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Audible booing in reduced crowd as NFL returns with 'moment of unity'

Super Bowl Champions Kansas City beat the Texans in front of just under 16,000 people.

THERE WERE AUDIBLE boos from some Kansas City Chiefs fans last night as the reigning Super Bowl champions and the Houston Texans lined up for a “moment of unity” ahead of the season-opener which the Chiefs won 34-20.

texans-chiefs-football Source: Jeff Roberson

Scattered booing could be clearly heard coming from sections of the reduced-capacity crowd of 15,985 as players from the Chiefs and Texans linked arms for the pre-game gesture near halfway.

Before the ritual, both teams had taken contrasting approaches to the playing of the US national anthem and a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” a song regarded as the black national anthem.

Texans players remained in their locker room for both anthems while the Chiefs players stood on the field.

One Chiefs player, defensive end Alex Okafor, dropped to one knee during the playing of the US national anthem.

nfl-houston-texans-at-kansas-city-chiefs Okafor kneels in protest. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

The booing was greeted with dismay following the Chiefs 34-20 win.

“The moment of unity I personally thought was good,” Texans star J.J. Watt told NFL Media.

I mean the booing during that moment was unfortunate. I don’t fully understand that. There was no flag involved. There was nothing involved other than two teams coming together to show unity.”

Kansas City mayor Quinton Lucas said the catcalls did not reflect the Missouri city. 

“We’re a good city of good people,” Lucas wrote on Twitter. “I heard boos too. But we also have hundreds of thousands more around here who respect the message the players are sharing.”

After months of protests across the United States following the death of George Floyd during his arrest by police in Minneapolis in May, the NFL relaxed its rules against peaceful protest. Commissioner Roger Goodell has said he now regrets the league’s failure to support Colin Kaepernick and admits that the quarterback’s protests had been mischaracterised as unpatriotic.

In the game itself, Patrick Mahomes threw three touchdowns as the Chiefs ran out omprehensive 34-20 winners on opening night.

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 off-season that we had, as a world, as a nation, to be doing something normal again,” Mahomes said after his  211 passing yards from 24 completions.

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nfl-houston-texans-at-kansas-city-chiefs Mahomes gets a pass away. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

The Texans 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 defence, 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.

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.

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AFP

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