KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Cornerback Mike Hughes set the tone and helped preserve history with his role in bookend turnovers as the Kansas City Chiefs smacked the rival Las Vegas Raiders 48-9 on Sunday on GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
Hughes scooped up a fumble and scored on a 23-yard return only 17 seconds into the game for his second career NFL touchdown.
He later forced the first of two fumbles he’d punch free on the day to set up a touchdown and preserved the biggest win in the 62-year history of the Chiefs-Raiders rivalry with another forced fumble in the game’s final two minutes.
“He had an unbelievable day,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said.
It’s a performance made even more remarkable because he didn’t find out until Saturday afternoon that he’d get the start.
Fellow cornerback L’Jarius Sneed’s absence to be with family after his brother’s murder in Louisiana pressed Hughes into a bigger role against Las Vegas.
“We always talk about the mentality of next-man-up, and today was one of those situations,” Hughes said. “Our job is to always stay prepared, and I was prepared to play today.”
The Chiefs’ game plan to manage Sneed’s absence was in flux early Saturday morning.
Safety Tyrann Mathieu said he got a text at 5 a.m. on Saturday to let him know he’d probably be manning the slot with Sneed unlikely to be available.
That left Hughes with a bigger role on the outside, especially with cornerback Rashad Fenton still working his way back to health from a knee injury.
Hughes answered the ball with a team-high nine tackles, the second-most in a game in his career.
He was part of three of Kansas City’s five turnovers on the day with two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
“We practice that weekly during turnover drills at practice,” Hughes said of the mean right cross he used to force two fumbles in the victory. “There are different ways to create turnovers for the defense, and we practice those situations. Multiple situations like that came up today. I had my opportunity and made the plays. It felt good.”
Hughes’ defensive touchdown in the game’s opening seconds set the tone for another dominant performance by a defense that hasn’t allowed more than 17 points during the Chiefs’ current six-game winning streak.
“His time has been coming for a long time now,” Mathieu said. “Obviously, early in the season, him kind of still getting adjusted to the defense, it took some time. I think right now he’s playing with that confidence and that swagger.”
Hughes, a former first-round pick, was acquired in an offseason trade from Minnesota.
“You’ve seen him progress, and you kind of favor those guys that work through the tough spots and get themselves playing well on the defense,” Reid said. “He’s a popular guy.”
Hughes said the last time he scored on the first play of the game, he was a high school quarterback. His only other NFL touchdown came in his debut as a rookie with Minnesota in September 2018.
“It felt good, but I’m just happy that we got the victory,” Hughes said. “That’s all that matters.”