The 2021 campaign is nearly here, and as the Kansas City Chiefs prepare to take on the Cleveland Browns this Sunday, they'll be looking to maintain an unprecedented run of early-season success.
In fact, the Chiefs have won 15 of their last 16 games in the month of September while every other team across the league has lost at least four times. They've tallied 506 points in those matchups – the most in the NFL – while recording five of those wins against opponents that made the playoffs that year.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is responsible for the latter portion of that success, leading Kansas City to a perfect record through his 10 games in September as the Chiefs' starter. Additionally, in that time, Mahomes has thrown 32 touchdowns – the most for any player in a single month since 2018 – without tossing a single interception. It's an incredible stretch of success that has its roots in the Chiefs' preparation, according to Mahomes.
"I think we just stress the importance of starting the season fast. We have a very tough training camp. We really compete and go at it every single day at practice, and I think that prepares us to be ready to go from day one," Mahomes said. "We know that if you lose a game in September, it could cost you at the end of the season as far as seeding [goes] if you're trying to get in the playoffs, so we just stress the importance of knowing that we're playing against really good football teams in the beginning of the year."
That's once again the case this season, too, as the Chiefs will play five teams that made the postseason last year through their first seven games. It begins with Sunday's matchup against Cleveland – who the Chiefs defeated in the Divisional Round last season – and represents a tremendous opportunity to get the campaign going in a big way.
"That's [the goal] every single year. You want to get off to a great start and set yourself up for the long haul," said tight end Travis Kelce. "Starting fast and finishing strong has always been the mentality here. It's about coming out of the gates ready to go – both mentally and physically – and finishing the same way."
Kelce certainly epitomized that mentality in 2020, as the All-Pro tight end racked up 96 catches for 1,275 yards over the course of his final 11 games (including the playoffs) to close out the year. He caught at least seven passes in each of those contests, assembling the second-longest streak of seven-catch games in NFL history that's still active heading into Week 1.
The 31-year-old Kelce is assembling a career that will land him in Canton one day, and despite setting the NFL record for receiving yards by a tight end last year, he's keen on being even better this season.
"I've had to evolve and find ways to be accountable. That's something I've taken pride in throughout my career," Kelce explained. "By watching film from last year, you can understand how teams are going to try and slow us down, and from there, you just have to find different ways to critique the offense. I've trusted [Head] Coach [Andy] Reid with that my entire career, and I haven't been let down."
It's all part of the Chiefs' quest to defend their consecutive AFC titles and re-claim the Lombardi Trophy this season, and after months of patiently preparing for this very moment, it's finally time for some real football on Sunday afternoon.
"We're ready to rock and roll, man," Kelce said. "We have the base game plan in, and we're just ready to get out there in front of the fans and play a meaningful game."