ATLANTA — After all of the hand-wringing and talk about the need for improved play from the Chiefs' offensive line in the wake of a disappointing preseason opener, first-year starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes faced relatively little pressure and wasn't treated at all like a pinata on Friday night.
The new face of the franchise took a bevy of hits in the preseason opener despite being on the field for just nine offensive plays. With Mahomes slated to be on the field for a full half in game number two, there was reason for concern if he'd survive the preseason.
However, the Chiefs' line — minus starting right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who is in the NFL's concussion protocol — put its one lackluster performance behind it in a 28-14 win over the Falcons that included the first-team offense scoring points for the first time this preseason.
"(The feeling) is better, of course, because we won," starting left guard Cam Erving said. "We played a lot better, but there's still a lot of mistakes that we've got to clean up. It's just technique. But we definitely did a better job this week of making sure that we protected the quarterback. That was just the big point of emphasis for us."
This past week, starting center Mitch Morse, head coach Andy Reid, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and offensive line coach Andy Heck each took turns speaking to the unit's inability to live up to its standards in the preseason opener.
Mahomes got sacked once and hurried two times in those nine plays in the first quarter last week against Houston. The refrain from players and coaches alike was simply that they had time to fix the mistakes they saw on film.
"It was that first preseason game, you know," Erving said. "We came out and we weren't as sharp as we should've been. This week, we made it a point to just come out with energy and made it a point to come out be aggressive and be the attacker and be the aggressor. I feel like that's what we did.
"There are mistakes that we have to clean up, but these are some good signs."
The offensive line, which took a large share of the criticism for the offense's poor start in the preseason opener, made good on its word to ratchet up the intensity in an effort to keep Mahomes clean.
Last week, Mahomes got hit on his first play of the game and several more times throughout the night. This time around, the only times the defense got its paws on him were when he scrambled outside of the pocket and scampered through the middle of the field.
For the most part, Mahomes had the ability to step up into a firm pocket and throw without being pressured. He completed each of his first six passes and had little problem finding lanes to deliver the ball to receivers.
Mahomes found time to change the entire complexion of the outing with a 69-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill that traveled more than 60 yards in the air with 17 seconds remaining in the first half.
"I think it completely kind of changes the feel of that half," starting right tackle Mitchell Schwartz said. "You know, you put 10 (points) up instead of three and end it on kind of an exciting, spectacular fashion that he did. It definitely feels better than only having three (points) and not having a big play like that."
As far as the play itself, Schwartz said the surprising part from his vantage point was not that Mahomes had the ability to pull it off. The unexpected element was doing in that setting.
"You just don't expect to see that in a game," Schwartz said before chuckling. "You see in practice where a guy can run five yards, crow-hop and chuck it. You can see in-game situations where it's a 40-yard throw and it's a laser.
"That's kind of how you can tell a guy's arm strength. You don't usually get to see a guy just fully uncork it and do it in a game situation. It's pretty fun to see."