For a while, we’ve been waiting to see what the Kansas City Chiefs‘ new group of pass catchers would look like. The early returns have been great: the team’s passing offense led the team to a 44-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1.
The newcomers made some big plays, but it was the familiar faces that filled up the box score: tight end Travis Kelce scored the first touchdown on the way to 121 receiving yards on a team-high eight receptions. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire racked up 74 total yards and two touchdown catches.
While fans and observers have had to wait to see the new passing game in action, the players who make up the unit had an idea of what was to come. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes organized his skill-position players so they could do some extracurricular work early in the offseason — and a veteran like Kelce could tell it was going to pay off.
“[It was] everybody putting their chin down and just going to work every single day, wanting to be great,” the tight end told reporters after the game. “Ever since we started up in April, [Patrick] had a lot of offensive guys down in Dallas working with [him] before we even started up minicamp. When I saw that going down, I knew guys were going to work their tail off — and we were going to be fine.”
Edwards-Helaire also pointed out the benefits of the extensive offseason work. Following an offensive collapse in the second half of the AFC Championship, returning players had chips on their shoulders — but the third-year running back noticed that the sense of urgency had even spread to the players that general manager Brett Veach acquired this offseason.
“Who wouldn’t have something to prove, after going out the way we did?” he reflected. “Not only that, it wasn’t all the same guys that went out with us... Not even camp, before OTAs, when Pat got everybody to Texas — that’s when we really felt it. It was like two months after the season, and we were already rolling. That’s a testament to not only No. 15, but the group of guys that Veach was able to get together. On offense, everybody knew what we wanted to do, what we wanted to get accomplished once Week 1 came.”
What the offense accomplished was very, very impressive. The unit barely broke a sweat as it scored touchdowns on its first three possessions. During that stretch, it only faced three third downs. The team converted the first two. After failing on the third, it scored a touchdown on fourth down. As Athletic writer Nate Tice noted, the offense was incredibly efficient at moving the chains.
The Chiefs had 66 offensive plays today and had 33 first downs.— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) September 11, 2022
Edwards-Helaire could feel what we all could see o Sunday: the ease with which the Chiefs’ offense navigated down the field. It may not have been truly surprising for anyone on the team — but as far as the starting running back is concerned, head coach Andy Reid’s training camp had prepared them well.
“In camp, Coach Reid is pushing everybody’s buttons,” recalled Edwards-Helaire, “and really trying to figure out, ‘How can I break this team?’ That was something that we all knew he wanted to do, but getting over that hump throughout camp was one of those things that Coach Reid wanted to see. It’s a testament to him. So being able to come out Week 1 and showcase what we did was one of those things.”
Edwards-Helaire said that the camp had prepared the offense for anything it might face.
“We can do whatever we feel like we can — based upon the look we see,” said the running back. “That’s the thing: going through camp, having those different scenarios [and] being able to see those different things? Nothing shocked us. That’s something that is always preached; Coach Reid preaches and all we can do is listen and execute.”
You can certainly say Edwards-Helaire executed — along with the rest of those at his position. The team’s backfield combined for 185 total yards and three touchdowns. Edwards-Helaire’s talents were utilized as a receiver — both of his scores were creative ways to use him as a receiver — but he also had impressive snaps while taking handoffs.
He couldn’t help but give credit to the competition he faced during the hard practices in training camp.
“I see Chris Jones, Frank Clark, Nick Bolton, Willie Gay all camp,” Edwards-Helaire pointed out. “We know the speed, we see it all — but not only the speed. Those guys are smart. They’re not only checking out of things they see, they’re checking into things we feel like they can beat us on. It’s all a game of chess, which is the cool part: being able to manipulate the next person.”
That manipulation worked on both of Edwards-Helaire’s receiving touchdowns — and the whole game plan worked throughout the contest. With four minutes left in the third quarter, the Chiefs had built a 37-7 lead.
The offensive players knew there were questions surrounding them this offseason — but they also knew how they’d respond right out of the gate.
“When everything initially went down, there was a question,” Kelce admitted. “But once I saw how hard all those guys were working, their attention to details, how Pat keeps progressing as a quarterback... right now we’re just in a good routine and we keep getting better. You can feel that from the day we started — back in May — to now.”
That routine allowed the offense to pass its initial test — but the short week heading into Thursday Night Football against the Los Angeles Chargers will challenge the team’s offseason preparations even further.