That was a gut-check win.
Down 17-3. In that stadium. With the reigning MVP on the other sideline. Two starting cornerbacks down in the second half. Starting right tackle injured in the second half. Yet the Texans came from behind for a scintillating 31-24 victory over the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Houston outscored Kansas City 28-7 over the final 45 minutes of play. Here are my Harris hits from the fourth win of the season.
Let's start with the end. It was 4th-and-3 at the two minute warning and the Chiefs were out of time outs. Decision time for Bill O'Brien. A field goal more than likely ends it, but a first down DEFINITELY ends it. Kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn went out on the field during the two minute warning so I ran to the end zone to stand near the uprights as I typically do on field goal attempts. During the break, I saw Fairbairn and punter Bryan Anger go back to the sideline and Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V head back out onto the field. I LOVED it, no matter what happened.
Why? The Texans offense had been rocking all day and had 34 first downs up to that point. They just needed one more to seal it. The Chiefs had trouble in man coverage handling Hopkins and Fuller V when those two were on the same side. Plus, the ball was in the hands of the one guy that everyone trusts: Watson. The Chiefs brought pressure and Hopkins and Fuller V worked their timing magic to get Hopkins clean to the inside of the field. Watson delivered a strike and Nuk made the catch for a first down to end it.
On that play, the Chiefs brought pressure, which isn't something they like doing. But it was imperative Watson couldn't sit and pick them apart. He still did, but they rolled the dice. Right tackle Rod Johnson stepped inside to handle Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu on the blitz and Johnson hit him so hard that he nearly knocked Mathieu right into the path of the pass to Hopkins. Luckily, Mathieu couldn't stay on his feet to get a hand on the pass.
I know 100 percent that Hopkins wanted that pass more than anything he did all day long. He wanted retribution for the near touchdown that he couldn't hang on to in the third quarter. It's so rare to see him not make that catch, an easy catch by his standards. But with the game on the line, he made up for that on the fourth-down snag.
What can you say about this offensive line? No sacks and just two quarterback hits on the day. So if you're keeping track (and I know that you are because everyone kept track when it was going the other way last year), that's no sacks and three quarterback hits over the past eight quarters of play. There were multiple moments when Chiefs defensive front players went straight backwards and interrupted the flow of the linebackers pursuing the ball in the run game.
Last week, the Texans ran for 166 yards in the win over the Falcons. They ran for 192 against the Chiefs. It was just a physical win on a day when it was needed.
Running back Carlos Hyde's day couldn't have started worse. I assume y'all agree with me that he more than made amends for the opening-play fumble. To say he was good is the understatement of the day. He exploded through holes. He powered through feeble tackles. He hammered the Chiefs as much as they put helmets on him. It felt like every run came with some anger, in a good way, of course. I loved seeing his emotion on the touchdown run. Apparently, he emphasized the touchdown in front of the camera with something he can't really say on television. I loved it because that's how this ENTIRE team felt during that game. If they could hang on to the ball, there was no way anyone was stopping them on Sunday.
Had I told you the Texans would turn the ball over three times, including on the first offensive play of the game, would you have even thought a win was possible? Of course not. The Texans lost the turnover battle three to two, but came through the other side with the win. Why? They dominated with 83 plays to the Chiefs 47 plays. The offensive mix was brilliant all day long. If you love the brutal violence of the game, this matchup and this offensive performance was for you. I do, so it was my kind of day. Also, because when the Chiefs stacked up to stop the run, the Texans used the short passing game to give the Chiefs a different look they hadn't seen before. Just loved it.
There's a play that I most remember, but not for the proper reason, really. The Texans right before the half faced a 4th-and-1 at the Kansas City 40-yard line. Watson decided to throw it deep and it was intercepted by rookie Juan Thornhill. Now, I get it. Players just react and do what's natural. But Thornhill should've knocked that ball into the front row and NEVER caught it. The ball did go out to the 20-yard line due to the fact that Thornhill caught it in the end zone, but had he knocked it down, the ball would've been at the Kansas City 40-yard line. That interception cost the Chiefs 20 yards of field position at the end of the half. That mattered because on the very next play rookie Charles Omenihu strip-sacked Mahomes and Benardrick McKinney recovered on the Chiefs three-yard line. Now, perhaps the sack happens at the 40 too, but it did happen at the 20-yard line and it cost the Chiefs in a big way.
That play by Omenihu and McKinney was as impressive as anything that happened all day, for two reasons. Omenihu's long reach and chop got him that sack. He was like a yard or two away it seemed when he went to chop Mahomes' arm but he made it worth it. Then when the ball was out, two Chiefs linemen were in position to recover, but McKinney just dove in with one arm and wrestled it away for the recovery. I don't have any idea how McKinney got that ball, considering there were essentially five hands in the pile and four of them belonged to the Chiefs. Yet B-Mac stole that ball away. On the ensuing play, Watson scrambled into the end zone for a touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, the Chiefs ran four offensive plays. FOUR. That's it. Those four plays went for a grand total of two yards. Well, that's counting penalty yards. If you don't count penalty yards, the Chiefs registered negative three yards. The best offense in the league was stifled with no Johnathan Joseph and no Bradley Roby on the field, the team's two starting cornerbacks. In contrast, the Texans ran 21 fourth quarter plays for 135 yards, one touchdown and a final clock-killing drive. The Texans went 93 yards on the go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter, killing eight and a half minutes in the process. After forcing another punt, the second of the quarter and the only two of the day, the Texans ran out the final five minutes and change to put this one on ice.
Yes, the only two punts of the day took place in the fourth quarter and both were by the Chiefs. The Texans haven't punted since the first drive of the Falcons game. That's 19 straight drives without a punt. That's unreal.
The run game was just dominant. However, the Texans used throws to Fuller V and Hopkins as extensions of the run game. Hopkins had nine catches for an average of 6.1 yards and Fuller V had five catches for 8.1 yards. I don't know that I can remember a day when those two have averaged fewer than 10 yards per catch, much less 6.1 and 8.2 yards per catch. But they came up huge all day on third and fourth downs. Of Hopkins' nine catches, five were on third or fourth down for key first downs.
The tight ends had another solid ball game. They combined for more yards than Hopkins/Fuller V on the day and came up with clutch plays throughout. Fells had six catches for 69 yards, while Jordan Akins had three for 39 yards. Fells had a huge catch on 2nd-and-15 from the 19 on the go-ahead drive for 18 yards. He put it down on the one where Watson carried it in a few plays later. Akins ran over a couple of Chiefs after a catch to add to his highlight reel against the Falcons last week and also had a key 23-yard catch around midfield on the go-ahead 93-yard touchdown drive.
One of my favorite moments in this game happened in the first half. The Texans had a 4th-and-1 at the Kansas City 21-yard line in the second quarter, trailing by eight. Chiefs star edge rusher Frank Clark looked over at the Texans bench, gesturing at the bench that he wanted them to run right at him. He sort of pounded his chest and pointed at the ground as if to say "COME AT ME." On the play, Watson found Hopkins for seven yards and a first down. So, the Texans moved down to the two-yard line after a catch by Duke Johnson. The Texans then decided to run right at Clark and Texans left tackle Laremy Tunsil knocked Clark right out of the hole and Hyde ran into the end zone untouched for the touchdown.
According to reports after the game, Clark was quite emotional and boisterous in the locker room that the Chiefs defense couldn't stop the run. He was as much a part of that as anyone. He spent the second half watching from the sidelines as the Chiefs put more stout defensive linemen on the field to try to stop the Texans from running the rock over the final 30 minutes of the game. It didn't really help.
The defense didn't have the greatest day it's ever had, but I thought it was exceptional, albeit shorthanded in the second half. Think about it this way: the Chiefs averaged 444.8 yards of total offense heading into this matchup. Sunday, the Texans held the Chiefs to 309 yards, 135 less than average. The Chiefs were first in the league in passing yards per game with 356.0, yet the Texans defense held them to 273 yards. Even on the ground, the Chiefs averaged 88.6 yards per game and the Texans held them to 53. Wow.
The Omenihu strip-sack was vital, but another massive play was Tashaun Gipson's interception that ended a potential Chiefs scoring drive in the first half. The Chiefs were ahead 17-9 and driving for a score in the second quarter. But Mahomes laid one up in the end zone that Gipson went over and picked off. There was a penalty called on the Texans but the officials picked it up and gave the ball to Houston. Watson and company answered with an 80-yard touchdown drive to cut the lead to one. Gipson's interception ended up being a potential 14-point swing right before halftime. Huge!
Rookie cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. continues to make improvements in coverage. He's doing exactly what we all want to see from rookies - improve each and every rep, each and every week. The 3rd-and-5 pass breakup on Travis Kelce in the fourth quarter was huge. That forced the first punt of the day and led to the Texans go-ahead 93-yard touchdown drive.
When Roby went out of the game, I was a bit worried, as many were. Joseph was inactive due to a hamstring injury and now Roby was out too? Keion Crossen joined Phillip Gaines and Johnson Jr. in the sub-package for the rest of the game. The Chiefs went down on that drive and scored to take the lead, but Mahomes was 1-5 the rest of the game for -4 yards. Outstanding job.
Alright, that'll do it for this one. It was a good win and a great one for the Traveling Texans to see in Arrowhead, but it's time to gear up for the one team the Texans have to beat every year - the Indianapolis Colts. See ya then, everyone.
Houston Texans take on the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium for the sixth game of the 2019 NFL season.