After 221 days, football is back. Eh, sort of. With NFL Pre-Season getting canceled, many fans were left wondering if we would even get to see football this fall. Well, even though it may look different, nonetheless it’s here.
The NFL season kicked off Thursday night, but the environment surrounding game day looked anything other than normal. If seeing 17,000 fans inside Arrowhead, all covered with facemasks and social-distanced throughout the stadium didn’t give you enough indication, maybe the visual of Andy Reid’s face shield fogged up the entire game proved that football will look a little different this year.
A boost in the Chiefs running game?
And what could be more different than Kansas City having a running game? That’s right, the number one offense now has a first-round running back joining the mix. It can be a bit intimidating stepping into an offense as electric as the Super Bowl Champions Kansas City Chiefs. That’s some high expectations to live up to. With veteran offensive weapons Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Sammy Watkins all returning, Mahomes is sure to have a hay day again this year.
When running back Damien Williams opted out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19, fans wondered how the Chiefs would fill this gap in their Super Bowl caliber offense. Well, enter Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Yep, the player with the biggest impact Thursday night wasn’t even on the Super Bowl Roster. In fact, he wasn’t even in the NFL yet. Instead, Edwards-Helaire was busy winning an NCAA National Championship with Louisiana State University.
The 5’7”, 205lb back, Edwards-Helaire looked like a seasoned veteran Thursday night. He recorded 25 carries for 138 yards, including his first NFL touchdown. Edwards-Helaire became the youngest player in NFL history with 130+ rushing yards and a rushing TD in an NFL debut (21 years, 152 days). You can etch that into the record books, along with the note that he also became the first RB with 100+ rushing yards and a rushing TD in a debut since Saquon Barkley in 2018.
Mahomes is still the man
Don’t let the running game fool you though. Showtime Mahomes was also able to pick apart the Houston defense with 24 completions. In addition, he threw for 211 yards with 3 touchdowns. When asked about Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Mahomes said “The guy is a star. He works hard, he works his tail off. His vision is incredible, and I thought the offensive line did a great job giving him those holes to run through.”
So how do you defend the number one offense in the NFL? Well, the Texans elected to run a zone defense against the Chiefs. That was different than the man coverage they historically presented for this matchup. This zone allowed Chiefs TE, Travis Kelce room to shine and complete 6 catches for 50 yards, including the first Chiefs touchdown of the season. Downfield, Sammy Watkins recorded 7 catches for 82 yards and a touchdown as well.
On the other side of the field, Houston struggled to put points on the board. The Chiefs defensive line put a lot of pressure on Watson. They were able to record 4 sacks on the quarterback. Watson can normally make the defense pay for this by making big plays downfield, but he was unable to do that Thursday night. Watson finished the game throwing 253 yards with 20 completions and a touchdown. 112 of those yards were to Will Fuller V. Despite that, Houston was still unable to convert the yards to enough points. It didn’t help Houston that Chiefs 4th-round pick, L’Jarius Sneed intercepted Watson’s pass intended for Brandin Cooks.
With the Chiefs now returning all of their offensive weapons (besides Damien Williams who opted out), adding Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and having a defense who can apply pressure, there’s no reason they shouldn’t run it back. And I have no doubt that the new running back will help them RUN IT BACK.