The biggest problem was the sloppy.
The Chiefs lost three fumbles, committed nine penalties, and generally appeared unprepared and out of sync, particularly on offense. The Texans deserve some credit for this — as sports fans, I think we all tend to focus only on our team, and forget the other side has a say, too — and this was always going to be a tough game.
For whatever it’s worth — not much! — this was a game I guessed them to lose before the season, and Sunday morning. The Texans made the playoffs last season and then made significant improvements. Brian Hoyer, unfortunately for the Chiefs, no longer works in Houston.
But, all that said, the Chiefs did plenty on their own to make it hard on themselves. And a lot of it was just bizarre. Spencer Ware has apparently never lost a fumble before in his life, but he did on Sunday. I don’t remember a problem with any shotgun snap all of last year — maybe I’m just forgetting — and the Chiefs lost one on Sunday.
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Alex Smith and Jeremy Maclin are always in sync, but there were times Smith expected Maclin to be in a different place Sunday. Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher were whistled for false starts on back-to-back sets.
As terrific as the Chiefs were for the last 1 1/2 quarters and overtime against the Chargers, this was four quarters that looked a lot more like the beginning of the season opener. I don’t have an explanation for it — after the game, I didn’t hear any players or coaches who had an explanation for it.
I still think this is a good team, though. In part because as bad as they played, they still had a chance late in the fourth quarter against a reigning playoff team on the road.
Anyway, I know most of you are doing this anyway, but please read our coverage from the game the other day. Vahe wrote about the offense, I wrote about Marcus Peters, and Terez and Blair wrote about everything else.
Anyway, I watched this game again so you didn’t have to. Some notes:
▪ The pass rush should’ve been better. First a first down, in which Brock Osweiler had all the time he wanted, enough space to step up and throw a strong strike.
▪ And, here, a deep ball, this was the one to Will Fuller in which he juggled it and came down with a 53-yard gain on Peters.
This is a huge problem, not only because the Chiefs defense is built around bothering the quarterback, but also because neither of these plays were particularly quick passes. The Chiefs had time to get to Osweiler, and they just didn’t.
That Fuller ball exposed Peters’ two weaknesses: receivers doing double moves, and speed. Fuller took a step toward the outside like he was going to the sideline on an out, but then sprinted downfield past Peters. Maybe he was expecting help over the top. I’ll have a better guess when the coaches’ film is available.
Peters’ ensuing interception was terrific: the instincts to make the play were fairly incredible. The throw was a bit behind Miller, but Peters had no business making that play. Here’s what it looked like when the ball was out of Osweiler’s hands. Looks like a touchdown, right?
▪ The run defense was pretty good. D-line did a good job plugging holes. Jaye Howard and Dontari Poe each had nice bounce-back performances from Week 1. If the Chiefs can continue to play the run well, it helps the pass rush and secondary by putting the opponent in passing situations. Wasn’t just the stuff up the middle, either. Look here at Dontari Poe (!) setting the edge on an end-around to Braxton Miller, which is the only time I expect to type this sentence in my life.
▪ Here was another nice run stuff, and again unconventional: a run by Miller, up the middle, stuffed by Marcus Peters and Eric Berry.
▪ Thought the Chiefs would focus more on going to Travis Kelce. Smith threw at him seven times, and completed five. Two of those plays where the first two of the game, and then the Chiefs largely went away from him. None of them were particularly big gains — certainly not the kind that ended in Kelce’s outstanding wind-up touchdown celebration in the opener last year — but I thought this was a place the Chiefs had a clear advantage. Especially on a day when the front seven was beating the Chiefs’ line, this could’ve been a way to move the ball.
▪ Phil Gaines looks good. Very good. His coverage is consistently good, and occasionally excellent. The Texans tried Fuller on a go route against Gaines, and the corner stuck him like velcro. If Gaines turned around, he probably had an interception, but even so, he’s had a strong first two games this year. He did miss a few tackles, including one on DeAndre Hopkins that cost the Chiefs about 15 yards, but still. Cornerbacks are going to give it up.
▪ The Chiefs did not get the Week 1 version of J.J. Watt, or this game may have been different. Watt was ordinary against the Bears, but much closer to his typical great self against the Chiefs. The difference in him, physically, after an offseason of rehab was impossible not to notice.
Here, in visual form:
Mitchell Schwartz is in good position, right? Directly between Watt and the quarterback. Only a three-man rush, everything should be good. Now, take another look, and notice the clock at the bottom of the screen. Nineteen seconds. Got it? Cool. Here’s the next pic, at 18 seconds:
▪ Of course, the flip side of that is the offensive line got whipped. Especially the tackles, Schwartz and Eric Fisher. They got beat physically, more than with scheme, and it really hampered everything the Chiefs were trying to do — particularly in the pass game. In the fourth quarter, they got called for false starts on back-to-back sets. The Chiefs need those guys to be better, and I expect they will.
▪ Ron Parker is a damn good player. He does so much. Covers tight ends really well, good tackler, versatile, can make plays behind the line of scrimmage and 30 yards downfield. He made a great play on Tyrell Williams last week, too.
▪ It’s a full four minutes, sometimes more, from a touchdown to the next play from scrimmage when the NFL goes TD-PAT-commercial-touchback-commercial-game. I know this isn’t new, and is actually something the NFL has said it would like to address, but still. Brutal.
▪ A week ago, I predicted a touchdown return for Tyreek Hill. He almost had it, a few times, not closer than a kickoff return in the final three minutes. I know a lot of you aren’t going to like this, but it was the right call. Steve Nelson blocked his man in the back. We can debate whether he needed to block his man in the back, and I know screen grabs can be misleading, but if it ever looks like this you’re probably getting a flag.
▪ Jadeveon Clowney had himself a terrific game. Won some plays based just on physical gifts, and others on understanding what the Chiefs were trying to do. Very impressive.
▪ As good as Alex Smith was a week ago, he had a rough day in Houston. Acknowledging I don’t know the play calls, there were just far too many inaccurate throws, and other plays where Smith needed to get the ball out quicker, or could’ve perhaps tucked and used his legs to gain yards. He ran just twice for two yards, the least effective he’s been running since 2014.
He seemed hesitant at times. I’ll need to watch the coaches’ film to have a better guess as to why. There were signs after the game that the Texans had a spy on him, but if that’s the case, the receivers should’ve been able to get more separation.
One of those missed throws was here, in the first quarter, a ball thrown far too high on a play in which Maclin had a step on his man. After the game, Smith blamed a miscommunication with Maclin. The quarterback thought the receiver was going one way, and the receiver a different way. They usually see things the same way.
▪ I still don’t know why the Chiefs kept Albert Wilson over Rod Streater.
▪ If I had more time, I’d figure out the Chiefs’ average yardage on plays where they throw the ball behind the line of scrimmage. Over-under: 3.5.
▪ Spencer Ware is so good. He turned this into 25 yards. That was quick feet, vision patience, speed and power. Holy crap that was good.
▪ It won’t be remembered, because of how the play turned out, but Alex Smith made a hell of a throw on the play to Demetrius Harris where he probably fumbled, but they called it an incompletion on replay. He dropped back, looked over his receivers, took a step up to create space in the pocket and threw a perfect ball over coverage to Harris.
▪ Tyreek Hill made a great tackle as a gunner on punt coverage. After the game, he said he’d only done that once before, in college. “I guess I’m good at it,” he said. Hill really is talented. He’s such a complicated story, because of everything, but speaking strictly about football, he is talented.
Look guys, this is far from a debilitating loss. The Chiefs are 1-1. This was always going to be a tough game, against an improved team, on the road. Beat the Jets next week the feeling is much different.