle for a field goal. Then on the final offensive drive of the game, Toney dropped a crucial ball on the Lions’ 35-yard line that surely would have helped the Chiefs take the lead.

He was wide-open for both passes.

Chiefs receivers dropped four passes with three of them coming on third down.

“It’s unusual for us to drop that many passes. Anywhere, anytime,” head coach Andy Reid said.

“We’ll go back and work on that… we gotta fix that.”

“I have trust in KT,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. Toney missed all of training camp rehabbing from meniscus surgery and recently returned to practice which may explain some of his play.

“I have trust that he’s gonna be that guy that I go to in crucial moments and he’s gonna make the catch and win us some season like he did last year. So we’re gonna continue to work him in get him more and more reps and I’m sure that those drops will kind of disappear.

The Chiefs also could not get the ball to Skyy Moore who had 0 catches on three targets and four rushing yards. Even when they did get Moore the ball, his one completion was negated by a Donovan Smith holding penalty on the final offensive drive.

“We didn’t have that connection,” Mahomes said. He finished the night 21 for 39 with 226 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. “We missed connections here and there. Something you have to continue to work on.”

Reid also chose to go for fourth down twice (a Jawaan Taylor false start put them back deeper) in Chiefs territory on the final drive with three timeouts before the two-minute warning.

“I thought that we needed to do that,” Reid said. “They had driven the ball on us so I thought it was important that we gave that a shot… while we still had some time on the clock.”

But on the drive before with six and half minutes left, Kansas City attempted the Andy Reid ole reliable tight end Blake Bell in motion to quarterback sneak play but added a wrinkle with a hard count and then an end around to rookie receiver Rashee Rice that was stoned by the Lions defense.

“We work like crazy on our short yardage and for it to happen like that is not, not good,” Reid said,

The frustration was felt throughout the offense knowing that they were so close but came up short.

“Stalled out, couldn’t make no plays,” running back Jerick McKinnon said. “Put our defense in some bad positions, wasn’t able to come out and produce and that’s a good Lions team over there and they did what they had to do. We came out on the short side tonight.”

“It’s embarrassing for me to lose any time,” Mahomes said. “We’re trying to win another Super Bowl. This is obviously not the way we wanted to start. So any time I lose I’m embarrassed. So I’m gonna try to get better so I don’t lose more as the season goes on.”

The Chiefs had 316 total yards with 90 coming on the ground and Mahomes as the leading rusher with 45 yards.

That’s a far cry from the team’s league-leading 413 yards per game and 29 points per game from 2022. Being without tight end Travis Kelce is not an excuse that even needs to be brought up because of how close this game was.

But being so close helps them believe that they can quickly correct course to face the Jacksonville Jaguars next week.

“No excuses at all,” Reid said. “We’ve got guys that can play. We were right there to take care of business. They got us on special teams and continued the drive, they got us on the tipped ball. It’s unusual for the guys who dropped the ball to drop the ball.

“You do that, you take care of business there and you’ll be alright.”

“Nobody’s gonna go over and roll over for us,” safety Justin Reid said. He had six tackles and two pass breakups on the night. “We know teams are gonna for it on fourth [down], they’re gonna take chances so we gotta overcome that.”

Mahomes had a simple message for his teammates after the game.

“Gotta be better.”