The Kansas City Chiefs (5-0), a.k.a. The Best Team In Football, stayed undefeated against the Houston Texans (2-3), beating the ailing home team, 42-34, on Sunday night in Week 5. Here’s what we learned:
1. If you don’t consider Alex Smith to be in, and even the front-runner in, the MVP race this season, you’re in deep denial and/or living in the past. The pilot of the game’s most efficient offense, Smith’s mobility and decision-making were on full display on Sunday evening. The Chiefs quarterback completed 78 percent of his passes and completed at least two passes to eight different receivers against one of the league’s better secondaries. Smith (324 yards) looked as in control rolling out of the pocket and holding the ball on run-pass options as he did standing in and launching lasers up the seam to Travis Kelce or down the sideline to Tyreek Hill. Through five games, Smith has as many interceptions as he does losses: zero. Give him the respect he deserves.
2. The tone of this one was set from the very first drive, Yes, the Chiefs mounted a characteristic 15-play, eight-minute scoring drive out of the gate, but it was a pair of devastating injuries on Houston’s side of the ball that changed the trajectory of this tilt. First, Whitney Mercilus was ruled out with a chest injury. NFL Network’s James Palmer reported that he suffered a torn pectoral and will be out for the year. Then, the captain went down, for good.
J.J. Watt suffered a tibial plateau fracture on the 14th play of the game and limped off the field with the help of trainers to a standing ovation from an emotional Houston crowd. Watt is done for the year before the Texans‘ bye for the second consecutive season, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. After the departure of two of their best pass rushers, the air went out of the stadium, Houston’s vaunted pass rush lost its mojo and the game was soon lost.
Watt’s loss will be a major emotional blow, to the football team and the city, but as the Texans did last season and as Houston did last month, there’s little doubt they’ll recover, especially in a competitive AFC South.
3. After a sluggish, sloppy first half, Deshaun Watson bounced back in a big way in the second half. The Texans rookie came into the game as the leading rushing quarterback, but his best moments came when he moved in and out of the pocket evading Kansas City’s swarming second-half pass rush. Watson threw five touchdowns, four of them in the second half during Houston’s failed comeback attempt, becoming the first rookie with four-plus touchdown passes in back-to-back games since Robert Griffin III. Watson’s best passes were deep scoring dimes to Will Fuller (48 yards) and DeAndre Hopkins (34). Expectations should be kept at bay in Houston — the Texans won’t, and can’t, score 57 points every week and Watson’s rapport with Hopkins (four catches on 12 targets) needs work. But Watson, with 14 touchdowns in five games, is the real deal.
4. A relatively quiet night for the breakout rookie Kareem Hunt. As he had in his four previous starts, Hunt got going as the game went on, finishing with 107 yards on 29 carries after a slow start, his fourth 100-yard game in as many career games. (Funny that a rookie breaking the century mark is an afterthought in a prime-time game.) But when the result was up in the air, it was his backfield mate, Charcandrick West, who shined. West scored two first-half touchdowns and also proved a capable blocker. Passed over for Hunt when starting back Spencer Ware went down for the season, West is making himself useful in as many ways as possible, a perfect representation of Kansas City’s modus operandi.
5. Fuller has been back on the field for only two games since returning from a collarbone injury, and he’s already made a massive difference. The speedy second-year receiver scored two touchdowns on two catches against a stiff Chiefs secondary, including one fourth-quarter home-run ball. Fuller’s 49-yard punt return in the fourth quarter was blazing. Once characterized as a drop artist, Fuller has reclaimed his status as a reliable field-stretching deep-ball threat and a force on special teams.
6. The Chiefs lost three significant players to injury as the game wore on. Travis Kelce left in the second half to be evaluated for a concussion after taking a hit to the helmet in the first half; on pace for a career night, he never returned and coach Andy Reid said after the game Kelce is in the concussion protcol. Wide receiver Chris Conley suffered a nasty-looking Achilles injury and was quickly ruled out. After tallying 1.5 sacks, Pro Bowl linebacker Justin Houston left late in the fourth quarter with a calf injury. The only things that can derail K.C.’s fairy-tale season are trips to the training room.
7. Not to be overshadowed by Hunt, last year’s breakout game-changer Tyreek Hill stole the show late. His 82-yard punt return put the win on ice and wasn’t even his best play of the night. Hill’s toe-tapping 38-yard grab along the sideline was his most impressive grab as a true wide receiver.