Sometimes the scoreboard doesn't tell the entire story of a 60 minute football game. The Texans 42-34 loss on the field to the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs was just one aspect of a crushing defeat. Both Whitney Mercilus and J.J. Watt were injured on the first drive of the game and both will be lost for the foreseeable future. It left a pit in my stomach as I left the stadium last night and I'm sure many of you felt the same way.
Yet, there's plenty of football left in the 2017 season, starting next week with the Cleveland Browns coming to town for the last of three games in a row at home. Here are my observations from the grueling loss to the Chiefs.
- The energy was completely sucked out of the building with the injuries to the two defensive stars, especially when Watt struggled to get to his feet. Marc threw it down to me for a report and as I was talking, he was getting on to his feet and I was hopeful...for a split second, then I saw him not being able to put weight on his leg. I've never heard it that quiet.
- I saw Mercilus signal to a Chief walking off the field, so I thought it might not be horrible news. When I heard "chest injury", though, I got worried. And, remained as such, until I heard the news around midnight that it was worse than anyone wanted.
- The building really didn't get rocking until Will Fuller V caught the second of his two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make it 26-20.
- Speaking of Fuller V, that touchdown was exactly what I had mentioned on the Texans Unlimited pregame digital show that was needed. One of our commenters asked if Fuller would catch a touchdown, which isn't something anyone can truly project. So, I just guessed yes, but I said that if Will could get one deep downfield, it would blow the top off the stadium. It did. That cut the lead to 26-20 with 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the Chiefs came right back and scored a touchdown on the following drive to take a 32-20 lead.
- Deshaun Watson only completed 16 passes on the night, but each of top seven receivers had a catch of 12 yards or longer and four of them went for 22 yard or more. Watson completed five touchdown passes, which gives him nine in the last two games. On the season, that gives him 12 in five games; as a comparison point, the Texans had 16 touchdown passes all last season. The future is bright with him at the helm.
- Watson's counterpart though, Alex Smith, was the difference. In the pocket or out, he was completely unstoppable. Of all of the major weapons in the Chiefs offensive arsenal, Smith was the one that worried me more than any other. In particular, his ability to get outside contain and make throws on the run. He did that and then some. He was brilliant on third down and with no Watt or Mercilus to make his life miserable, he had more time to find his athletic receiving corps. He also completed passes to 11 different receivers, which I think, included every active, eligible pass catcher on the 46-man active roster, minus Akeem Hunt.
- Rookie linebacker Zach Cunningham led the Texans with nine tackles and a forced fumble; however, yet again, the Texans couldn't get a fumble to bounce into their hands. Chiefs tight end Ross Travis caught a pass and turned up the field and Cunningham came from behind him to punch the ball out. Unfortunately, it bounced back into Travis' vicinity and he recovered.
- Chiefs offensive weapon Tyreek Hill is just...wow. When Shane Lechler's punt flew down the field, I said out loud to Marc Vandermeer "UH OH". From my angle, I could see a wall developing of white jerseys and Hill already with the ball in his hands...like I said "UH OH". But, Hill made an impact on one of the key plays of the game and didn't even touch the ball. With a 26-20 lead, the Chiefs ran Hill in motion on jet sweep action. The Texans defense reacted accordingly, but he was a decoy. Rookie running back Kareem Hunt finally had some room to run and he ripped off a 23-yard run, down to the Houston 12-yard line. Two plays later, De'Anthony Thomas took a short Alex Smith flip for 10 yards and a backbreaking touchdown. The Cheetah (Hill) is one of the top three offensive threats in the NFL, even when he doesn't touch the rock.
- The Texans defense on first and second down wasn't award worthy, but much, MUCH more effective than it might appear on a night when an opposing defense piled up 35 points and 450 yards. The run blitzes early in the game were highly effective against zone read action, in particular.
- The Texans went touchdown, end of half, punt, touchdown, touchdown, punt, punt, touchdown and touchdown. Without that end of half drive, the Texans went five of eight on scoring drives. The Texans had been 39.6% on scoring drive percentage, 41.7% last night due to that finish.
- In the second quarter, the Texans offensive line truly took over. After an incomplete pass on first down, Lamar Miller reeled off 15 yards. Then, Miller for eight yards. Miller for four yards. Watson for 13 yards. Foreman for 25 yards. Miller for four yards. All in succession. Then, Watson found Hopkins for the touchdown on the throw over the middle to get the Texans on the scoreboard. Unfortunately, the Texans couldn't stop the Chiefs from scoring a touchdown on the final drive of the half.
- I loved the gun flip to receiver Chris Thompson early in the game. The Texans gave the Chiefs a little of their own medicine with that one...and it counts as a completion for Deshaun Watson too.
- Rookie linebacker Dylan Cole finished with five tackles, but it felt like 10 or more. He had a tackle for a loss in the first half that he predicted just prior to the play. I saw him turn to Benardrick McKinney and mimic zone read quarterback action. Then, Alex Smith handed off on the zone read to Kareem Hunt and Cole sprinted to meet Hunt at the spot for the tackle for a loss.
- McKinney had two rock solid hits for tackles for a loss. Kareem Hunt doesn't go down easily and McKinney took him down with one strike, twice, on his own.
Not sure there's much more to add after that gut punch of a game. I'll have more next week after the matchup with the Browns. Here's hoping it goes better for the home squad.
See ya then everyone.
Check out photos of the Houston Texans as they take on the Kansas City Chiefs at NRG Stadium.