KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The offensive line quickly became the focus of the offseason for the Kansas City Chiefs after a Super Bowl LV loss.
General Manager Brett Veach set about with an overhaul that turned over all five starting positions with three first-year players — center Creed Humphrey, right guard Trey Smith and right tackle Lucas Niang — among the new starters up front.
The early results are encouraging after a 33-29 victory over the Cleveland Browns to open the 2021 season Sunday on GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
“I thought they did a great job,” said quarterback Patrick Mahomes. “There were times I was drifting back just a little too far and they were getting those guys in kind of that 10-yard area, so I had to step up pretty quickly. But we’ll continue to work on that.”
Cleveland hit town with a defensive line that includes two former No. 1 overall picks at the end spots in Jadeveon Clowney (2014) and Myles Garrett (2018).
“Niang probably had the toughest job of all of them, and he beared down and pushed through,” said head coach Andy Reid. “These are young guys — young, young guys in there — against a veteran group of defensive linemen.”
Collectively, the Browns managed two sacks, including one by Garrett, and totaled seven hits on Mahomes.
“That’s a good front seven,” Reid said of Cleveland’s defensive line and linebackers. “I thought they (the offensive line) held their own and really did a nice job. To get the run game going like that against that crew was big.”
Reid acknowledged that it wasn't perfect.
“We had that one sack at the end, but that shouldn’t ruin the rest of what they did,” Reid said. “I was pretty impressed.”
The Chiefs had only 14 yards rushing on six carries in the first half, but Reid put more trust on the five guys up front to start the second half by committing to the run.
Despite being down 12 points at halftime, Kansas City ran the ball on seven plays and gained 38 yards on a 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to open the third quarter.
“I didn’t like the balance that we had going and the way that it was working out,” Reid said. “I thought with the coverages they were playing it would help.”
Reid said it was “important” to get second-year running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who had three carries for three yards at halftime, more involved in the second half.
Edwards-Helaire had five carries for 23 yards on the first drive of the second half alone.
“How many yards did he have after contact? He was running hard and aggressive,” Reid said.
Edwards-Helaire, who finished with 72 total yards, added 20 more yards on three touches on the second drive after Kansas City recovered a Nick Chubb fumble and converted it to a field goal.
That drive included a direct snap to veteran tight end Blake Bell for a 2-yard gain on third-and-1 — the sort of power football the Chiefs have struggled with in recent years.
Reid said he hopes the unit can “keep growing.”
“We’re not going to rest on this,” Reid said.