During the 2021 offseason, there were few NFL storylines that generated more coverage than the Kansas City Chiefs’ rebuild of their offensive line. None of the linemen who started in Sunday’s 33-29 win over the Cleveland Browns were even on the team in 2020 — much less starting on it.
After the game, head coach Andy Reid had praise for a position group that drew a tough matchup in the season opener.
“That’s a good front seven,” he said. “I thought they held their own and really did a nice job. To get the run game going like that against that crew? I thought [it] was big. We had the one sack at the end, but that shouldn’t ruin the rest of what they did.
“I was pretty impressed. Lucas Niang had probably the toughest job of all of them — and he [bore] down and pushed through. These are young, young guys in there — and a veteran group of defensive linemen.”
To be fair, it took some time for the offensive linemen to get it together. In the first half, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire gained just three yards on as many carries — and quarterback Patrick Mahomes posted a passer rating under 100. But in the second half, Edward-Helaire gained 40 yards on 11 carries, clearing the way for Mahomes to pass for 168 yards and three touchdowns — good for a spectacular second-half rating of 147.9.
Reid credited offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy with insisting on returning to the running game in the second half, saying that it had made a big difference in the outcome. But he also made it clear that there’s still work to be done up front.
“We’re not going to rest on this,” said the head coach. “We’ve got to get better. There were too many mistakes. We had holding penalties [and] an illegal procedure penalty. We’ve got to get better, so we’ll hammer that.
“But for right now, we’re going to enjoy it — because it was a tough one. These wins are hard to get in this league, so we’re going to enjoy this one. But we’ll get back and make sure we grind through some of the things we need to get better at.”
Mahomes acknowledged that some of the improvement needed to come from him.
“There were times where I drifted to the back just a bit too far,” he admitted, “and they were kind of getting those guys around the 10-yard area, so I had to step up pretty quickly. But we’ll continue to work on that. They’re doing a great job of being firm in the front and kind of edging those guys so I can still be in the pocket. They did a great job today against — like you said — a really good defensive line.”