The Chiefs punted away their first possession at Houston in the season opener. Dustin Colquitt pinned the Texans at the 7.
On the first snap, linebacker Justin Houston introduced himself to the 2015 season by driving through to disrupt quarterback Brian Hoyer, whose floater was intercepted by rookie cornerback Marcus Peters. Two plays later, the Chiefs reached the end zone.
Then a lot of stuff happened to Houston and Hoyer, causing each to lose a chunk of their seasons, but they’ll be back where they started Saturday, when the teams meet in an AFC wild-card playoff game at NRG Stadium.
Houston is expected to play for the first time since suffering a hyperextended knee in the Chiefs’ Nov. 29 victory over the Bills. He was on the team’s inactive list for the final five regular-season games.
“That’s the plan, to play, as of right now,” Houston said.
If the plan meets fruition, the Chiefs will regain the services of one of the NFL’s top defenders. Before his injury, Houston had accumulated 7 1/2 sacks with three multisack games.
He had one of the team’s five sacks against the Texans in September, four against Hoyer, who was pulled for Ryan Mallett. Hoyer wound up starting nine games, including last week’s finale against Jacksonville.
Against the Chiefs, Hoyer threw a touchdown pass and an interception and lost a fumble — forced by Houston — at his 7, leading to another short-field touchdown.
The Houston highlights continued. He had two interceptions, including one of the plays of the year, a Philip Rivers pass that Houston tipped to himself for a 17-yard touchdown against the Chargers.
The Chiefs’ victory that day was their fourth straight and evened the season record at 5-5. The next game would be Houston’s last, but the Chiefs continued to win with Dee Ford as Houston’s replacement.
As much as Houston wanted to be part of it, watching his team win helped ease the anxiousness of recovery.
“They were playing great,” Houston said. “Anything you can ask for they were doing. Hopefully I can add to it.”
It may take a while to get back up to speed. Houston practiced Wednesday for the second straight day and he worked out once last week, although he remained inactive for the game against the Raiders. He suspects a few plays might be required to return to game speed.
“Definitely got some rust to knock off,” he said.
Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton is confident Houston can approach picking up where he left off.
“I’m not worried about his ability to get back in there,” Sutton said. “You have to see where he’s at with his conditioning, his reaction time, all of those things, which, deep down inside you believe this guy’s played a lot, he knows what he’s doing, and I think it will be fine.
“We have to see where he’s at, like any player that comes back. We believe he’s going to be fine. If he keeps progressing like he has during the rest of this week, I think he’s going to be ready to roll.”
Houston has worn a knee brace in practice, and that’s probably staying on in games as he gets used to it.
“I’m getting there,” Houston said. “It takes some time, but I’m getting there.”
With Houston and fellow Pro Bowl linebacker selection Tamba Hali, who returned to action last week for 14 snaps after missing a game because of a broken thumb, the Chiefs are close to full strength on a defense that will look to slow a team that’s won seven of its last nine.
“That changes a lot,” safety Eric Berry said. “From a mental aspect, them having that experience on the field, knowing what to look for being in a lot of games.
“That helps out presnap reads, stuff like that. Things you don’t see on the field actually in a physical standpoint, but mentally, having the team’s awareness up, it’s going to be big for us.”