CARSON, Calif. — Tyreek Hill helped get the Patrick Mahomes era off to a blazing start for Kansas City.
The speedy receiver scored three touchdowns, including two in the first quarter, as the Chiefs opened the season with a 38-28 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
"You know, he's a different animal. That's the cheetah," Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt said. "The guy can take off at any time of the game, at any point in the game, and it's good like that to have a guy with speed like that on your team."
On a day when the Chargers' biggest concerns were Mahomes and Hunt, it was Hill's big plays that set the tone. Hill had a 91-yard punt return for a score and a 58-yard TD reception during the first quarter to give Kansas City a 14-3 lead. He then added a 1-yard reception on a shovel pass for a score in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
Hill also had 169 yards on seven receptions, which is the second-most yards by a Chiefs receiver in an opener, according to Pro Football Reference. Carlos Carson had 173 yards receiving against New Orleans in 1985.
Mahomes, who moved into the starting spot after Alex Smith was traded to Washington in the offseason, was 15 of 27 for 256 yards as the Chiefs extended their winning streak over the Chargers to nine.
"Tyreek really got us going with the punt return and Patrick did a nice job of running the offense," Kansas City coach Andy Reid said. "There were a lot of great individual efforts on a hot day where we had to endure the elements."
After the Chargers got the opening kickoff but went three-and-out, Hill took Drew Kaser's punt 91 yards for a touchdown just 1 minute, 57 seconds into the game. The third-year receiver fielded the punt near the right hash mark, but quickly found an opening up the left sideline.
It was Hill's fourth punt return for a touchdown in 32 games and the Chiefs' league-leading seventh since 2013.
"Once I caught it, I was like this is wide open," Hill said. "The punt return really got me hyped and got the rest of the offense rolling."
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said they punted it to the far side to make it hard on Hill, but that he ended up making a good play any way.
"If he was going to come back across the field, surely someone could get there and make a play," Lynn said, "but we didn't get it done."
After Caleb Sturgis' 45-yard field goal got the Chargers on the board, Mahomes threw his first touchdown pass in the NFL, connecting with Hill for 58 yards . Hill caught the pass at the Chargers 47 and eluded a diving tackle by Jahleel Addae as he found a seam up the left sideline.
Mahomes said it was originally supposed to be a run play with a pass option, but one of the linebackers bit on a run fake.
"It helped that I hit it fast and Tyreek was able to miss the tackler," Mahomes said. "Tyreek's really worked on his route running and everything in order to make himself into one of the best receivers in the league. I think today has showed that he has improved and has the speed to bring it any time."
Hill's third touchdown came with 9:42 remaining on a 1-yard shovel pass from Mahomes, who became the third quarterback in Chiefs' history to throw four touchdowns in an opener.
"I don't want to make any too crazy statements, but he's one of the most dynamic guys," Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said of Hill. "I don't know if I've seen anybody better in the things that he can do speed-wise in all my time playing."
RIVERS' 424 YARDS NOT ENOUGH
Rivers' 424 yards are the most by a Chargers' quarterback in an opener, but two turnovers led Chiefs' touchdowns.
Los Angeles was within two points at halftime (14-12), but saw Kansas City score two touchdowns in the third quarter. The second one, which gave the Chiefs a 31-12 lead with 48 seconds remaining in the third, came after Rivers was picked off by Ron Parker at the Chiefs 14.
A 20-yard TD reception by Keenan Allen and 2-point conversion catch by Antonio Gates brought the Chargers within 11, but JJ Jones' fumble of a punt at the Chargers 2 and subsequent Hill touchdown made the deficit too much to overcome.
"It's one of those games that you're sick that you let it get away, because you didn't make all the plays that you really dream about making. ... It does nothing but make me be excited," said Rivers, who was 34 of 51 with three touchdowns and an interception.
Chiefs: LB Ben Niemann suffered a hamstring injury. Coach Andy Reid said he did not know the severity of the injury and said it was likely going to be week-to-week. S Eric Berry made the trip, but was inactive due to a heel injury.
Chargers: RT Joe Barksdale was carted off after injuring his right knee during the first quarter and did not return. Lynn said he did not know the severity of the injury. Sam Tevi took Barksdale's place on the offensive line. Lynn also said DT Joey Bosa, who was inactive for the game, remains week-to-week with a foot injury.
Chiefs: Continue their road trip next Sunday at Pittsburgh. Kansas City has dropped three of its last four to the Steelers in the regular season.
Chargers: Travel to Buffalo next Sunday in the first of two straight road games. The Chargers have won three straight and five of the last six against Buffalo.