Chiefs begin title defense as Texans return to Arrowhead

The Kansas City Chiefs dispensed with all the spoils, distributing rings, raising a championship banner and roping the moon to pay Super Bowl MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes.Now comes the hard part.The Chiefs open defense of their Super Bowl title on Thursday night at home against the Houston Texans.”You can feel the intensity, you can feel that mentality,” Mahomes said. “I think everyone’s at the point now where we’re just ready to play football again. We had that great year last year, but that’s last year. We’re a brand-new football team.”At least in some sense. Kansas City does return 17 of 22 starters from a squad that rallied to win all three of its postseason games by double digits.The defending champions get a stage all their own in a primetime rematch with the Texans at the scene of Kansas City’s stunning 2020 playoff win.Mahomes, the Super Bowl MVP, was rewarded with a 10-year contract worth a record $503 million. Yet the Chiefs still retained other key players in separate negotiations, namely defensive tackle Chris Jones.They won’t get quite the welcome expected for Kansas City’s first world champion in a half-century because of crowd restrictions limiting capacity around the NFL — including at Arrowhead Stadium — stemming from safety measures related to COVID-19.Nonetheless, the Chiefs enter the season as a favorite to repeat. Going stale is no concern with head coach Andy Reid, who has his own new contract to cap an offseason in which a few new toys were added.And not with an offense filled with talented weapons for Mahomes to tap.”It’s tricky to say what’s new and what’s not new,” said tight end Travis Kelce, “because obviously it’s no secret what coach Reid does. He puts guys in different positions on the field to succeed and maximizes their strengths, which is why he such an unbelievable offensive mind.”One newcomer to watch will be rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a first-round draft pick expected to start after Damien Williams opted out of the season. Edwards-Helaire showed his versatility while helping LSU capture a national championship last season and poses a threat as a receiver out of the backfield.”You go in with the mentality, especially with our offense,” said Mahomes, “that someone can really have a big game. Clyde’s definitely one of those guys.”

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