Loyal fans of the Kansas City Chiefs have grown accustomed to the amazing things that star quarterback Patrick Mahomes does on the field. How fast the offense scores, the off-balanced throws, the incredible ease in which he does everything — fans have seen it all over the two seasons since Mahomes became the starter.
For new Chiefs players, last Thursday was their first chance to witness his in-game ability as a teammate. Veteran left guard Kelechi Osemele is one of the only newcomers on offense — and a fellow lineman wanted to make sure he understood what he was seeing during the season opener.
“We had less than 40 seconds left to score, we wanted to get some points before the half,” Osemele began to share with reporters on Friday. “(Chiefs left tackle) [Eric Fisher] looks at me in the huddle and says ‘watch this.’ We were pretty far back down there too, and we just drove it down the field. The way [Mahomes] manages the drive, I don’t want to say it was effortless cause we all know how hard he works off the field and studies, but the operation was pretty smooth. We got up to the line smooth, the cadence was smooth, it just clicked, it gelled, it was fast and before you know it, we scored before the half. That was the first thing I’ve seen, it’s only been one game, but I’m pretty excited having seen that, how fast he’s capable of scoring.”
There may be big, physical differences between Osemele and Mahomes, but they share a personality trait: being a “competitive prick”, as offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy likes to say. Bieniemy has described both his quarterback and his new left guard as such. Osemele understands the label, but it didn’t sound like he embraces it.
“I wouldn’t say I have pride in it,” Osemele admitted when asked about being called a competitive prick. “But it is what it is, I’m very competitive, I hate to lose at anything. I don’t even like to lose at Madden, I don’t even like to lose if I’m walking next to my girlfriend and she’s walking faster than me. I’m pretty competitive.”
You can see the competitiveness in his on-field play. Osemele was a huge reason the Chiefs running attack was so effective in Week 1. The sole touchdown run came right off of Osemele’s block, and so did two other runs of 10 or more yards. He latched onto defenders and powerfully drove them out of the run lane.
The offensive linemen surrounding Osemele weren’t surprised by the ninth-year guard’s style of play.
“Guys know — around the league, offensive line wise — my style of play and the way that I play,” Osemele observed. “Coming in, (Chiefs right guard) [Andrew] Wylie made a comment to me that he loves my attitude and the way that I play and he likes to play similarly. I think we all think we’re good players, everybody respects everybody’s game, we’re all trying to help each other out there, everybody’s trying to learn from each other, and everybody wants to be physical, everybody wants to finish, everybody wants to be a good teammate, everybody wants to be held accountable. That’s just the way I play, not everyone plays like that, that’s not everybody’s style of play, but we respect each other’s style of play.”
On the specific performance of his unit in Week 1, Osemele thought everyone moved around well in their first live-action of 2020.
“We were flying around. It’s contagious,” Osemele noted. “If you see a guy get a pancake, you want one too. It’s the nature of the game, we’re all competitive, that’s how we got to this level. It’s catching on, we’re playing pretty physical right now, we only have one game under our belt so we’re just getting started. I know that’s why I play the game, that’s what makes it fun for me personally.”
There’s a reason a player of Osemele’s caliber was available late in the offseason. Osemele had to use most of the 2019 season and this offseason to recover from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. That — combined with a perceived, natural decline at 31 years old — made him undesirable to other NFL teams.
Osemele doesn’t believe he’s lost anything from his All-Pro season four years ago.
“I personally didn’t feel like I took any steps back ever In my career,” Osemele declared. “I’ve been pretty consistent, I’ve been the same guy, I’ve played with the same energy, I’ve played with the same attitude and intensity. Yeah, I felt pretty good for Week 1, it was exciting, I hadn’t been out there since October, so I was a little backed up. It was just fun to hit somebody else wearing different colors.”
There will be another set of colors to go after this week, and Osemele is very familiar with them. The Los Angeles Chargers are the Week 2 opponent, a team that Osemele also played twice a year when he was with the Las Vegas Raiders from 2016-2018. He is familiar with their talented defensive front.
“It’s really exciting to play with guys like (Chargers pass rushers) Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa,” Osemele acknowledged. “Those are two really good football players... The way that they can create pressure with a four-man front and allow guys to just cover, not a lot of teams can do that in the NFL... We are going to raise the bar in our protection and make sure we always have eyes on those two guys in particular, if we can get a guy that’s freed up, and they’re only rushing four, you better believe that we’re going to be there for our tackles. I respect their game, but we think we have good players too, and it’ll be a fun matchup.”
It has been a fun matchup for the Chiefs. They have won 10 of the last 11 contests between the two teams. For Osemele, he is only 4-4 against the Chargers as a starter. Just like him learning about the ease in which Mahomes can score in Week 1, Osemele will get another lesson in Week 2: The Chiefs dominate the AFC West, and rarely lose to their divisional foes.