KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The first game of the season is important for every NFL team but no one seems to cherish the season opener more than quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who won his fifth-straight season opener with the Chiefs’ dominating 44-21 victory over Arizona.
While some skeptics openly questioned whether Mahomes could be as good as he’s been in the past with Tyreek Hill on his team, his gaudy numbers on Sunday suggest he’s gotten even better despite a slew of new faces at wide receiver.
“Week 1 I think is important for everybody, but especially with us (with) new guys,” Mahomes said. “You want to set a tempo, you want to set the culture of how we do things.”
Mahomes and his teammates certainly did that against the Cardinals. Through the first four Week 1 games of his career, Mahomes averaged 295.5 yards passing, a 71.1% completion rate, and a 133.7 passer rating with his team averaging 36.3 points per game.
The 26-year-old exceeded all those numbers Sunday, completing 30-of-39 passing for 360 yards along with five touchdown passes, all new personal bests for a Week 1 contest.
How does he keep doing this year after year in season openers? Mahomes starts with giving credit to head coach Andy Reid.
“First off I think it’s coach Reid getting more weeks to game plan,” Mahomes said. “That’s always a good thing for me because he’s getting guys kind of running wide open. But then I think it’s how we do training camp. I think coach Reid does a great training camp. It’s hard, it’s hard for everybody but I think it prepares you to be ready Week 1.”
Indeed, Reid’s been winning season openers long before Mahomes arrived. The Chiefs went 4-1 in season openers for Reid with Alex Smith at quarterback, although Reid’s Philadelphia teams were 7-7 in Week 1. But his Kansas City teams have turned in some masterpieces, including a 28-2 wipeout of Jacksonville in his first game with the Chiefs in 2013, a 21-point comeback against the Chargers in 2016, and a 42-27 upset over the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in 2017.
“Coach Reid has a great plan in, you have guys flying around that are ready to go, ready to play a game and not be at practice against each other, and we’ve done a great job of just executing in Week 1,” Mahomes said.
But there were questions as to whether the Chiefs could keep this streak going with a largely revamped receiver corps in the wake of Hill’s departure. Even tight end Travis Kelce wondered whether his team could shake the loss of Hill and keep its offensive momentum going forward. When Mahomes gathered his offensive teammates in Dallas for offseason workouts in April, however, Kelce said he knew the offense was on the right path.
“Once I saw how hard guys were working, their attention to details, how Pat keeps progressing as a quarterback, right now we’re in a good kind of routine that we just keep getting better, and you could feel that from the day we started,” Kelce said.
At one point in Sunday’s game, Mahomes completed a career-best 12 consecutive passes. That’s illustrative of the consistency that Kelce believes makes Mahomes better in 2022 than he’s been in the past.
It’s more consistent, and not to say that he was any less of a quarterback than he is today, but everybody is always trying to work to get better,” Kelce said. “If you’re not doing that in your profession, you might need to take a look in the mirror. It’s just the hard work mentality that he has and that he’s always trying to make not only this team better but keep taking steps personally.”
Reid concurs with Kelce’s assessment of his quarterback’s consistency, even if he doesn’t have an answer for his Week 1 dominance year in and year out.
“To me he’s pretty good all the time,” Reid said. “We’re lucky to have him, the city of Kansas City is lucky to have him, the National Football League’s lucky to have him because he’s a good person a good football player. But no, I don’t know.”
To Reid’s point, there’s not much difference between Mahomes in Week 1 versus Mahomes throughout the entire month of September. In 14 games during the month of September in his career, Mahomes has 4,604 passing yards along with 46 touchdowns and three interceptions, good for a 123.4 passer rating. That’s the best September passer rating of all time. For quarterbacks who’ve played at least 10 games in the month, Jared Goff ranks second with 103.9.
The Chiefs are 12-2 in September games with Mahomes, the only defeats coming last season in a 36-35 setback at Baltimore and a 30-24 home loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, whom the Chiefs meet at Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday night.
Perhaps there isn’t a clear reason for Mahomes’ dominant early-season performances, other than whether it’s the first game of the season or the last game of the season, he feels there is always something to prove.
“I’m just this guy from Texas Tech, man, that they said couldn’t play in the NFL,” Mahomes said.