The Chiefs aren’t quite there yet… but at least they’re not 0-2

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s debatable whether the Kansas City Chiefs are a full-fledged NFL dynasty. Even if they don’t, they are the closest thing to what the sport currently has to offer. So when things don’t quite come together as planned at the start of a season, they know how to balance the urgency of making every game count and the patience of knowing that it’s just a matter of hanging in there and trying to get into the game Months of working towards something better are coming.

That was the mix of perspectives that accompanied the Chiefs’ 17-9 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on a hot Sunday at EverBank Stadium. The reigning Super Bowl champions stumbled and stumbled through a sloppy performance on offense, even with tight end Travis Kelce back in the lineup. Relying on a defense that benefited from the return of standout pass rusher Chris Jones, they managed just enough to overcome a tough opponent and avoid digging an 0-2 hole to start the season.

“You play badly and win, that’s much better than playing badly and losing,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said afterwards.

Mahomes is two games into his seventh NFL season, in which he is seeking third-tier MVP honors and a third Super Bowl title. Things aren’t going quite smoothly yet. The Chiefs committed three turnovers and incurred a dozen penalties on Sunday, five of them against injured right tackle Jawaan Taylor.

“Our guys really messed it up because of a lack of conditions,” coach Andy Reid said. “It was hot and humid out there. I’m an offensive guy. But that was a nice thing defensively. Offensively we have to worry about penalties and ball losses. But fighting through it shows you something. We’ll fix the other things over time.”

The Chiefs have reached five straight AFC Championship games. They played in three Super Bowls and won two of them during this successful stretch. They know there is still a long way to go until January and what matters is how you play then, not how you play now. But they also know that September’s results matter for the upcoming playoff position – and if early problems go unaddressed for too long, a season can quickly go by before you know it.

“We’ve been such a productive offense for so long… but if you don’t execute [at] If you have a high level in this league, you’re not going to be successful,” Mahomes said. “You’re not going to score touchdowns. You will not have sustained drives. These are things we need to get better at. We know what we’re doing. It’s about going out and making it happen and finding the right way to do it. … You have to keep building and building. And know that the process before you is to just continue to pile up wins no matter how you get them and try to play your best football as the season progresses.”

Kelce said: “We will continue to build. We will continue to grow. I know we have great leadership. But at the moment hats off to the defense for how they are playing and how they are keeping us in the game. We love her for that. We have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot on offense.”

Kelce, the eight-time Pro Bowl tight end, missed the Chiefs’ 21-20 loss to the Detroit Lions in the NFL’s season opener because of a knee injury he suffered in practice two days earlier. He wasn’t at his best on Sunday with four catches for 26 yards. But he had a touchdown catch.

“Just the fact that he played — it surprised me, honestly,” Mahomes said. “This is a scary injury. He didn’t look good there for a while. But he fought [with] these extra days. He was in the rehab facility. And to get out there and be able to play, it’s about the competitor that he is, the teammate that he is. Not just having him out there [involves] he makes plays, but it helps everyone else. It opens up other people.”

Kelce said there was “no doubt” in his mind that he would play against the Jaguars.

“Everything you saw out there was 100 percent what I could give,” Kelce said. “And hopefully next week it will be even better.”

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Jones, a four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle who had 15 1/2 sacks last season, missed the opener due to a contract dispute and ended his holdout last Monday by agreeing to a revised one-year deal with the Chiefs. He had 1 1/2 sacks on Sunday.

“That’s what I’m here for,” Jones said.

Reid said he estimated Jones could play about half the game.

“We got him in and out,” Reid said. “He did a great job. … Over the years here, he’s learned how to stay in shape. I saw him at training. He moved pretty well. … I felt comfortable that he could go in and do his thing. Maybe not at this level.”

In a rematch of last season’s divisional round playoff game, in which Mahomes suffered a severe ankle sprain but returned to the field to lead the Chiefs to victory, the Kansas City defense limited the Jaguars to three field goals.

“The defense was unbelievable,” Mahomes said. “That’s good [Jaguars] Offensive, a really good offensive. And for them to shut them out…the defense won that game. We have to continue to improve offensively and I think we will succeed. But if this defense plays like that, we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”

The most glaring problem for the Chiefs on Sunday was the play of Taylor, who was penalized twice for holding, twice for false starts and once for an illegal formation. That came after he was a national TV star of the wrong kind during the opening game, as the NBC broadcast emphasized that officials let Taylor get away with lining up too far from the line of scrimmage and moving regularly before the snap .

“Because of social media,” Mahomes said, “you knew some of this was going to get called out.” … They’re cracking down on some alignment issues. But we play football, man. He’ll get closer to the edge of the battle… so they don’t call it. We’ll continue to work on the number of snaps and things like that. He is a great player. He will continue to play and get comfortable. It’s hard to keep playing your game when you’re being teased a little bit. But I have all the trust in the world in him.”

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The Chiefs signed Taylor, who played his first four NFL seasons with the Jaguars, to a four-year, $80 million contract in free agency in March. Reid pulled Taylor out of the lineup for a few games amid Sunday’s problems, but then sent him back into the game.

“This is my home,” Reid said. “… He played there too. [I told him,] “Just take a step back and we’ll get you back out there. “He had some big blocks later in the game.”

That pretty much summed up the Chiefs’ day. It was anything but perfect. But perhaps it was a first step in getting them back to where they want to be.

“It’s a work in progress,” Mahomes said. “But you want to win games. I think we did a good job finding a way to get a win.” The Chiefs aren’t quite there yet… but at least they’re not 0-2

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