How quickly the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense would adjust to the loss of Tyreek Hill was the question on everyone’s minds entering the 2022 NFL season – but Patrick Mahomes and his teammates had a quick and emphatic answer.
Mahomes was nearly flawless and the offense unstoppable at times as the AFC powerhouses started their campaign with Sunday’s 44-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, extending the NFL’s current longest active wining streak in season openers.
The Chiefs didn’t miss a beat in their first outing since trading Hill, a six-time Pro Bowler who amassed a team-high 111 catches and 1,239 receiving yards in 2021, to the Miami Dolphins in March. Kansas City scored touchdowns on each of their first three possessions, with each drive 75 yards or longer, to build a 20-7 lead midway through the second quarter and force the Cardinals into catch-up mode right from the outset.
Mahomes capped each of those series with touchdown passes – two to running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire – while completing a razor-sharp 16 of 19 throws for 163 yards over the course of those three drives.
"Guys were just ready to go," Mahomes said. "They were excited to get out there and show what we had. Everybody’s asked us the questions of what this offense, what this team’s going to look like. We’ve always believed that we were going to go out there and put on a show and I thought guys did that."
Mahomes didn’t stop there, finishing with five TD passes while completing 30 of 39 attempts for 360 yards without an interception to lead Kansas City to their eighth consecutive season-opening win under coach Andy Reid.
The 2018 NFL MVP has started the past five of those lid-lifters, and thrown for 18 touchdowns and no interceptions in those games.
"It’s coach Reid getting more weeks to game-plan," Mahomes said of his history of early-season success. "That’s always a good thing for me because he’s getting guys kind of running wide open.
"But then I think it’s (also) how we do training camp. It prepares you to be ready Week 1. Coach has a great game-plan in, you have guys flying around that are ready to go, ready to play a game and not be at practice against each other. We’ve done a great job of just executing in Week 1."
Mahomes’ rapport with the two players brought in to help replace Hill was instant as well. Former Pittsburgh Steelers wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster produced six catches for 79 yards (all in the first half) in his Chiefs debut, while ex-Green Bay Packer Marques Valdes-Scantling hauled in all four of his targets for 44 yards.
Six Kansas City players finished with at least three receptions on a day when Mahomes emphasised spreading the ball around, though star tight end Travis Kelce unsurprisingly was the focal point with 121 yards and a touchdown on eight catches.
"With the amount of tight ends, running backs and receivers that we have, it’s going to be everyone,” Mahomes remarked. "It’s going to be a lot of guys catching passes. It’s going to be running the football, it’s going to be throwing the football. It’s going to be the short game. It’s going to be the deep passes.
"I think that makes this a hard offence to stop."