It's only been eight months since Patrick Mahomes led Kansas City from a 24-0 hole to beat Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans in the divisional round of the playoffs, a brutally efficient comeback that ultimately saw the Chiefs make their first Super Bowl -Title floated in 50 years.
NFL Kickoff Game: Houston Texans vs. Kansas City Chiefs
A lot has changed, however.
The coronavirus pandemic effectively canceled the entire NFL off-season as well as all four preseason games. That means their Thursday night rematch at Arrowhead Stadium will be their first game since February. It also means the crowd will be limited to around 17,000 fans at one of the league's historically toughest street locations.
The Texans no longer have star-wide recipient DeAndre Hopkins or leading rusher Carlos Hyde on their list. Head coach Andy Reid no longer carries the heavy and shameful brand of the best coach who would never win a championship.
"You have to expect the unexpected," Mahomes said, "and that's exactly what we're trying to do. We'll have a game plan for everything and I'll make adjustments as soon as possible so we can." Start quickly. Hopefully. "
There are many reasons for both teams to expect a good start.
Sure, the Texans' offense saw a dramatic makeover with the departure of Hopkins and Hyde, but their place was replaced by recipients Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb, as well as a healthy David Johnson walking back. And her defense has a sane J.J. Watt, something they only enjoyed for about half of their games last season – and which he missed far too many times in his stellar career.
"We have the opportunity to go straight to the home of the defending Super Bowl champions and compete with a great team. That's what you want," said Watson, who signed a four-year contract extension for $ 160 million last week. "This is the best opportunity to start the season."
This contract renewal is the second largest in NFL history. The first: the 10-year extension signed by Mahomes, the reigning Super Bowl MVP, which could ultimately net him about half a billion dollars.
Nice paydays for two quarterbacks taken two picks apart in the first round of the 2017 draft.
"These two guys are just great players. Very, very dynamic players," said Texan's coach Bill O & # 39; Brien. "It's always interesting how the schedules are made, that this is the game that opens the season, especially what happened. What has happened in the last six months is unprecedented. Now you have this game with these two quarterbacks, who did this a lot early in their careers it's a great night for the league and a great night for football. "
The Chiefs are one of a handful of teams approved by local and state authorities for fans in Week 1, but the number has been limited to 22% of capacity. Participants – almost exclusively season ticket holders – have to wear face coverings if they are unable to maintain social distance.
The last time Reid remembered training in front of so few fans was in 1985 as an assistant in San Francisco state.
"If we played UC Davis, we would have. But it's been a while," he said. "They had the ultimate jump ball just to get into the stadium, but it was selected. So I know they are coming up to speed and ready to go."
The Chiefs hoisted their Super Bowl flag last week as they handed out their rings on the field during a ceremony attended by players, coaches and their family members. But they'll do it again for the crowd during a pregame ceremony.
The flag will join the championship flag of 1969, which has flown alone over Arrowhead Stadium for the past five decades.
Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs kick off the NFL season tonight against the Houston Texans, in a game many weren't sure would happen due to the coronavirus pandemic.
STAND OR KNEE?
The league plans to play Lift Every Voice And Sing, widely considered the black national anthem, and The Star-Spangled Banner, as it recognizes social justice initiatives across the country, ahead of this season's games.
Reid and O'Brien were both asked if their teams plan to kneel on Thursday night. Neither coach announced their team's plans.
"There will definitely be conversations that lead to the game," said Watt, "whether alone on our team or with the Chiefs. Anyway, to make sure we are on the same page, whatever everyone is doing."
SCOUTING THE TEXANS
In addition to some new playmakers on the offensive, the Texans also have the new defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver and the coach of the special teams Tracy Smith. Ross Blacklock defensive tackle, a second round pick, was her first draft choice, while ex-boss Eric Murray's safety is expected to begin after recent seasons at Cleveland.
"They look at everything they did last season and even over the years when they played against us (and) they try to come up with a game plan," Mahomes said. "There will be very few options. When you have these you have to be sure that they will take place. I think you saw that in the playoffs."
SCOUTING THE CHIEFS
The Chiefs also handed out large assignments to take on Chris Jones and Travis Kelce defensively, leaving little money for free agents. Her biggest off-season signing was Clyde Edwards-Helaire from the first round, who will start running back.
Kansas City will play without a trio of players who picked Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and run back Damien Williams and rookie offensive lineman Lucas Niang. You will also miss cornerback Bashaud Breeland and the defensive tackle against Mike Pennel, which are suspended at the beginning of the season.