Clyde Edwards-Helaire carries Chiefs on different route in win over Texans
The Kansas City Chiefs picked up where they left off — but in a different way.
The defending Super Bowl champions, who ranked 23rd in rushing last season, have rediscovered a ground game thanks to the churning legs of rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a first-round pick from Louisiana State. That helped power Kansas City to a 34-20 victory Thursday night over the Houston Texans.
Never mind that there were no exhibition games, and only 17,000 masked and socially distanced spectators at Arrowhead Stadium, Edwards-Helaire looked perfectly at home in gaining 138 yards in 25 carries with 27-yard touchdown.
“The guy’s a star, man,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “He works hard, works his tail off. His vision’s incredible. And I thought the offensive line did a great job giving him those holes to run through.”
Edwards-Helaire became the first player with 100-plus yards and a rushing touchdown in an NFL debut since the New York Giants’ Saquon Barkley two years ago.
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The game was played in cool and drizzly conditions, and Chiefs coach Andy Reid wore a transparent face shield that got so steamy he could have used wipers. NBC opted not to use fake noise, as the sparse crowd — capped at 22% of capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic — was boisterous enough.
“We were out there rocking,” Travis Kelce said. “I don’t know if you heard the first third down for the Texans, man, but they couldn’t even communicate out there. We only had 20% of the stadium filled up. It was awesome.”
The Kickoff Opener, a rematch of a thrilling divisional playoff game last season, featured the NFL’s two highest-paid players in Mahomes, whose salary averages $45 million per year, and Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson, who averages $39 million.
Mahomes made the most of his 211 yards passing, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. In September games, Mahomes is 7-0 with 23 touchdowns and no interceptions. Seven times in the opening month of the season he has thrown for at least three touchdowns.
“What you see is maturity,” Reid said of Mahomes. “He’s willing to check that thing down.… He was throwing a wet ball around like it was nothing.”
After losing at home to the Texans in the regular season last year, the Chiefs overcame a 24-0 deficit in the playoffs against Houston to roar back to victory. Kansas City ultimately collected its second Super Bowl victory, and first in 50 years.
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The Texans, who traded All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona in the offseason, had a hard time establishing any offensive rhythm.
The NFL’s push for social justice was on prominent display, with the words “It Takes All of Us” and “End Racism” stenciled in opposite end zones, and the playing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black national anthem, along with “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The Texans remained in the locker room for both anthems. One Chiefs player, defensive end Alex Okafor, knelt during the national anthem. Chiefs fans were prohibited from wearing headdresses or war paint.
In a pregame “moment of unity” players from both teams linked arms and formed one long line at midfield. There were a smattering of boos from the crowd.
“I thought that was kind of a neat deal, both sides coming together for a cause,” Reid said. “The story was told there.”
Farmer reported from Los Angeles.
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