It stretches the imagination to believe someone who has played running back throughout his career has never fumbled, and indeed, the Chiefs’ Spencer Ware can remember putting the ball on the ground a couple of times when he attended LSU.
But losing a fumble did not happen there, or in high school or in the NFL. Until Sunday.
Ware’s second-quarter giveaway was the second of three first-half fumbles that plagued the Chiefs in their 19-12 loss to the Texans.
For a team that had committed the third fewest turnovers in the NFL in coach Andy Reid’s first three seasons, the Chiefs couldn’t stop being generous on Sunday.
Ware’s fumble was the biggest surprise simply because of his history.
“Never lost a fumble,” Ware said. “That’s not acceptable. I’m going to move on from it.”
Ware credited linebacker Whitney Mercilus for making the play, but Quintin Demps forced the fumble that was recovered by Kevin Johnson and returned 53 yards. Ware chased him down to make the tackle.
The play, which came at the end of a 9-yard run that pushed the Chiefs into Houston territory led to Nick Novak’s 24-yard field goal that increased the Texans’ lead to 13-3.
“I have to secure it,” Ware said. “I have to hold on to it. That’s my job.”
Among the jobs of center Mitch Morse is to get the ball back to quarterback Alex Smith without Smith having to reach or jump. But the Chiefs’ first possession ended when Morse’s shotgun snap from their 44 came in high and hot.
Smith reached but couldn’t corral it. The ball sailed over his head and his only chance to salvage the play was a fortunate bounce. That didn’t happen. The ball bounced away and Houston’s J.J. Watt fell on the ball while shielding Smith.
The Chiefs had just taken over after cornerback Marcus Peters came up with the first of two interceptions, and the Texans cashed in immediately on this takeaway with a Brock Osweiler touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins.
“We had so many self-inflicted wounds today,” Morse said. “We can move the ball. We just have to eliminate the penalties and stupid things such as bad snaps.”
Was there a mechanical issue on the bad snap?
“No, I have no excuse,” Morse said. “I’ll fix it.”
The third fumble occurred late in the second quarter. The Chiefs had taken over with 1:15 remaining in the half, trailing by 10 and looked content to run out the clock, until Charcandrick West motored 28 yards to the 44.
Although only 23 seconds remained when Smith took the snap, the Chiefs were perhaps one completion away from a field-goal attempt. Smith was flushed out of the pocket and brought down from behind by John Simon, who stripped away the ball. The Texans recovered to end the threat.
Three giveaways in two quarters and the Chiefs trailed 13-3 headed to halftime against a team that fell twice to the Chiefs in the same building last year.
The Chiefs believed they couldn’t have played much worse early on. But unlike the previous week, when they trailed the Chargers 21-3 at halftime and by three touchdowns in the third quarter, there would be no comeback this time. Too much damage had been done.
“We came down here…and you knew they were going to be ready,” Smith said. “We certainly weren’t, especially offensively in the first half. Just sloppy, sloppy football. We have to find a way to get better.”