The Houston Texans punted away their first possession against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. A three-and-out even.
Was a tone set? No.
The next nine Texans’ possession ended with six touchdowns, two field goals, and the end of the first half as Houston won in a 53-32 rout.
Deshaun Watson, with five touchdown passes and 426 passing yards, and his offensive teammates had a field day, and now they face a Chiefs team coming off its first loss and worst offensive game of the season.
It’s Watson against Patrick Mahomes in the first head-to-head battle of 2017 first-round quarterbacks. Mahomes was selected 10th, Watson 12th and both teams traded up for the draft position. Watson started against the Chiefs in 2017 but he opposed Alex Smith.
Their numbers are remarkably even. The quarterbacks each have 17 regular-season victories as starters. Mahomes has thrown for 7,212 and 61 touchdowns; Watson 7,228 and 56. Watson started six games as a rookie, Mahomes one.
But Watson is coming off the better game. Mahomes could muster only one touchdown drive in the 19-13 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football. It was the Chiefs’ lowest scoring output with Mahomes as a starter.
Injuries played a role. The Chiefs lost wide receiver Sammy Watkins after two plays and Tyreek Hill missed his fourth straight game because of a shoulder injury.
Mahomes didn’t throw an interception and hasn’t all season, setting the NFL record for most yards thrown at the beginning of a season without a pick. He’s at 1,821.
But over the past two games he’s thrown one touchdown pass and has two of the three worst completion percentages, a combined 56.8%, in his young career.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Monday that the lack of protection plays a factor. Mahomes was sacked four times and frequently scrambled to find throwing space.
“He’s having to move and we have to tighten that up,” Reid said. “We have to do a better job up front ... a better job securing things so he doesn’t have to move as much as he’s moving, unless we call for the move.”
Right tackle Mitch Schwartz put it more directly after the game.
“We really didn’t block well,” Schwartz said. “Your offense can’t function ... when we’re not giving them any time to make plays.”
Kickoff: Noon Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium
TV/radio: CBS (Ch. 5), KCFX (101.1 FM)
Line: Chiefs by 5 1/2