The narrative that the Kansas City Chiefs might have diminished firepower after the offseason departure of Tyreek Hill was quelled when quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw five touchdown passes in the club’s season-opening win over the Arizona Cardinals.
The Chiefs will aim to follow up the strong performance when they host their AFC West rival, the Los Angeles Chargers, on Thursday night.
Kansas City (1-0) totaled 488 offensive yards and 33 first downs in the 44-21 road win over Arizona. And the offseason trade of the speedy Hill to the Miami Dolphins was a non-factor as Mahomes passed for 360 yards and became the sixth player in NFL history to throw five touchdowns on six or more occasions.
The four-time Pro Bowler didn’t seem to be the least bit surprised, either.
“Everybody’s asked us the questions of what this offense, what this team’s going to look like,” Mahomes told reporters. “We’ve always believed that we were going to go out there and put on a show, and I thought guys did that.”
Tight end Travis Kelce no longer shares co-star billing on the receiving end with Hill gone, and he was in top form.
Kelce, a seven-time Pro Bowler, had eight catches for 121 yards for his 30th career 100-yard performance. That ranks third among tight ends behind Rob Gronkowski (32) and Chiefs legend Tony Gonzalez (31).
Kelce was one of the players who wondered if the offense could remain so potent before eventually becoming convinced it could.
“Once I saw how hard guys were working, their attention to details, how Pat keeps progressing as a quarterback,” Kelce said. “Right now, we’re in a good kind of routine where we just keep getting better. You can feel that from the day we started.”
Preparing for Kansas City is typically tough, but this time the Chargers have to do it on a short week.
Defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill said his unit will need to force the ball out of Mahomes’ hands as quickly as possible.
“The biggest thing you talk about is can we make him perform from the pocket and not extend plays because once he gets out the pocket, he’s a whole other animal,” Hill said. “Obviously, he can make the throws from in the pocket, but when you have time to extend plays, and we talk about when we do face him, we tell our guys, ‘Hey, we have to cover not twice, a lot of times three, four times because that’s how much he can extend the play.'”
The Chargers have their own gunslinger in Justin Herbert, who passed for 279 yards and three touchdowns in a 24-19 home win over the Los Vegas Raiders.
Herbert will likely be without five-time Pro Bowl wideout Keenan Allen (four catches, 66 yards vs. Las Vegas) due to a hamstring injury Allen sustained during the opener. Allen didn’t practice Tuesday.
Regardless, Herbert is looking forward to playing the Chiefs on the primetime stage.
“I think it’s always a great opportunity to go play football,” Herbert said. “I know that our guys are really excited for this one. To be able to play on primetime, Thursday Night Football, it’s something you always grow up dreaming about. It is a quick week, a short week, but we’re going to do everything we can to get prepared.”
Mahomes said his sore left wrist is feeling better, so Kansas City’s biggest injury situation involves kicker Harrison Butker’s sprained left ankle.
Due to the issues with Butker’s plant leg, safety Justin Reid handled some of the kicking duties against Arizona. Kansas City also signed Matt Ammendola to the practice squad on Tuesday and could activate him for Thursday’s contest if Butker can’t play.
Kansas City has won 13 of the past 16 meetings with the Chargers, but the teams split two games last season.
–Field Level Media