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19 observations from Texans vs. Chiefs

Winning is good, no matter what. Yes, it was a preseason game in which a decent chunk of players did not play, but that doesn’t matter. A W is a W and after two weeks in West Virginia, it was the right way to finish the trip.

Here are my observations from the win in Kansas City.

1. There wasn’t a day that went by during the last week in which I wasn’t asked whether Deshaun Watson would play against Kansas City. My answer was the same each time...“five to seven plays”. That felt right. One drive, regardless of the outcome and that’s exactly what the plan was for the second year signal caller. He certainly wanted more action, but he handled his business the same way he always does.

2. We’ve talked throughout camp about the lighter, sleeker Lamar Miller and how that is paying dividends with his quickness and explosiveness. That was evident on four runs on that first offensive drive. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon on his 19-yard run up the left sideline. He darted in, then out and took off once he cleared the first level.

3. The offensive line will be a talking point for a while, especially if it struggles in any way shape or form in the near future. But, BUT, that wasn’t tonight at all. It wasn’t pristine and there are some interior blocks they’d like to have back, but the pass protection was really good, in my opinion. Quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Joe Webb III were able to throw without much in the way of pressure in their face.

4. Weeden was sharp throughout the night and one impressive thing he did was spread the ball out to all of his weapons. On the first scoring drive, he hit Bruce Ellington, Braxton Miller, Troymaine Pope, Sammie Coates and finally rookie Jordan Akins for the touchdown. He finished 9-of-11 on the night.

5. Webb III made stellar plays throughout the night but nearly made his best play on the second Texans kickoff of the night. He shot past the initial blocking wave and made contact with Chiefs return man Damien Williams at the 10-yard line. Webb III couldn’t finish the tackle, but it was impressive to see a quarterback sprint down and make an effort on a tackle on kickoff coverage.

6. His scramble in the fourth quarter, though, might have been the play of the game. I saw it happened live and I’m still not sure what I saw. He was nearly back to the 40-yard line after avoiding the Chiefs rush before he was clear of the rush and able to sprint ahead for a big gain. You can see that run below.

7.The defense was without J.J. Watt, D.J. Reader, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, Benardrick McKinney, Tyrann Mathieu and Johnathan Joseph, but that didn’t stop Romeo Crennel’s unit from shutting down the Chiefs explosive first team offense. The defense yielded a scant two first downs on two drives with Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and the first team offensive line, a quintet thought to be one of the best in football.

8. One of the many injured players that the Texans really missed last year was Christian Covington. He’s really had an excellent training camp and he produced a ton of pressure against the Chiefs first offensive line. The power and leverage that he’s playing with are impressive and he was awfully difficult to block on Thursday night.

9. Due to the fact that Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus were unavailable, the Texans started a rookie opposite Brennan Scarlett at outside linebacker. That rookie Duke Ejiofor, my pregame choice for sideline spotlight player of the game, made a significant impression to say the least. He was constantly in the backfield, no matter who he faced throughout the night. Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz is one of the best in the NFL and Ejiofor went toe-to-toe with him.

10. Scarlett made one heck of a play as well during his stint on the field. The Chiefs ran zone read and he squeezed down with the running back. When he did, Chiefs quarterback Chad Henne pulled the rock and ran. Scarlett re-directed and tracked him down for a small gain. Quite honestly, it should’ve been a much larger gain but Scarlett ran it down.

11. Linebacker Zach Cunningham came up with a pick off a Dylan Cole tipped pass in the second quarter. That wasn’t the play I’ll remember. On the second play of the game, the Chiefs threw a quick screen out to star receiver Tyreek Hill. Cunningham ran right through Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce and ran Hill right out of bounds for a two-yard gain. I saw him make the tackle live but didn’t see what he did to Kelce until I watched the first quarter on the bus to the airport. 41 is a bad man and when he’s on the field with Cole, there is some serious speed on the field at inside linebacker.

12. Speaking of inside linebackers, Josh Keyes had the hit of the night and the runner-up hit of the night. Keyes nearly decapitated a Chiefs running back on an angle route across the middle. I mean, I heard it through my headphones. But, he also had a resounding hit on a kickoff return in the first half.

13. Keyes played most of the second quarter and second half with Kennan Gilchrist who also made his presence known, securing a number of tackles on the night.

14. I said it in the Harris Hurry-up throughout our two weeks in West Virginia - running back Troymaine Pope is pocket dynamite. How did his night go? He beat a cornerback on a hitch route for a first down reception on the first scoring drive. He had two screens for significant yardage and made a couple of strong runs from scrimmage. He has impressed a lot of people since he arrived last fall and had continued to impress on Thursday night.

15. Even though he gave up a reception to Travis Kelce, rookie safety Justin Reid couldn’t have had a better test. Nothing, or no one, will prepare him for week one’s test (Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski) more than Kelce. For that reason, I was glad that Kansas City played its offensive stars.

16. Tight end Jordan Akins couldn’t have had a better start to his career. Two catches, two touchdowns. No player in Texans history had ever done that in a preseason game. What I loved more than anything else was that when I asked Akins about the touchdowns after the game, all he could say was that he was thinking about what he needed to do next on special teams.

17.I mentioned it during the broadcast but one of the few silver linings in a 4-12 season was the opportunity for Bill O’Brien and the coaching staff to lead the South team at the Senior Bowl. The team’s starting tight end during that week? Jordan Akins. That week gave them a great look at the type of player/person he is.

18. Receiver Braxton Miller had a strong two weeks in West Virginia and it showed in the way that he played on Thursday night. He and Bruce Ellington both made a number of plays in the passing game, finishing with a handful of catches from Watson, Weeden and Webb III

19. Cornerback Josh Thornton made the biggest play of the second half on the Chiefs final offensive play of the night. At the outset of the play, Thornton wasn’t aligned, but he got to tight end Alex Ellis in time to lock him down and knock away the final pass of the night to preserve victory. He had three pass break-ups in the fourth quarter.

I’m sure there’s plenty I’m missing but at four in the morning, I’m not sure I remember my own name. I’ll watch the tape and have more during the week. Good start, time to build on it. Bring on the 49ers.

See you next week, everyone.

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