The Texans dropped their fifth-straight game, losing to Kansas City 17-16 at Arrowhead Stadium. Houston lost despite a stellar debut from third-string quarterback Case Keenum, big plays by the defense, and losing two starters over the course of the game. Head coach Gary Kubiak thought he found the spark the team needed in Sunday's performance.
"Yeah, we definitely did," Kubiak said. "We found a little heartbeat today. I thought we came in here and played the type of game we had to play if you're going to come in here and win. We had ourselves in that position. Our running back situation was very detrimental to us, especially when we were on the one-yard line, that situation that we had. That would have been huge to get the ball in the end zone right there, but we played through some tremendous things."
In his first NFL start, Keenum's performance was the best in franchise history for a first-time quarterback with 271 yards passing, surpassing Matt Schaub's previous record of 225 yards. Keenum was 15-of-25 with one touchdown, ten yards rushing, and a passer rating of 110.6.
The Houston defense forced two turnovers, effectively ending its two-game drought. J. J. Watt forced a fumble on Jamaal Charles in the third quarter. Recovered by Kareem Jackson, it set up Houston's offense for a successful 21-yard field goal by Randy Bullock. In the fourth quarter, Shiloh Keo would intercept Alex Smith's pass on third down.
Two Pro Bowl players, Arian Foster and Brian Cushing, suffered injuries and would not return to the game. Foster injured his hamstring on Houston's first offensive series. Ben Tate would replace Foster, who rushed for 11 yards on four carries. Cushing took a hit to his left knee. Cushing limped off the field but would be carted off to the locker room.
Cushing's knee injury was a "big concern" to Kubiak. Other injuries from the game would benefit from the upcoming bye week, inlcuding Foster's hamstring.
"He's got a hamstring, obviously bad enough where he couldn't come back and play, Kubiak said. "We do have a bye week. Ben (Tate) has some ribs, Duane (Brown) has an ankle and (Shiloh) Keo has an ankle, so we got beat up on top of everything."
Keenum led the Texans to two scoring drives on his first two possessions. Houston scored first on a 48-yard field goal by Bullock, who was 3-of-3 on the day. The former University of Houston quarterback threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to rookie DeAndre Hopkins to give the Texans an early 10-7 lead. The five-play, 81-yard drive was Houston's third longest scoring drive of the season, extended by a 49-yard catch by DeVier Posey.
Foster had 4 carries for 11 yards before leaving in the middle of the first quarter with a hamstring injury. Tate, who suffered a rib injury, finished with 50 yards rushing on 15 attempts and five yards receiving on two catches.
Jamaal Charles rushed for 86 yards on 21 carries and one touchdown. Charles scored first for Kansas City on a one-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Alex Smith ran in the Chiefs' second touchdown on a fake handoff. Kansas City started the drive at Houston's 3-yard line. After a false start on fullback Anthony Sherman, Smith marched the offense down the length of the field on a 15-play, 97-yard drive.
With less than one minute remaining in the second quarter, the Texans used their final two timeouts on their last possession of the half. After moving the ball 39 yards on five plays, Keenum attempted a pass to the endzone from Kansas City's 41-yard line. The ball was tipped but the Texans could not come down with the touchdown reception.
The Chiefs headed into halftime with a 14-10 lead. Houston had 151 yards passing and 64 yards rushing. Kansas City had 127 yards of offense with 58 rushing.
In the second half, the Houston defense would hold Kansas City to just one field goal.
Watt had back-to-back plays in the fourth quarter to help the defense hold the Chiefs to three-and-out. Watt sacked Smith for a three-yard loss and then batted down Smith's pass on third down. Watt led the defense with six tackles, one forced fumble, and one sack. Earl Mitchell also added a quarterback sack for a loss of six yards.
Andre Johnson finished with 89 yards receiving on four catches with a long reception of 42 yards. Hopkins finished with three receptions for 76 yards and one touchdown.
"I'm proud of their effort," Kubiak said of the team. "I don't think I've ever seen my team play harder. It just hurts, because we've got nothing to show for it right now, but if we play that way the rest of the season, we'll win our share of our football games. We have to regroup and figure out who we've got and move forward."
Smith was 23-of-34 for 240 yards passing, one rushing touchdown, and one interception.
"The unfortunate thing is we gave them some short fields today," Smith said. "Then in the second half, they played lights out, with the fumble and holding them to three is a huge stop. I think our defensive caliber, statistically, it's going to be hard to drive the length of the field all day. You're just not going to do it that many times. You play good team football. Unfortunately today we had the turnovers that hurt us, and if we find a way to score down there on the goal line, it's probably not that close. I think the thing I look at, the turnovers and executing in the red zone, made this thing a little closer than it had to be."
Dwayne Bowe caught five passes for 66 yards. The Chiefs defense sacked Keenum five times and had one fumble recovery late in the fourth quarter.
In the longest losing streak of Gary Kubiak's tenure, Texans have lost five straight games and are now 2-5 on the season. Houston will face Indianapolis in Reliant Stadium after the upcoming bye in Week 8.