The Kansas City Chiefs fell to the Houston Texans 31-24 at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday afternoon — their second loss of the season and their second-straight loss at home.
Here are five winners and losers from the game:
- Wide receiver Tyreek Hill made it clear that he was ready to play against the Texans after missing four games with a posterior sternoclavicular dislocation that he suffered in the season opener. The Chiefs went deep to Hill on the game’s opening play, and Hill was open; the pass was wide because Patrick Mahomes’ arm was hit as the ball was thrown. But later in the opening drive — on a third-and-21 at the Houston 46 — Mahomes saw the Texans jump offsides and took the free shot to Hill at the 3-yard line. Hill made a magnificent contested catch in traffic and then fought his way to the end zone. That’s what you call a tone-setter. Hill finished the game with 80 yards and two touchdowns on five catches — which led all Chiefs receivers.
- Defensive end Frank Clark had a tone-setter of his own on the Texans’ first play from scrimmage, knocking the ball free from the grasp of Texans running back Carlos Hyde — and then plucking the ball from the air for a fumble recovery. The Chiefs not only cashed in the turnover for three points, but it was also clear that Clark’s play fired up the Chiefs defense. On the Texans’ very next offensive play, the ball came loose again after defenders ganged up on Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins. Charvarius Ward scooped up the ball and took it to the end zone, but officials ruled that Hopkins’ forward progress had been stopped before the fumble. But the message had been transmitted: the Chiefs defense had come to play. The Chiefs continued to make big plays on defense throughout the game.
- Andy Reid’s screen pass game — thought dead after Mahomes took over from Alex Smith — returned in force during the scripted offensive plays in the first quarter. The Chiefs were repeatedly able to move the ball with screen plays — and Damien Williams scored his first receiving touchdown of the season with some nifty yards after catch on a screen.
- Rookie safety Juan Thornhill notched his first NFL interception with just 23 seconds left in the first half as Watson went for all the marbles on a fourth-and-1 from the Chiefs 40-yard line.
- Texans defensive end Charles Omenihu strip-sacked Mahomes on the very next snap, giving the Texans a first-and-goal at the Chiefs three-yard line. Watson scored on the next play, giving the Texans their first lead of the game — and with the Texans getting the ball to begin the second half, Omenihu’s big moment was a perfect definition of a clutch play.
- Safety Daniel Sorensen gets a lot of grief from Chiefs fans, but his tackle of the Texans’ Darren Fells on a third-and-5 at the Chiefs 28-yard line during the opening drive of the second half forced a Texans field goal attempt — one that placekicker Ka’imi Fairbairn missed. Unlike Omenihu’s play, Sorenson’s play wasn’t splashy — but his tackle blunted a drive that could have given Houston a chance to run away with the game early in the second half.
- Cornerback Charvarius Ward made a clutch play of his own, intercepting Watson in the end zone for the second time. It was Ward’s second pick of the season.
- Texans running back Carlos Hyde said this week that neither GM Brett Veach or coach Andy Reid had called him to say the Chiefs had traded him to the Texans. Hyde said that the team representative who did call him was unknown to him — and that as result, he was “a little extra” motivated for the game against the Chiefs. But as a general rule, coughing up a fumble in your first touch of the game isn’t the best way to demonstrate your extra motivation. Hyde did well the rest of the game. He deserves credit for coming back from that play with 116 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries — plus another touchdown on his only reception of the game. But after his remarks, the fumble to start the game wasn’t a good look for the Texans’ bell-cow running back.
- Patrick Mahomes’ left ankle once again appeared to be magnet for pass rushers. Twice in the first half, Mahomes’ ankle took abuse when he was hit after making throws. While it was reported that these hits did indeed re-aggravate the ankle injury with which he has been dealing in recent weeks, Mahomes was said to have not received medical attention for it. Once again, Mahomes appeared to be less effective after his ankle became an issue — and the Chiefs had to adjust their play-calling strategy. It would be nice if there could be a Chiefs game where the word re-aggravate isn’t used; it was clearly one of the differences in the game.
- The Chiefs run defense still couldn’t stop the run against a well-balanced Houston offensive attack, giving up 4.7 yards per attempt against the Texans offense. That was one of the reasons the Texans set a franchise record for the number of drives with 10 plays or more in a single game — but it wasn’t the only one. The Texans were successful in the short passing game, which allowed them to mix dinking and dunking with their running game to sustain their drives. But the Chiefs secondary continued to do what it has largely done all season: prevent big passing plays. The secondary held Watson to a passer rating of just 77.5 on the day — well below his season mark of 115.4. I can’t put the Chiefs secondary in the winners column — there were far too many defensive holding calls against the unit for that — but excepting those penalties, the unit continued to hold up its end with big plays when their backs were against the wall.
- The Chiefs defensive line was expected to do well against the Texans offensive line. But it didn’t. It couldn’t build a wall against the run or help the secondary (or linebackers) with pass-rush pressure; they failed to record a single sack against the Texans. The Chiefs are going to need Chris Jones back as soon as possible.
- Andy Reid’s play calls started out smart; the screen plays scripted early in the game were not only effective, but also an intelligent way to utilize Mahomes when his mobility is limited — not to mention a good way to use the offensive line when it is having difficulty protecting him. But the Chiefs couldn’t seem to find a way to get the offense in rhythm when Mahomes’ ability was (once again) more limited. Reid deserves his reputation for finding ways to get success for his players through the scheme. But so far, the problems created by Mahomes’ nagging ankle injury has proved to be a cipher Reid has been unable to crack.