Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was sensational during the first NFL Sunday of the year.
While becoming the first quarterback in NFL history with at least three touchdowns passes in five consecutive Week Ones, he connected with nine different receivers, threw for 360 yards and five touchdowns and completed 11 straight passes at one point during a dominant performance against the Arizona Cardinals and his former college coach.
“Pat had a tremendous game,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said. “Kansas City is lucky to have him.”
But Kansas City already knew what it had in one of the NFL’s best players.
The running game, however, had been a question mark after struggling in the preseason.
Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who is never one to publicly criticize his players, even said that Clyde Edwards-Helaire was working hard to meet the basic conditioning required of an NFL running back.
The running backs responded, though, against the Cardinals with 128 yards on an impressive 4.7 yards-per-carry clip and three touchdowns.
Edwards-Helaire was the focal point from the get-go, receiving the carry on three of the first four plays of the 44-21 victory and producing 34 yards.
Despite the way the game started, Edwards-Helaire said the emphasis on the running game was a result of how the aggressive Cardinals defense lined up.
“I wouldn’t say we were trying to do one thing,” he said. “We can do whatever we feel like we can based upon the look that we see.”
In addition to Edwards-Helaire’s 42 rushing yards (on a six yards-per-carry average), he also factored in on the passing game, catching two touchdown passes — one on an underhand toss from Mahomes and the other a wide-open, walk-in touchdown.
“All you can do is smile in your helmet,” he said.
Edwards-Helaire wasn’t the only running back to make Chiefs fans grin, perhaps assuaging concerns they had about the running backs.
Each of the three active backs contributed.
“We used all of them,” Reid said. “All three guys did a heck of a job.”
On the second possession of the second quarter, it was Jerick McKinnon’s turn. He received the pass attempt or carry on three of the first four plays of that drive.
And the Chiefs went to rookie Isiah Pacheco in the fourth quarter to salt away the game. On the Chiefs’ first drive of that quarter, he responded with 40 total yards and a three-yard touchdown and ended up with a game-high 62 rushing yards.
That performance makes one wonder if he could be the Chiefs’ back of the future.
Edwards-Helaire has two years left on his contract, and Ronald Jones, who was a healthy inactive, and the 30-year-old McKinnon both are one-year deals.
The immediate future looks bright for the Chiefs who are trying to reach their fifth consecutive AFC Championship Game.
“We’re the Kansas City Chiefs,” Mahomes said. “We still have a chance to go out there and win the AFC West, win the AFC championship and win the Super Bowl.”
That latter contest — Super Bowl LVII — will be played in State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
It’s a setting at which the Chiefs looked quite comfortable in Week One.