By Brien O’Donal
Follow me on Twitter @ODonalsVanguard
The Texan’s game against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs at home on Sunday night was full of some real head scratchers and “Oh, no’s!” Obviously, it’s disappointing to hear that J.J. Watt will be out for the season after suffering a Tibial Plateau fracture that will require surgery. In the same drive he was lost, Whitney Mercilus also suffered an injury and he was out for the game and maybe longer. But that’s not all that went wrong in the big prime time matchup. For some reason, a Texans offense that looked like it had a winning formula, left it in the locker room for the 1st half. The Chiefs took advantage and moved the ball up and down the field to the tune of 23 points and nearly double the time of possession.
There were a lot of questionable play call decisions that seemed to veer away from the what worked against the Patriots and Titans. Watson was under a lot of pressure, but the Texans offense just couldn’t move the ball. They ran only 25 plays in the first half compared to Kansas City’s 46. The Texans defense still held when backed up to their own end zone, but every point hurts when the offense can’t get anything going. It sure looked like it was going to be bad until half time got near. Bill O’Brien remembered what his team was good at and in 2 and a half minutes revved up the running game and moved 75 yards in 8 plays for a touchdown leaving a shade under 2 minutes remaining.
Not to be outdone, Alex Smith moved his team right down the field before the half and threw his second touchdown pass of the night to Charcandrick West. The Texans would get the ball to start the second half but it’s hard to look up at the scoreboard and see 23-7. The game wasn’t over though and after the Texans defense finally forced a punt Watson led a quick scoring drive to cut into the lead. In an unusual strategy move, Bill O’Brien decided to start chasing points with a lot of time left in the game and attempted the 2-point conversion. They failed and the lead remained 10 points, 23-13.
The longer the game went on, the more it felt the Chiefs were just going to keep eating up time and putting points on the board. They answered right back with another field goal getting the lead back to 2 scores, 26-13. Fans watching this game probably started to feel a little deflated. Two big stars were lost, one probably for the season and the best team in the NFL is having its’ way with the home town heroes, but hope resides in the arm of Deshaun Watson.
In 5 plays Watson launched his 2nd touchdown pass of the night to Will Fuller for 48 yards and a big score to cut the lead to 6 points. Things were looking up for a comeback win until Alex Smith decided to make sure the Chiefs stayed 5-0 on the year. It only took 6 plays and 3 minutes to get the ball in the end zone, an end around to De’Anthony Thomas for a 10-yard score. With a 12-point lead and time winding down, the Chiefs went to make it a 14-point lead but missed the 2-point conversion leaving the score 32-20.
That didn’t last long though. The Texans offense went 3 and out again and punted the ball to Tyreek Hill. He decided he would run it back 82-yards for a touchdown to make the lead nearly insurmountable, 39-20 with a little under 8 minutes to play. Watson wasn’t going to go quietly into the night. Will Fuller used his speed to return a Kansas City punt 49-yards to the Chiefs 37-yard line and in 3 plays the Texans had another touchdown pass. DeAndre Hopkins got his second of the night and the lead was cut but it was still too big.
The Chiefs would add another field goal and the Deshaun Watson would get another touchdown to DeAndre Hopkins but that was all the scoring left. The Texans would fall to 2-3 on the season. There is another game next week and they should be able to put it together against the Browns to get back to .500 on the year.
There were a lot of things that didn’t go well for the Texans on Sunday night. Injuries seemed to pile up, but to lose 2 big pass rushers early on can change the game plan in a hurry. Offensively, there didn’t seem to be the same ball control that was effective in the last 2 games. It came around later; but whether it was a stingy defense by the Chiefs or miscues by the Texans, the early struggles set the tone for the Chiefs to build a lead that was difficult to overcome.
Penalties and special teams continue to haunt this team. There were some decent returns by the Chiefs but that late punt return touchdown was a dagger that no team can overcome. When the lead get to nearly 3 touchdowns that late all an offense can do is start to air it out. The Texans have been efficient when they run the ball and make good possession throws. Watson has shown he can throw the ball down field effectively, but it is not the formula for success.
This was a winnable game for the Texans because despite the big defensive losses they had the ability to hold the Chiefs to field goals. The Texans had almost as many yards rushing as they did passing and were averaging a little over 6 yards per carry but they couldn’t get keep the chains moving on 3rd down. Meanwhile, the defense kept putting the Chiefs in 3rd down and more than 5 yards, but couldn’t get off the field. It was very uncharacteristic of them and continued to let the Chiefs control the time of possession. If the Texans want to keep their season on track they need to get back to what they do best.
Watson looked good in this game and he is definitely leading this team, but he will need help making it happen. He continued to stay out of trouble behind a bad offensive line and his passes look on target and in the right place for the receivers to make a good grab, but when a team is down big it can be too little too late for theatrics. He threw for another 5 touchdowns giving him 12 on the season, and the team had over 100 yards on the ground again but it came so inconsistently as to have little effect on the scoring.
Going into next week against the Browns the Texans will need to return to what they do best and control the clock. If they can do that then they can get their third win of the season.