KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The chance for his first NFL interception was coming for Kansas City Chiefs rookie cornerback L'Jarius Sneed, but he had to be patient. His teammate, Tyrann Mathieu, hit Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson as he threw an early fourth-quarter pass and because of that, it seemed like it took forever for the ball to get to Sneed.
"I thought I was going to drop it, honestly," Sneed said. "It was just floating. Those are the hardest balls to catch.”
Sneed, a fourth-round draft pick, not only made the interception but his 39-yard return set up the Chiefs for their final touchdown of a 34-20 victory.
Among Chiefs' rookies, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire received most of the public acclaim after he rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown. He was one of only three running backs to eclipse 100 rushing yards across the league in Week 1 and currently leads the NFL in that category. Sneed broke up a pair of passes in addition to the interception and they were just two rookies who played for the Chiefs that night.
The Chiefs played four others and the total of six is an impressive number for a Super Bowl champion that retained most of its veteran players.
Fifth-round defensive end Mike Danna from Michigan and undrafted defensive tackle Tershawn Wharton of tiny Missouri S&T played a lot. Second-round linebacker Willie Gay didn't play on defense but had a tackle on special teams. Undrafted punter Tommy Townsend hit three kicks for an average of more than 45 yards, with one punt landing inside the 20.
The rookie stars were Sneed and Edwards-Helaire. Sneed started in the absence of veteran Bashaud Breeland, who was serving a four-game NFL suspension.
"I wouldn't say I saw him having this day but I did see the kid playing solid ball," Mathieu said of Sneed. "I did see him making tackles, making plays. To have a night like this, on prime-time TV, the whole world is watching, all his family is watching, I'm just excited for him and happy for him going forward."
The Chiefs did expect a big debut from Edwards-Helaire. He was their first-round draft pick and one of the stars of training camp.
But the Chiefs were eager to see him in a game. Being a star in practice is one thing but doing it in a game is different. He broke a number of tackles and proved to be difficult for defenders to bring down in the open field.
"The biggest thing in training camp is you don't always get to see the hitting aspect, whether a guy is easy to tackle or whether he's brought down easy," said tight end Travis Kelce of the 5-foot-8, 209-pound Edwards-Helaire. "That was shown [against the Texans]. He's a tough son-of-a-buck. For how tall he is, man, he's got the strength of somebody my size. He runs the ball like no one I've ever seen at that size, and it's fun to play with. It's infectious when you see him playing his tail off and running his tail off, you want to go out there and block for him and make plays as well."
Even Edwards-Helaire couldn't find a fault with his NFL debut.
"As far as right off the jump, I can't really pinpoint," he said shortly after the Texans game. "I'm going to go home, look at the film, literally go through every play, write some things down, probably shoot a couple of texts to [running backs coach Deland McCullough] and other than that, prepare for next weekend. Whatever adjustments I need to make, make sure I don't have those same things show up on film. It's a copycat league."