Sam Mellinger

Sam Mellinger’s insta-reaction: Chiefs 27, Texans 20

Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (left) celebrated his touchdown against the Houston Texans with teammate Mitch Morse.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (left) celebrated his touchdown against the Houston Texans with teammate Mitch Morse. The Associated Press

Greetings from the ginormous NRG Stadium here, which for some stupid reason had the roof closed on a gorgeous afternoon as the Chiefs beat the Texans 27-20.

That was about as good as it could be for the Chiefs, at least in the first half. They took the air out of the ball in the second half to protect the lead, which meant the final score was closer than it could’ve been.

It looked, to me anyway, like the Chiefs’ coaches made a halftime bet that the Texans couldn’t get to 28 points without help. They were right, even if the margin shrunk. The result is the coaches will have enough to point to in the short week of preparation for the Broncos, but the Chiefs were clearly the better team.

Biggest thing from a strategic standpoint might be the strong play of the offensive line. Jah Reid, signed about 30 minutes ago, filled in for the injured (?) Eric Fisher at right tackle and held his own. Fisher had taken the first-team reps, so this was a duct tape situation. Reid and offensive-line coaches Andy Heck and Eugene Chung deserve a lot of credit for keeping it together.

Thought Andy Reid helped a lot with that, too – play calls that kept Watt on his heels at times, and went away from him at other times. Watt had two sacks and caused his typical disruption, but all things considered, this was a really good job by the Chiefs.

Travis Kelce’s wind-up-and-punch TD celebration was so awesome. But on the play, watch Mitch Morse come from his center position, peel back and help block J.J. Watt. Really remarkable play, even if we weren’t talking about a rookie in his NFL debut.

Speaking of NFL debuts, Marcus Peters showed up well. He had an interception on his very first play — Justin Houston should get credit for an assist, blowing up the Texans’ line. He did give up a touchdown later in the game, but all in all, showed a ton of promise. Good Marcus and Bad Marcus, it will be a season-long storyline.

Jaye Howard had a terrific sack in the first half, the kind of play we haven’t seen much from him. Very good sign.

Derrick Johnson played a typical Derrick Johnson game. There were times during training camp and preseason games where he looked a half-step slow, and maybe he is, because none of us are getting any younger, but at least watching live he was in the right spots and making key stops. The Chiefs missed him so much last year.

We need to talk about Travis Kelce again. It wasn’t just the celebration, or even his first touchdown catch, made on a precise route to create space and then going up to get the pass in the end zone. He made so many plays, including a third down conversion to keep a drive alive in the fourth quarter. Those Madden ratings were on point. We may be watching an emerging star here.

The Chiefs had more points by halftime than they had in all but four games last year. The Texans should have a pretty good defense this year, too.

Cairo Santos consistently boomed kickoffs to the back of the end zone. That’s new.

There were times that Tamba Hali looked a half-step slower than we’ve seen, particularly getting off blocks.

Allen Bailey had some very nice moments.

Overall, a lot to like about the Chiefs’ season opener. Some things to build on in a short week, reasons for optimism, and a few for concern. Going to try to break down more of it on the website this week, but here is what I hope is an unnecessary reminder to follow Terez’s work both here and on Twitter.

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365 or send email to smellinger@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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