Chiefs begin NFL title defense against Lions on Thursday night at Arrowhead Stadium
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Just about everyone in the Kansas City Chiefs locker room has moved past their latest Super Bowl triumph by this point, turning their focus toward the Detroit Lions in Thursday night’s NFL opener and the prospect of becoming the first repeat NFL champions in nearly two decades.
Keeping that focus has been hard, though.
The Chiefs spent the offseason wondering whether Chris Jones would end his holdout, and it appears that the All-Pro defensive tackle is content taking it right into the regular season. Then on Tuesday, the Chiefs watched All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce limp off the practice field with a hyperextended knee, putting his availability for the Lions in question.
Throw in the fact that Chiefs fans are still talking about their February victory over Philadelphia, their attempt to set a record for largest pregame tailgate, and a banner-raising ceremony greeting their entrance to Arrowhead Stadium and, well, there are more than enough reasons for the Chiefs to be distracted as they begin pursuit of a fourth Super Bowl trip in five years.
“Listen, right now the guys are focused on the Lions,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who has won eight consecutive openers. “All that other stuff — it’s going to be an exciting environment, but right now we’ve got to make sure we’re not looking at all that stuff and we’re looking at the Lions. They get your attention when you watch the tape.”
Indeed, the Lions responded to losing six of their first seven games last season by winning eight of their last 10, and there were few offenses in the NFL that were scoring at the same clip as Jared Goff and Co. down the stretch.
The Lions could be even better on that side of the ball, too. The picked up David Montgomery in free agency, chose fellow running back Jahmyr Gibbs in the first round of the draft and selected tight end Sam LaPorta in the third round.
“The last two years we haven’t started quick,” Goff said. “There’s a little bit of an increased awareness of it, I think, making sure that we don’t dig ourselves in a hole. But the same time, we’re trying to win every game.”
So are the Chiefs, who have done a pretty good job of it.
They have won the AFC West the past seven seasons, hosted the conference title game a record five straight years, and Patrick Mahomes — the reigning league MVP — has never lost an opener in five games as the starting quarterback.
Four of those games the Chiefs won by double digits with Mahomes throwing 18 touchdown passes and no interceptions.
“Obviously the preseason is one thing,” he said, “but taking that next step into the regular season will be big, and it’s not always going to be perfect. But how are you going to battle the entire game to find a way to win?"