Key play: A diving interception by rookie cornerback Marcus Peters — on the first play of the game from scrimmage for Houston, no less — deep in Texans territory set up the Chiefs’ first score, a 10-yard Alex Smith touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce.
Key stat: Running back Jamaal Charles was targeted with five passes in the quarter — an indication of Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s desire to get him involved early.
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Key play: A strip-sack of Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer by Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston helped blow the game open. The Chiefs recovered the ball at the Houston 7, which set up a score that put them ahead 27-6 with nearly 5 minutes left.
Key stat: The Texans’ took away the Chiefs’ ground game, holding them to 37 yards in 14 carries, but the passing game more than made up for it, as Smith completed 15 of 20 passes for 193 yards, three touchdown and zero interceptions.
Key play: Whatever hope the Texans had of getting it going in the second half probably came to an ended when running back Alfred Blue was stuffed on fourth and 1 at the Chiefs’ 11.
Key stat: The Texans went zero for four on the third downs during a half they desperately needed to get something going.
Key play: Receiver DeAndre Hopkins helped cut the Texans’ deficit to 27-17 with an 8-yard touchdown catch that capped a seven-play, 59-yard drive.
Key stat: The Texans finished the game three of 14 on third-down conversions.
Player of the game: Alex Smith did an excellent job directing the Chiefs’ offense, completing 22 of 33 passes for 243 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Reason to hope: When the Chiefs have their offense humming the way they did in the first half, they’re going to be difficult to stop.
Reason to mope: Maybe the Chiefs’ coaches called off the dogs in the second half, but whatever it was, the Chiefs were held to zero points.
Looking ahead: The Chiefs return to Arrowhead Stadium for a prime-time showdown on Thursday against four-time AFC West champion Denver.
The Chiefs mustered only 99 yards in 30 carries, but that was offset by a very effective passing game. They also ran the ball well enough in the second half to shorten the game.
Hard to criticize much, here. In the first half, Andy Reid and Alex Smith prodded the weak links in the Texans’ defense, both long and short, with plenty of quick passes to negate a strong pass rush. Smith did not turn the ball over, and the variety of the Chiefs’ passing game — with the running backs, Kelce and receiver Jeremy Maclin all factors — proved to be too much for the Texans to handle. The passing game was less effective in the second half, but the game was already under control.
Houston finished the 2014 season 10th overall in rushing while the Chiefs finished 28th. So give their defensive unit, which featured Derrick Johnson and Allen Bailey, credit for holding the Texans to 53 rushing yards in the first three quarters.
The Texans got some things going through the air, as quarterback Brian Hoyer’s final stat line — 18 of 33 for 236 yards, one touchdown and one interception — doesn’t look too bad. But the Chiefs took away most of the deep stuff, and while receiver DeAndre Hopkins had a nice day (catching nine passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns) the Chiefs’ pass rush (five sacks) flustered Hoyer enough to help deliver the win.
Kicker Cairo Santos made all three of his extra-point attempts, but went only two for three on field-goal attempts. He made two from 27 and 48 yards but missed one from 51. He also fared better on kickoffs, an issue for him a year ago. The Chiefs’ return units did fine.
Give Reid credit for making the switch at left tackle to Donald Stephenson early in the week — Jadeveon Clowney was quiet all day, and Stephenson fared well — and his offensive game plan was superb in the first half. The defense dominated the Texans’ offense too, which allowed them to take a 27-9 halftime advantage. You’d like to see a better finish to the game — the Chiefs were outscored 11-0 in the last two quarters — but a win is a win, and their strong start was a big reason why.