Chiefs offense evolving? It looked that way against Texans

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs scored 34 points and won their season-opening game with ease, so everyone on their offense was certainly satisfied with the results.

But there's little doubt things looked different. The Chiefs favored a short passing attack, with Patrick Mahomes' longest completion being 19 yards. He was efficient with three touchdown passes, but all three were 6 yards or less.

In another change, the Chiefs relied heavily on their running game and rookie back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The Chiefs ran on 34 of their 67 plays, the first time with Mahomes as the starting quarterback that they ran by design more than they dropped back to pass. Edwards-Helaire's 138 yards was the most by a Chiefs runner in a Mahomes start.

So was this a one-time thing or is the big-play Chiefs offense evolving?

"I personally think this offense has its own unique ability to do something special," said tight end Travis Kelce, who had one of the touchdown catches. "We have a lot of guys that can do some special things with the ball in their hands. And of course [Mahomes] is going to be back there doing his thing."

The opener's circumstances dictated at least some of the way the Chiefs played. The Houston Texans, still stinging from the nine passes of 20 or more yards they allowed against the Chiefs last year in the playoffs, were determined to eliminate the big play. Mahomes was content to take the shorter passes available beneath the coverage.

Mahomes averaged 2.35 seconds on his passes, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. That's the lowest rate of his career. He was 15-of-18 with two touchdowns within 2.5 seconds of the snap.

Mahomes also averaged 4.5 air yards on his passes, also the lowest of his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Of his 24 completions, 21 were caught within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage.

"[The Texans] did a lot of stuff at the line of scrimmage and then they kind of stayed back and kept safeties back and they put a guy over [Tyreek Hill] pretty much the whole entire game," Mahomes said. "I think that's what it makes this offense so good is we can change within games. We can go through our game plan and find ways to score and find ways to move the ball down the field and today it was running the football and taking the short passes.

"I think whenever we get to the Chargers next week, we'll play another great defense, and we'll have to find a way to move the ball and score that week as well.”

The Chiefs also had leads against the Texans of 24-7 early in the third quarter and 31-7 early in the fourth, making a steady feed to Edwards-Helaire the smart play.

But his addition makes the Chiefs different. They had no back with his abilities last season. Damien Williams led the Chiefs with 498 rushing yards last season and Edwards-Helaire is already about one-quarter of the way to that total.

"He's been doing it since the day he got here," Mahomes said. "He's been working hard, he's been learning from his mistakes and he's been running the ball between the tackles and catching out of the backfield.

"I thought the offensive line did a great job of giving him holes to run through and he hit it every single time and so, he's going to keep getting better. It's another weapon that I kind of have in this offense and we're going to keep doing whatever we can to keep moving the ball and scoring touchdowns.”

That doesn't mean the Chiefs intended for Edwards-Helaire to be such a big part of the offense.

"I feel like he's had a good camp and he's a heck of a player and we wanted to give him the ball, but we didn't come in saying he's going to get X number of carries," coach Andy Reid said. "But we liked the mix we were able to get going with."

The Chiefs had 10 players with 100-yard receiving games last season, counting the postseason. They had six receivers with multiple touchdown games.

They had none of that against the Texans. But Kelce, Hill and Sammy Watkins each had at least five catches and a touchdown.

Edwards-Helaire had the other touchdown on a 27-yard run.

"This group has been together for awhile now and we know the intentions of the playcaller," Kelce said. "That's the biggest thing, understanding what coach Reid and [offensive coordinator Eric] Bieniemy are dialing up for so we can paint a picture for Patrick and execute the plays.

"We just trust whatever coach Reid is dialing up. No matter whose job it is to make a play, we're making a play."