KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Big plays from offense, defense and special teams proved the theme in the Chiefs 41-39 preseason opening win over the visiting Cincinnati Bengals.
Special teams got the Chiefs going after a sluggish start on offense and facing a 10-0 deficit. Rookie wide receiver Albert Wilson kick started the Chiefs after a 65-yard punt return.
“It brought me back to that Alabama kickoff return,” Wilson said comparing the punt return to his 97-yard return for a score in 2010. “I sure thought I was going to get the edge, but unfortunately I didn’t. It was a good feeling to get the offense on a good drive.”
Kansas City capped off Wilson’s effort with a 27-yard Ryan Succop field goal to make the score 10-3.
The Chiefs then held the Bengals on the next possession to force a punt.
Rookie De’Anthony Thomas then did the rest after fielding the ball at the Chiefs’ 20-yard line. He found a seam up the middle, and then hit daylight along the right sideline, electrifying Arrowhead Stadium with an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown.
“Once I had the ball,” Thomas said, “got hit a little bit and I just saw a little crease, and I just hit it.”
The Chiefs tied the score after a rookie kicker Cairo Santos point after touchdown (PAT) at 10-10.
With special teams putting the Chiefs on the board, the defense stepped to the plate just 16 seconds later.
Cornerback Sean Smith jumped a route on a pass thrown by Bengals quarterback Jason Campbell. Smith cleanly picked off the ball and sprinted down the right sideline before high-stepping into the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown.
Succop’s PAT put the Chiefs ahead 17-10.
The Bengals got two touchdowns, one coming on a pick-6 off Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel by cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, but the Chiefs offense came alive with :21 remaining in the half.
Daniel dropped back to pass on second-and-10 on the Chiefs’ 31-yard line and found tight end Travis Kelce on a short pass.
Kelce turned up field and ran through the second level of the Bengals defense, even pulling away from the defensive backs en route to a 69-yard touchdown.
“It’s been quite a while,” Kelce said. “Just to kind of get out there and get that feeling back of being on the field and scoring a touchdown, it feels pretty good right now.”
The Chiefs ended the first half with a 27-24 lead and got the final big play of the evening on a 51-yard pick-6 by free safety Malcolm Bronson.
Bronson, a second-year pro, instantly recognized the play and notched the Chiefs’ second interception returned for a touchdown on Campbell.
“They ran that route on a similar play earlier in the game,” Bronson said. “I was just playing the route and he threw it, so I took it.”
Smith’s and Bronson’s interceptions returned for a touchdown mark the first time in Chiefs history with two pick-6s in a single preseason game.
Chiefs running back Cyrus Gray capped off the scoring with a 2-yard run.
The 41 points scored Thursday night by the Chiefs mark the most points scored in a preseason game since scoring 42 against the New Orleans Saints on Aug. 10, 1996.
Chiefs free safety Malcolm Bronson tore his ACL three games into his 2012 senior season and spent the 2013 season on the Chiefs practice squad rehabilitating.
“I was excited to get out there and play football again,” Bronson said. “Play the game that I love. It’s a blessing that God has brought me this far to get me out there on the field, and do something that I’ve been dreaming of doing since I was a little kid.”
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce underwent microfracture knee surgery on his left knee in early October 2013.
“All the credit goes to the training staff,” Kelce said. “It just feels good to be out there, be accountable for all the guys on this team and have some fun out there.”
The Chiefs had left guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and wide receiver Weston Dressler on the field at the same time during the third quarter.
Duvernay-Tardif played college football at McGill University.
Dressler spent six seasons in the Canadian Football League with the Saskatchewan Roughriders before signing with the Chiefs in February. Dressler did not record a catch Thursday night.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said defensive end Mike DeVito, who did not dress, has a broken bone in his finger.
“We should be able to splint it up,” Reid said, “and he should be able to work here in the next couple days. But for this game it wasn’t going to work.”
Reid said defensive end Kona Schwenke suffered a shoulder strain and wide receiver Albert Wilson has an ankle sprain.
Wilson was observed in the locker room without a noticeable limp.
The Chiefs return to the training camp practice field Saturday.
The Chiefs travel to Carolina to take on the Panthers on Sunday, Aug. 17.
The game airs nationally on FOX at 7 p.m. CT.