As Chiefs air it out, Kareem Hunt is happy to share the throne with Patrick Mahomes

Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt led the NFL in rushing last season as a rookie, and announced himself as a budding star. This season, he needed until the third game to surpass his rushing total from his debut game.

Despite the comparatively slow start, Hunt stood in front of his locker on Sunday afternoon and smiled ear-to-ear seemingly entirely at peace with his role in the 2018 version of the offense directed by his buddy Patrick Mahomes. Hunt relayed to reporters that he and Mahomes, both drafted in 2017, made plans as rookies to take over the “Chiefs Kingdom.”

“We talk to each other about our jobs, and we don’t even know nothing about each other’s jobs like that,” Hunt said with chuckle. “It’s kind of just funny. We’re real good friends.”

Hunt feels no frustration as he watches his friend and draft classmate taking the league by storm the way Hunt did a year ago. It probably didn’t hurt that Hunt reached the end zone on the ground for the first time this season in a two-touchdown performance that included him rushing for just 44 yards. While he scored on a touchdown reception last week, the rushing touchdowns were his first this season.

“So we know how good Kareem is,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “We have a lot of trust in him. He’ll get you yards. It’s positive yards. We’re always trying to get him going. He’s a big part of this offense. And so for him to have the two touchdowns is a positive, an absolute positive. I wish you could be down there to see how he handles everything. He’s a beast. He’s really something.”

Earlier in the week, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said Hunt’s play had improved markedly from last season even though the statistics hadn’t shown it thus far.

Last season, Hunt rushed for 148 yards in the season opener and racked up 401 yards through three games. So far this season, he has rushed for 168 yards in three games.

“I feel good and we’re doing a lot in the air,” Hunt said. “It’s kind of hard to tell what’s going on with the run, but, honestly, I feel like we’re good. We’re right where we want to be. We need to run the ball when we need to run the ball. We do it. The last two games we finished the game running the ball. When we needed first downs we got them.”

Last week in Pittsburgh, the offense rushed for 40 of its 127 yards in the fourth quarter as it protected a late lead.

Sunday against the 49ers, Hunt rushed for 26 of his 44 yards and helped eat up the clock en route to improving to 3-0. His two 1-yard touchdown bursts came in the first quarter, the first two scores of the game.

“I’ve always been a guy that wanted to get stronger as the fourth quarter went,” Hunt said of his role as the team’s closer. “Even last year I prided myself on running my hardest during the fourth quarter.”

Hunt’s two-score day didn’t keep Mahomes from throwing three touchdown passes and setting an NFL record for the most touchdown passes in the first three games of a season (13). He broke the previous mark set by Peyton Manning. Mahomes completed passes to nine receivers in the game.

“We have so many weapons,” Mahomes said. “Today it was Kareem’s day to score the touchdowns. Last week, it was (Travis) Kelce’s. The week before it was Tyreek (Hill’s). That’s just how this offense rolls. Whoever the defense gives the opportunity to make plays, they’re making them. We’re going to try to keep that rolling this entire season.”

Lynn Worthy

Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Chiefs and NFL for The Star.

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