Patrick Mahomes didn’t use the word unprompted.
But the star quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs didn’t object when asked.
Was the 21:20 loss to the Detroit Lions embarrassing? The reigning Super Bowl champions, playing at home, opened their season 0-1 on Thursday night against a team that didn’t make the playoffs last season.
“I’m embarrassed to waste time,” Mahomes said during the postgame press conference. “As I said after the ring ceremony, I have moved on to next season. Of course, it’s cool for fans to be able to see the banner and stop by Arrowhead Stadium. But this is a whole new year and I think, I know that, and we’re trying to win another Super Bowl and that’s obviously not the way we wanted to start.
“Every time I lose I feel embarrassed. That’s why I’m going to try to get better so I don’t lose more as the season progresses.”
Mahomes won several victories by responding to his defeat.
He noted that his embarrassment extended to the loss of any time, and avoided publishing any bulletin board material that suggested the opponent’s caliber was the cause of his embarrassment. But Mahomes sent a message to his team and the league that he is not resting on his laurels from last season’s Super Bowl. He firmly believed this result would remind the younger Chiefs players of the work that needs to be done and the clean slate that has just begun.
Mahomes’ message to the locker room: Last season’s record and the Super Bowl no longer count in the standings. You have to be better.
“It’ll be good for the young guys to know that we’re not just going to come in and win the game,” Mahomes said. “You have to play good football. We will get the best out of every team.”
Fans had to look no further than Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday night to see the Chiefs’ two most glaring needs.
The Lions rushed for 118 yards, including a game-winning 8-yard touchdown, while four-time All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones sat among his agents in a stadium suite as his contract dispute continued. Lions quarterback Jared Goff was hit four times but was sacked just once.
Seven-time All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce stood on the sideline with a hyperextended knee. He observed that only 53.8% of Mahomes’ passes reached their intended destination, a year after the quarterback completed 67.1% of attempts. The Chiefs’ receivers dropped four passes, in addition to the deflection off the hands of Kadarius Toney, which Lions rookie Brian Branch returned for a touchdown. The three third-down declines were the largest since 2012. according to ESPN stats and information. No game from the Andy Reid era was worse.
Mahomes acknowledged the impact the loss of Kelce had on the game. Kelce has averaged 1,288 yards and 9.4 touchdowns per regular season in Mahomes’ starting time, and Mahomes said the Chiefs were “losing one of the best – I think.” The best tight end of all time” for the start.
But Kansas City can’t hinge its Super Bowl hopes solely on Kelce’s reliability and defensive alertness.
“Other guys have to step up, and they’re going to have to do that in big moments,” Mahomes said, “because I’m sure there will be times when he’s twice as strong.”
“Must [rely] look to these other guys who are young and talented to step up and make plays, and I believe they will.”
Solving the Jones puzzle is even more difficult. His 15.5 sacks in the regular season and two sacks in the postseason last year reflect, but do not fully quantify, his play-destroying nature. Jones stayed away from all of training camp and now the season opener, saying he simply “asked for a raise” this week that the Chiefs didn’t give. NBC sideline reporter Melissa Stark said on Thursday’s show that Jones doesn’t plan to miss the entire season but is prepared to miss up to eight games if an extension isn’t given in the meantime.
Eight central defenders currently have higher average contracts than Jones, per overthecap.com. He is scheduled to enter free agency after this season.
Would his presence have made a difference in a 1-point loss, especially on a night without Kelce? It’s likely, but hard to say. The Chiefs will never know. But the question that will concern them more is to what extent Jones’ absence will continue to impact their Super Bowl ambitions.
How can the Chiefs turn their Super Bowl hopes around?
The game between the Lions and Chiefs never went beyond a one possession difference, the Lions’ Dan Campbell-esque determination was on display throughout the evening. And yet, for those who had followed recent NFL seasons, a Chiefs win still seemed inevitable.
Even with the Lions’ first-round rookie Jahmyr Gibbs’ impressive 60-yard performance. Even if the Lions gain momentum with a successful fake punt and the Chiefs lose the ball with a failed fourth-and-25 attempt.
Mahomes had overcome much more difficult circumstances and won spectacularly. Why not this one?
Mahomes appreciated the reality check that loss provided. In his opinion, the joy of last season’s success will only distract from this year’s goal. He didn’t watch the banner being raised before kickoff and said he didn’t know “if I even looked at the banner.”
Mahomes’ five-year AFC championship streak is elite, regardless of whether it extends to a sixth. The Chiefs consider it both likely (BetMGM gives them the cheapest odds) and unlikely (only the 2004-05 Patriots have repeated as champions this millennium) to win the big game this season, regardless the defeat they now have to accept.
For his part, Mahomes said he will “keep shooting” to smooth chemistry with his receivers. And he will keep reminding his teammates to forget last season if they want to achieve big things this season.
“I’ve moved on,” Mahomes said. “This is a new season. My goal wasn’t to just win the Super Bowl and be done. I try to keep doing it every year and I think we have the team.
“But of course there are many areas in which we can improve.”