KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes II got his first NFL start on Thursday night.
The Kansas City Chiefs hope it’s his last for a while.
The Chiefs’ first-round pick threw for 183 yards and a touchdown in his preseason finale, helping them to a 30-6 rout of the Tennessee Titans in a game that was played primarily by backups on both sides.
Mahomes got the nod with Alex Smith and the rest of the starters sitting out, and he once more showed why the Chiefs moved up to draft him 10th overall in April. The former Texas Tech standout scrambled to keep plays alive, stood tall in the pocket and used his big arm to make plays downfield.
“This was a good experience for him,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “I thought he handled the last few days well. He knew he was going to start. But now he has to carry that into being a backup.”
His favorite target was second-year pro Demarcus Robinson , who may have locked up the Chiefs’ final wide receiver job. He had three catches for 127 yards, including a 28-yard TD strike just before halftime.
“I feel like I’ve gotten better every single day, and that’s been the plan all along,” said Mahomes, who beat out Tyler Bray for the No. 2 job. “I mean, it’s a process, but you want to make sure you come in every single practice, every single game and improve.”
Rookie wide receiver Jehu Chesson also solidified his roster spot with a weaving, dodging 76-yard punt return touchdown for Kansas City. Backup tight end Gavin Escobar may have done likewise when he hauled in a juggling touchdown catch from Bray late in the third quarter.
Titans coach Mike Mularkey said early in the week that “all 90” would play in the preseason finale, as if an uneven performance last week against Chicago meant his starters would get at least some work.
But after the Chiefs kicked off, it was former quarterback Matt Cassel rather than Marcus Mariota who led the Titans onto the field. Cassel was joined by a flotilla of Tennessee backups, including a couple — such as David Fluellen, who carried 19 times for 74 yards — still trying to earn a job.
“I’m confident in my ability and just hope that the people making the decisions feel the same way,” said wide receiver Tre McBride, who had three catches as he tried to earn one of the Titans’ final roster spots.
On defense, first-round pick Adoree Jackson made a couple of nice plays while trying to earn one of their starting cornerback jobs. He even flashed some good hands by picking a pass on a tipped ball, though a video review showed he landed on the out of bounds line.
“I told our guys I’m actually very proud of them,” Mularkey said, “because I know each and every one of them that played tonight, some of them it’s their last game. They gave their best effort and competed as best they could. At the end of the day that’s all you can ask of yourself when you walk off the field.”
SHAKY RETURN: Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos made his preseason debut after dealing with a groin injury and promptly missed an extra point. But he bounced back to hit a 48-yard field goal in the second half. “He felt good tonight,” Reid said, “so I think we’re in a good spot.”
BERRY BAD NEWS? All-Pro safety Eric Berry was not suited up, even though he had returned to practice after dealing with a heel injury. Berry was not expected to play regardless, but the fact he didn’t suit up or go through pregame warmups could be reason for concern.
MORE INJURIES: Titans linebacker Kevin Dodd, who recovered a fumble early in the second quarter, left with a bruised hip later in the half. Long snapper Ryan DiSalvo left with a concussion after he was blindsided by the Chiefs’ Justin March-Lillard on the block that sprung Chesson’s touchdown return.
NEWCOMERS SIT: The Chiefs traded this week for linebacker Reggie Ragland, a 2016 second-round pick of the Bills, and offensive lineman Cam Erving, a 2015 first-round pick of the Browns. Neither was ready to get into the game, though the Chiefs hope both are ready for the regular season. “I’ve got a good familiarity with the playbook,” Ragland said, “so it’s going very good so far.”
ON DECK: The Chiefs open the season next Thursday night in New England, while the Titans welcome Oakland to town Sept. 10, when most of the league begins playing games that count.