The Texans face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday one week after the Texans scored 53 points against Atlanta, the second-highest total in team history. The only time they went for more was in Week 4 in 2017 against Tennessee when the Texans erupted for 57 in a win over the Titans. The opponent the following week? The Chiefs. A weird coincidence, but the Texans are certainly looking for a different result than the last time they faced Kansas City. Former Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith lit up a depleted Texans defense in a 42-34 win on a Sunday night in NRG Stadium.
Plenty has changed in the two years since. The Chiefs now have the reigning MVP leading the charge - quarterback Patrick Mahomes, arguably the hottest name in the NFL. Behind Mahomes' sterling play and leadership, they were one Dee Ford offsides penalty away from going to last year's Super Bowl. Since Mahomes took over as the starter, the Chiefs are 17-6 and have only lost three times at home – against the Chargers in 2018, against the Patriots in the 2018 AFC Championship and last week to the Colts. The loss to Indianapolis may not have been as shocking as the Chiefs offense being held to 13 points. It's the first time since Mahomes took over as the starter that the Chiefs scored fewer than 26 points in a game. The Colts defense had a great plan and executed flawlessly, but injuries severely impacted the Chiefs offensively. Receiver Sammy Watkins went out early in the game and dynamic star/offensive weapon Tyreek Hill has been injured since Week 1 (he could return this week). Furthermore, the offensive line was ravaged before, during and after the matchup with the Colts. In addition, Mahomes has dealt with a banged up ankle since Week 1 in Jacksonville.
The Chiefs defense, though, is a unit still getting to know one another. The defensive coordinator is new. The two starting safeties are new. One starting cornerback is new. The two starting defensive ends are new. Head coach Andy Reid knew that side of the ball needed upgrades and understands that it's a unit still under construction. One major issue for that side of the ball will be the anticipated absence of Pro Bowl interior star Chris Jones. He left last week's game against the Colts with a groin injury and is not expected to play in this one. As such, the Chiefs defense is shorthanded a bit, like its offensive cohorts.
The Arrowhead crowd, though, is a major resource for Mahomes and company, so the Texans have their hands full with this crew on Sunday. Without further ado, let's get to know the wildly-talented Kansas City Chiefs.
2019 Schedule - Record 4-1
W, @ Jacksonville Jaguars 40-26
W, @ Oakland Raiders 28-10
W, Baltimore Ravens 33-28
W, @ Detroit Lions 34-30
L, Indianapolis Colts 19-13
Chiefs offense (in 2019):
Rushing yards per game - 88.6 ypg (25th in the NFL)
Passing yards per game - 356.0 ypg (1st)
Total offense per game - 444.6 ypg (2nd)
Turnovers lost - 5 (5 fumbles lost - no INT)
Projected Chiefs starting offense for Sunday's game vs. Texans:
QB - Patrick Mahomes
RB - Damien Williams
WR - Tyreek Hill (injured since Week 1 - has practiced the past two weeks)
WR - Sammy Watkins (injured early in last week's game vs. Colts)
WR - MECOLE HARDMAN (rookie)
TE - Travis Kelce
LT - Cam Erving (Starter Eric Fisher still not back at practice)
LG - Andrew Wylie (injured his ankle last week - could be Ryan Hunter)
C - Austin Reiter
RG - Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
RT - Mitchell Schwartz
Other key offensive pieces:
WR - Demarcus Robinson
WR - Byron Pringle
RB - LESEAN 'SHADY' McCOY
TE - BLAKE BELL
*All caps indicates a 2019 addition
Keys to stopping the Chiefs offense:
1. Keep Mahomes in the well. Envelope the pocket around him and do not let him create out of it. This sounds VERY simple, but trust me, it's not going to be easy at all. Regardless, it's priority number one facing this Chiefs offense.
2. To do just that, the Texans defense may need a linebacker spy that is solely responsible for Mahomes when he exits the pocket to force a quick throw. The longer he holds it on the run, the worse off the defense will be.
3. If/when Tyreek Hill plays, devote a couple of defenders to him as much as humanly possible. The Patriots doubled him all night long with a corner (sometimes it was current Texan Keion Crossen) and a safety. The Chiefs will look to get him involved early and I'd guess with a deep shot to keep him away from any hard hit or tackle. Be ready.
4. Screens, screens and more screens. In crunch time situations, Andy Reid loves to go to a running back screen. In the AFC championship game, he hit one for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Late in the win over Baltimore, he called one on a key third down late in the game to salt away a win. They're coming. Be disciplined and ready.
5. Attack the Chiefs interior with bodies and pressure. Center Austin Reiter is in his first year as a full-time center. Guard Andrew Wylie hasn't practiced all week so even if he plays, he's going to be a bit rusty. The backup guard Ryan Hunter struggled against the Colts power last week. The Chiefs just signed Stefen Wisniewski who hasn't played since the preseason and the Texans faced him last year in Philadelphia. There's pressure to be found from B gap to B gap against the Chiefs interior.
Chiefs defense (in 2019):
Rushing yards allowed per game - 155.8 ypg (30th in the NFL)
Passing yards allowed per game - 237.2 ypg (13th)
Total offense allowed per game - 393.0 ypg (25th)
Turnovers generated - 7 (4 INT, 3 fumble recoveries - Chiefs are +2 in TO margin - same as Texans)
Projected Chiefs starting defense for Sunday's game vs. Texans:
DE - EMMANUEL OGBAH
DT - Chris Jones (injured last week)
DT - Derrick Nnadi
DE - FRANK CLARK
LB - Anthony Hitchens
LB - DAMIEN WILSON
CB - BASHAUD BREELAND
CB - Kendall Fuller
S - TYRANN MATHIEU
S - JUAN THORNHILL (rookie)
CB - Charvarius Ward
Other key defensive pieces:
DE - ALEX OKAFOR
DT - KHALEN SAUNDERS (rookie)
LB - DARRON LEE
DE - Tanoh Kpassagnon
LB - Ben Niemann
S - Daniel Sorensen
LB - Reggie Ragland
*All caps indicates a 2019 addition
Keys to winning vs. the Chiefs defense:
1. Balance in the attack. Run or pass, find the proper formula as the game wears on.
2. Know what to do when the blitz is coming. The Chiefs, presumably without Chris Jones, won't be able to get to the quarterback with just four or with stunts/games/twists etc... As such, they're going to have to bring heat from distance. So, expect Tyrann Mathieu and company to be added into the pass rush often, even though that's not a Chiefs defensive staple.
3. Get the ball out hot and let's GO. One of the major keys to last week's win was Watson's ability to get the ball out of his hands under 2.5 seconds.
4. Keep the interior passing game alive. This was a major key, in my estimation, last week and it paid off. Darren Fells had two seam route touchdowns. Jordan Akins had a big third-down catch-and-run that set up a touchdown. Slot receiver Keke Coutee had three catches, all of which went for first downs.
5. Double interior linemen off the ball into the linebackers. The Chiefs had such a tough time stopping the run last week and previous other weeks that getting movement off the ball in the run game is paramount against a challenged front. Why? The Chiefs have lost twice since January 2018, both at home. The Patriots ran for 176 yards in the AFC championship game and the Colts ran for 180 yards last week. Teams have run on the Chiefs and lost but they have never been held in check and won.
Check out the best Week 5 images from Texans team photographer Zach Tarrant. Presented by Houston Methodist.