There's no such thing as winning ugly. Just stop after the winning part, because all wins are beautiful in their own right. That was certainly the case on Sunday afternoon in a physical battle with the Kansas City Chiefs, a 19-12 win for the Houston Texans. Here are my observations from the team's second win of the season.
- I want to start with cornerback A.J. Bouye. He was charged with tracking and defending Chiefs Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce for a significant portion of the game. There wasn't a TV or radio show that I went on during the week that I wasn't asked about stopping Kelce, and for good reason. The fourth-year star lit up the Texans in 2015, including a long catch and run where he wound up and punched the football after a touchdown in the 2015 opener. On Sunday, though, Bouye helped limit Kelce to five receptions for only 34 yards and minimal damage. Bouye knocked away a couple of passes, and not just when covering Kelce. Last year, I wasn't sure Bouye was one of the team's top five corners. Now, I think he might be one of this unit's most valuable players. He was brilliant on Sunday.
- Inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney was magnificent as well. He wore the coach communication device in his helmet for the first time with Brian Cushing unable to play due to injury. I paid close attention to McKinney throughout the day and he was in total command. There was seemingly one voice today and he had his defense's rapt attention. Beyond that, he led the team in tackles and, as someone once mentioned after he was drafted, he also rushed the edge in certain situations. That would be me, if you didn't figure it out right away.
- He had back-to-back impact plays in the third quarter with a sack and then he drilled Tyreek Hill as the Chiefs dynamo attempted to cross the field on a tunnel screen. Number 55 introduced himself with authority.
- Brock Osweiler's first interception was a direct result of Marcus Peters' physical demeanor in press coverage. That's one thing these rookie receivers have yet to really see. Peters and Phillip Gaines are extremely physical and border on defensive pass interference on each throw. But, it's effective and Peters' ability to redirect Braxton Miller put Peters in position to make the pick. It's not a throw Brock should've made and he knew it immediately, but I've got to give a ton of credit to Peters. That dude is a straight baller - if my math is correct, he has ten interceptions in his career and four of those against the Texans.
- But, the defense picked up the team on the very next drive as J.J. Watt picked up an errant snap from Kansas City center Mitch Morse. During warmups, I was watching Kansas City and I saw Morse fire one well over quarterback Alex Smith's head. It's not something that typically happens in warmups, so it was weird. I heard a few fans down on the sideline make a comment about it too. So, when Morse fired a bad one to Smith in the game, I couldn't help but think you play like you practice.
- Many will say that J.J. Watt didn't quite look himself against the Bears in the first game, but considering how little he was able to do before the opening game of the season, I thought he played more than admirably. To be honest, though, he was a bit more disruptive than anyone actually thought in that win over the Bears. That said, he looked like the No. 99 we've grown to know and love against the Kansas City Chiefs. He recovered that fumble, but he consistently produced pressure off either side of the formation. He registered his first sack of the season and had another half sack as well. The rust isn't completely off, but he's getting the machine clean quickly, if you catch my drift.
- Jadeveon Clowney made one of the most physically impressive plays I've seen in quite a while. The Chiefs ran a counter play at him and had a lead blocker and a second one behind him. Clowney ran through the first guy, bounced the second guy and tackled the running back for a tackle for a loss. It was a play that not many in the NFL could make. As Andre Ware was calling the action, the replay went up on the video board. Andre looked up right as he was speaking and nearly lost the words he needed to describe what he had just seen. So physically imposing.
- Here's the Texans defensive drive chart, starting with the second half of the Bears game through the first three quarters of this game - interception, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs, fumble, punt, punt, field goal, punt, fumble, fumble, punt, punt and punt. I'll do the math for you - three points allowed, four turnovers forced, one turnover on downs and eleven punts. Dominant, to say the least.
- Vince Wilfork didn't get credit for a key tackle for a loss to start the second half, but he might as well have. He completely bench pressed Chiefs center Mitch Morse right into the hole, forcing the running back to avoid him and run into the arms of host of Texans defenders. Then, he made the tackle on third and two to end the Chiefs first drive of the second half.
- Johnathan Joseph had two pass breakups, but the one he had on the deep throw to Jeremy Maclin was his most impressive play. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith thought that he had some time to throw and saw Maclin deep down the field. He fired for the sideline, but Joseph was on a dead sprint and knocked it away to save a huge gain.
- Outside linebacker John Simon continued his string of fine play. He's so relentless off the edge and he never stops coming. Because of that, he had 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hits/hurries and forced a fumble. He's been so incredibly valuable to this defense, playing the run, setting the edge and rushing the quarterback.
- The move that Will Fuller put on Marcus Peters to get wide open down the field early in the game? Lethal. He really didn't sell the route or didn't need to, I suppose. He ran an out and up and when he went "up" after the "out", he smoked right past Peters. Then, Fuller did it again in the second quarter when he was matched up on Peters in man coverage. Fuller ran a go route up the right sideline and beat Peters by a step or two, but Brock led Fuller out of bounds. Peters gave the Dikembe Mutombo finger wave for some stupid reason and got flagged for it. He was beat on the play and still gave Fuller the finger wave. The refs had enough of Peters up to that point and threw a 15-yard taunting flag on him.
- I'm not sure Brock Osweiler threw a better ball than the one he threw deep to Fuller on the Texans first drive of the game. THAT was a dime. If Fuller could've held on without juggling it, he would've walked in.
- DeAndre Hopkins vs. Marcus Peters was well worth the price of admission. Those are two of the best at each player's respective position. Peters gave up the one touchdown to Hopkins, but made his second interception on a tipped pass by Hopkins. Those two were in each other's ear all day long, but at game's end, which two players swapped jerseys nearly immediately? Yep, these two.
- After Peters' first interception, Alex Smith threw for consecutive first downs and had the Chiefs playing up tempo after each first down. After a first down throw to Travis Kelce, Smith tried to throw a quick screen out to his right, but Jadeveon Clowney knocked it down with his left paw. Had Smith avoided Clowney's left hand, he had a well-blocked screen set up on the Chiefs sideline. That would've been a big play and even more momentum, but two plays later, Morse fired a snap ten feet high that Watt recovered.
- Going back to the game tape, Morse was concerned with Whitney Mercilus over his head and that helped cause the bad snap.
- Right after Watt's fumble recovery, Brock Osweiler went to DeAndre Hopkins. Osweiler threw a gem down the right sideline. Hopkins ran through and past Marcus Peters and caught the pass before safety Ron Parker could get over to help. Vintage Hopkins, but I LOVED how offensive coordinator George Godsey went right for the jugular after the turnover. Peters thought Hopkins had grabbed his helmet to propel himself downfield. In fact, Peters was irate and the official was none too pleased with the way Peters, demonstratively, got in his face. That might have been part of the reason Peters was flagged for a 15-yard penalty later in the game for taunting.
- I was standing a few feet away from Bill O'Brien after the Texans secondary was charged with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a Kevin Johnson interception and return. Johnson and his secondary mates celebrated a bit too much after the pick. Because Whitney Mercilus had jumped offsides, the play was negated, but I could see the steam coming out. Unfortunately, I think it was from my ears and not Bill's.
- That sequence was interesting. At first glance, the two penalties appeared to be 20 yards worth of penalty yardage for the Chiefs. Because the unsportsmanlike penalty was assessed as a non-dead ball foul, the Chiefs were given the choice - take the offsides and have another shot at third down or take the unsportsmanlike penalty but take the result of the play, which was an interception. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid didn't take too kindly to the explanation, but when the unsportsmanlike penalty was not ruled a dead ball penalty, Reid was forced to accept the offsides penalty. A.J. Bouye knocked away the next pass intended for Pro Bowler Travis Kelce to force another Chiefs punt.
- The punt coverage units had better improve. Too often contain guys were blocked and lost contain. Luckily, on Tyreek Hill's kick return for a touchdown, Kevin Johnson was snatched down and drew a holding call, which negated the score.
- We've seen Alex Smith three times in nearly a calendar year, but I've never seen him get rattled like he was at times on Sunday. The consistent pressure and hits took their toll as he was just "off" throwing the ball all day long.
- During the week, Bill O'Brien was asked whether special teams coordinator Larry Izzo fought for players on special teams. O'Brien said that Izzo wants EVERYONE to play on special teams. Well, Izzo must have gotten his way because J.J. Watt, Jadeveon
Clowney, Whitney Mercilus and John Simon were all on punt block/return early in the first half. The last time Watt was on punt block was in Cleveland in 2014 when he had not one, but two 15-yard roughing the punter penalties. He didn't get close this time, but it was an interesting strategy.
- I'm with everyone that's been talking about this since early in the second quarter - I don't know what a catch is. If Demetrius Harris didn't catch and fumble the ball after Andre Hal's hit, I don't know what he did.
- The one thing about that play was when they showed the replays in the stadium, the Chiefs defense and the Texans offense walked onto the field, nearly simultaneously. Both units knew with 100 percent certainty that it was a turnover. Then, Referee Tony Corrente said that it was an incomplete pass. WHAAA?
- Then on the next play, J.J. Watt and John Simon combined to sack Alex Smith. Rookie Tyler Ervin fair caught the punt on 17-yard line. So, no harm, no foul as it actually resulted in field position 12 yards further upfield.
- DeAndre Hopkins might one of the best back-shoulder throw pass catchers I've ever seen. He's so difficult to cover in man coverage because he can readjust to a back-shoulder throw like no one I've ever watched.
- When Brock Osweiler went into the shotgun on fourth and one in the second quarter, I worried about the safety of our own Andre Ware. He's not a fan of the shotgun in general, but on fourth and 36 inches? He was ready to pounce. But, Brock Osweiler threw a dart to Lamar Miller for a key first down that led to Nick Novak's first field goal of the day. Miller ran such a good route too. He ran right at outside linebacker Frank Zombo, froze him and then angled back to the inside with some space to make the catch.
- Okay, I love me some Brock Osweiler, but I laughed my butt off on Braxton Miller's run on the reverse. Chiefs star nose tackle Dontari Poe read the play brilliantly and he was in the backfield immediately one-on-one with... Brock Osweiler. The Texans quarterback decided it was best to jump out of the way and live to see another down. Literally.
- I've seen DeAndre Hopkins do things that defy description. The catch he made that was ruled a non-catch was right up there with anything he's done in his four years in Houston. I think the officials were shocked that anyone could've made that catch, but he did. I'm looking at the paused screen on my computer with his knee in bounds and the ball in his arms. When I saw it live (and I was standing just a few feet away), I didn't think he caught the pass. But, the replay proved that he did make the catch. The refs missed a blatant pass interference on Phillip Gaines too. The Texans should've benefitted from that play in some way, either PI or a touchdown. They got neither, unfortunately.
- What a play Quintin Demps made to force the fumble that Kevin Johnson returned deep into Chiefs territory. As Whitney Mercilus was about to make contact and finish the tackle, Demps reached into Spencer Ware's belly and knocked the ball loose. What made that play even more impressive was how each and every Texan defender went looking for a white shirt on Johnson's sprint down the field.
- After John Simon's sack and forced fumble right before the end of the half, the Chiefs went into the best prevent defense I've ever seen. They put three guys on each sideline and two guys deep. With 14 seconds remaining and no time outs, the Texans didn't think they could get a throw over the middle, spike it and kick a field goal. Brock Osweiler was forced to throw away two straight passes and settle for a 57-yard field goal attempt. Nick Novak hit the left upright on his only miss of the day.
I'm sorry if I missed something, but hope to see you on Thursday night out in Foxboro. Looking forward to it in just a few days. See ya then, everyone.
Check out the best photos from Sunday's game vs. the Chiefs!