The Texans, who played mostly man-to-man coverage in two games against Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs last season, played a lot of zone and worked to eliminate the big play Thursday.
So Mahomes took the underneath passes and did it plenty well. He became the first player to throw three touchdown passes with no interceptions in three consecutive season openers in the Chiefs' 34-20 victory in the NFL's season kickoff.
"They changed it up a lot," Mahomes said of the Texans' defensive strategy. "They did a lot of stuff at the line of scrimmage, they kept safeties back and they put a guy over [Tyreek Hill] pretty much the entire game.
"That's what makes this offense so good is we can change within games. We can go throughout our game plan and find ways to score and find ways to move the ball down the field, and tonight it was taking the short passes. And I think whenever we get to the Chargers next week, we'll be playing another great defense and we'll have to find a way to move the ball and score that week as well."
The win was the Chiefs' 10th straight, counting two playoff victories and Super Bowl LIV.
Mahomes took mostly shorter passes that the Texans were willing to give him. He threw for 211 yards on 24 completions, with a long of 19. But he also was sharp in the red zone. His three touchdown passes were of six yards or fewer.
"Pat did a nice job of checking it down," coach Andy Reid said. "We had some deeper things that he decided to come down on because they were covered downfield."
Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was another offensive star. The Chiefs spent more than a half-billion dollars extending the contracts of Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce, but their most important move for 2020 might have been drafting Edwards-Helaire in the first round.
Edwards-Helaire rushed for 138 yards, and his 27-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was impressive. The LSU product made a couple of cuts to weave through the Houston defense on his way to the end zone.
On that play and others, the Texans had difficulty bringing down the 5-foot-8, 209-pound Edwards-Helaire in the open field.
"The biggest thing in training camp is you don't always get to see the hitting aspect, whether a guy is easy to tackle or whether he's brought down easy," Kelce said. "That was shown today. He's a tough son-of-a-buck. For how tall he is, man, he's got the strength of somebody my size. He runs the ball like no one I've ever seen at that size, and it's fun to play with. It's infectious when you see him playing his tail off and running his tail off, you want to go out there and block for him and make plays as well."
Edwards-Helaire became the Chiefs' primary back when Damien Williams opted out of the season shortly before the start of training camp amid the coronavirus pandemic. Williams led the Chiefs in rushing last season with 498 yards, but Edwards-Helaire reached about one-quarter of that total in his first NFL game.