KANSAS CITY, Mo.` — Despite playing without three defensive starters, the Kansas City Chiefs rallied past the visiting Cleveland Browns for a 33-29 win Sunday on GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
Linebacker Willie Gay Jr. was placed on injured reserve Sept. 2 with a toe injury. He will miss at least the first three weeks of the season.
Safety Tyrann Mathieu, who only came off the reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday, and defensive end Frank Clark, who’s been limited throughout the preseason with a hamstring injury, were game-time decisions — and both wound up inactive.
“That was completely me doing that,” said head coach Andy Reid said. “He (Mathieu) wanted to play. Both these guys wanted to play, but I just thought it was the right thing to do. I don’t want to take any steps back. Badger’s been out for two weeks. It was just best that we went this route.”
Mathieu, who is nicknamed “Honey Badger,” went on the reserve/COVID-19 list Sept. 1 after testing positive for the virus.
Juan Thornhill, who started in Mathieu’s place, tied for the team lead with seven tackles, forced a fumble and broke up one pass.
He and Clark were the central figures in the Chiefs’ defensive overhaul after 2018, moves that helped net the franchise its first Super Bowl in 50 years during the 2019 season.
Second-year defensive end Mike Danna had two tackles and a quarterback hit in a starting role in Clark’s absence.
“Frank Clark, that hamstring just never got all the way back,” Reid said. “He practiced. He tried. We took him out and tried warming him up and all that. The thing just wasn’t quite right, so I held him out.”
Linebacker Anthony Hitchens was the only new injury Reid mentioned after the game.
Hitchens “tweaked his elbow” and missed several plays late in the first half, but he returned for the second half.
“That was about it,” Reid said as far as injuries.