October weekends passed and the losses piled up like the autumn leaves. Four out of five to start a season for a team that promised better results.
Yes, but also their playoff opponent, the Houston Texans.
The wild-card round matchup pits teams that performed an about faced as dramatically as it can happen. The Chiefs won a team-record 10 straight after starting 1-5 and take an 11-5 record into the playoff game, which is at 3:35 p.m. on Saturday.
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The Texans finished the year winning seven of nine after its 2-5 start to capture the AFC South with a 9-7 record. Houston, the fourth seed in the AFC playoffs, is the home team because it is a division winner. The Chiefs are a wild-card team and the fifth seed.
Early on, the Chiefs lost some games in gut-punch fashion. A fumble return for touchdown in the final minute against the Broncos and a collapse against the Bears were the nightmares.
The Texans took a different path to their woes. They trailed the Falcons 42-0, and the Dolphins 41-0 in what was shaping up as a lost year for the organization.
Four quarterbacks would start for the Texans this season. Brian Hoyer, who started Sunday’s victory over the Jaguars that clinched the AFC South title, will get the start against the Chiefs.
Just as he did in the season-opener, a game won by the Chiefs 27-20 at NRG Stadium, site of this weekend’s game.
On his first snap that day, Hoyer’s pass was intercepted by Chiefs’ rookie cornerback Marcus Peters, and Kansas City was off and running.
But the Chiefs, who soon after their 23-17 victory Sunday over the Raiders learned they would open the playoffs at Houston instead of playing host to the Steelers, cautioned against reading anything into the regular-season result.
“They’ve grown,” Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford said. “They’re not the same team. Just like we aren’t the same team either.”
The refrain spread throughout the locker room.
“Probably both very different teams,” Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. “I mean, that long ago, the whole season of kind of figuring out who you are and your strengths and dealing with injuries and overcoming things.
“We’re both in very different spots.”
Especially Hoyer. He was benched after the opening game for Ryan Mallett, who didn’t fare any better.
“It’s been a crazy year but we stayed the course,” Hoyer told reporters after the Texans’ game on Sunday. “When we could have split apart, we really came together.”
Same with the Chiefs, who clinched their playoff spot last week. The seeding was the remaining mystery on Sunday, with three positions possible. With the postseason clinched, would the Chiefs keep their foot on the accelerator against the Raiders?
“It just shows you, a lot of teams could have packed it in,” defensive end Mike DeVito said. “We’re in the playoffs. But these guys just fight every day. I’ve never been around a more mature group. You usually don’t see this kind of talent and work ethic. I’m proud to be a part of it.”