Just ask the Houston Texans, the opponents in Thursday night’s NFL season opener at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs crushed the Texans 51-31 last season in the divisional round of the playoffs by scoring a touchdown on seven straight possessions and then adding a field goal on the next one.
But the Chiefs have been especially good at scoring points in their season opener the past three seasons. They put 42 on the New England Patriots in the first game of 2017, when Mahomes was a backup and did not play, 38 on the Los Angeles Chargers in 2018 and 40 last year against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
That’s 40 points per game over three openers, or about 10 points more than they averaged in regular-season games over the past three seasons. Mahomes has thrown for 634 yards and seven touchdowns in the past two openers.
“Coach [Andy] Reid runs a great training camp,” said Mahomes in explaining the Chiefs’ fast offensive starts in season openers.
“I think that’s a big part of it. He puts us in situations that are really game-like, which I feel like is a huge advantage, especially with no preseason games. I mean he’s putting us in these situations every single day. We might not be tackling full, but we’re put in situations where we’re in third-and-long, third-and-short, trying to figure out ways to go throughout a game and situations that you’ll be a part of. So I think that’s why we start so fast and we’re ready right out of the gate because the training camp coach runs.”
Maybe things will be different in this opener against the Texans. Maybe the Chiefs will feel the loss of offseason practice or preseason games. Maybe the Texans just play good defense. But if training camp is any indication of success, the Chiefs look primed for another fast start. Reid put in his usual new offensive wrinkles, which tend to surprise unprepared opponents. Plus, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire has looked like a nice addition to the offense.
Most of all, it was a typical Reid training camp, even in a most untypical year. The Chiefs got in plenty of good work at camp, which is a staple of Reid camps. The Chiefs again didn’t goof off or waste time during practice. They don’t fight or engage in other extracurricular activities. They usually just get better.
In Reid’s seven seasons with the Chiefs, they started 9-0 one season, 5-0 in two others and 4-0 another time. That’s not coincidence. The Chiefs under Reid are almost always ready to go when the regular season begins and this year looks no different.
Some other final observations from camp:
There’s no way to tell for certain until the season begins, but the Chiefs don’t look like a complacent team satisfied by last year’s success. In addition to the good work they put in during camp, a couple of stories might help illustrate where their focus has been. After the recent public practice at Arrowhead, the Chiefs held a brief ceremony to raise their Super Bowl LIV banner. The players stayed on the field to watch, but showed little emotion during or after. They viewed the ceremony matter of factly and walked quietly off the field when it was over. Minutes later, Reid was asked about the ceremony. He said it was nice but indicated he was looking ahead by adding, “We have the Texans coming to town.” So either the Chiefs are focused on 2020 or they’re pretty good actors.
With Edwards-Helaire getting so much hype as a strong candidate for offensive rookie of the year before he had ever walked into Chiefs’ headquarters, it was natural to wonder whether he could live up to the hype. But it looked like he did during camp. He was the starting running back from the first snap and showed why the Chiefs made him the first running back selected in the draft this year. In particular, Edwards-Helaire showed off his skills as a receiver. He displayed a knack for running routes, reliable hands and most of all the ability to make defenders miss in the open field. In Reid’s offense, he looks ready to have a big season.
The defense had enough good moments in camp that it’s reasonable to believe it can be something close to what it was at the end of last year. The Chiefs led the league in scoring defense over the final six weeks of the season. But the Chiefs don’t have a lot of experience at cornerback, a factor that may come back to hurt them early in the season as they play without the most seasoned member of the bunch, Bashaud Breeland. He will miss the first four games because of an NFL suspension. That will leave Charvarius Ward, who became a full-time starter last season, as the senior member of the group. Of the others who will get playing time, Rashad Fenton has never started an NFL game, L’Jarius Sneed is a rookie and Antonio Hamilton is a career backup whose contributions have come mainly on special teams.