Third Down Defense Struggles
The Texans defense did a fantastic job inside their own 30-yard line. They forced the Chiefs to kick five field goals which kept them in the game. The biggest cause of Sunday’s loss was their inability to get off the field on third down.
Kansas City converted on third down 56 percent of the time. This does not sound terrible until you realize the league average is roughly 40 percent. Travis Kelce feasted on the Houston defense until he was knocked out with a concussion. Kelce was on pace for a career day before his injury. He was the main cause of the struggles and Texans defense did not have much success until after his injury.
The Chiefs ran 16 more offensive plays than the Texans. Mike Vrabel’s defense looked gassed after the being on the field for over 21 minutes in the first half conceding 21 points in the second quarter. They allowed an additional 19 points in the fourth quarter which sealed the loss. It was not the worst defensive performance we have seen, but third down was a killer.
Wideouts Smell Blood
If you asked Andy Reid before the game he would have been fine with a combined six catches by DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. While their top receivers struggled a majority of the game, they showed up when they were needed most.
Hopkins was targeted 12 times, but only managed four catches. Watson missed him on a few throws and the Chiefs shaded coverage towards him. Out of those four catches he scored three touchdowns. Two of which came in the fourth quarter and kept Houston in the game.
Will Fuller had another strong game in his second week back from injury. The second year receiver had only two catches, but they both went for touchdowns. If he can continue to build on his two strong showings his rookie quarterback should begin finding him more often.
The Injury Dilemma
Just in case you were living under a rock, the Texans lost both J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus for the rest of the season. Watt has a tibial plateau fracture. This is a fracture of the highest point in his lower leg that supports the upper leg. This injury could have a variety of outcomes from being ready to start training camp or retirement. Everyone will continue to root for J.J. Watt, but it is hard to be optimistic when you combine this injury with his multiple back surgeries. We would all love to see the Hall of Fame-level Watt back next season, but it seems a six or eight sack healthy season would be reason to celebrate.
Mercilus will miss the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Fortunately for the Mercilus, this injury shouldn’t have a career long impact. Houston on the other hand is severely depleted on defense. Adding these two injuries to the Brian Cushing suspension leaves the Texans short in the defense front seven. They will need to lean on Jadeveon Clowney and rising star Bernardrick McKinney to make plays up front. Getting Cushing back later in the season will help, but the Texans need some players to grow up fast.
Tale of Two Halves
Houston started the game sluggish and did not become a factor until late in the first half. Watson’s timing with his receivers seemed off in the first quarter as he missed open throws. Watson only connected on four of twelve first half passes ending with 60 yards and a touchdown. They only had the ball one time in the first quarter and could not stay on the field long. D’Onta Foreman’s fumble provided the Chiefs with an easy three points. The only bright spot was the Hopkins’ touchdown catch near the end of the half.
The second half could not have been more different. Watson connected on 63 percent of his throws and looked more comfortable overall. He had 200 yards passing and four touchdowns against a tired Chiefs secondary. The Texans actually ran the ball better in the first half, but that did not matter as they were still able to move the ball. If not for the Tyreek Hill punt return, the Texans may have tied the game. They showed impressive grit to comeback in this game and it will serve this team well in the future.