CHIEFS RAN AWAY WITH THE VICTORY

Chiefs rookie put Texans run defense on notice in season opener

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

For the Houston Texans, the 2020 season started just like 2019 ended — with a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. But this time around, the Texans surrendered a seven-point lead thanks to a stellar debut from a rookie running back. In fact, there were a lot of factors that played into the Texans' 34-20 defeat at Arrowhead Stadium Thursday night.

Houston's offensive line could not handle the defensive pressure that resulted in Deshaun Watson taking four sacks. Speaking of Watson, the two-time Pro-Bowler threw for 253 yards — 42 more yards than Patrick Mahomes — but his 52.6 QBR proved his night was near pointless.

Houston's entire receiving corps was a no-show except for Will Fuller — who finished the night with 112 receiving yards on just eight catches. Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb and Kenny Stills ended the game with a combined 51 yards with just five catches.

Houston's secondary still could not handle the Chiefs' receivers, as the Texans gave up 211 yards on 24 receptions. And Ka'imi Fairbairn's missed field goal might've taken the Texans out of their offensive rhythm right before the half. But with all the bad, it would be their inability to stop the run that became the Texans' most significant destruction.

"We did not play well enough to win," J.J. Watt said after the loss to the Chiefs. "We have to stop the run a lot better to put ourselves in situations to get off the field on 3rd downs. We can't give up 17 play drives. And we have to get off the field. We have to create takeaways, and we did not do that. Give them credit. Obviously, they are a great football team, but those are the things we have to do."

Mahomes summarized it best during his post-game press conference when he described Clyde Edwards-Helaire as "another weapon" he has in the Chiefs offense. Edwards-Helaire, who was drafted with the No. 32 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, became the fourth tailback over the last 30 seasons to record at least 130 rushing yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut, per ESPN Stats & Info. Edwards-Helaire's night: 138 rushing yards (5.5 AVG) on 25 attempts and one touchdown.

The majority of his success came with the 21-year-old running back showcasing his jump-cutting ability and his skill-set to run over defenders that left Houston's defense in a snafu state all game.

With the score knotted at seven points apiece, Kansas City called Edwards-Helaire's number six times midway through the second quarter. In that same time frame, the Texans allowed the Chiefs to record 94 yards in 16 plays and take 9:04 off the game-clock. The drive ended with Sammy Watkins receiving a two-yard pass from Mahomes to take a 14-7 lead, but Edwards-Helaire notched 40 yards during the drive.

The performance by the LSU prodigy overshadowed what was a solid debut from Texans' running back, David Johnson. The sixth-year veteran was the only encouraging spot on both sides of the ball for Houston. Johnson notched a total of 109 yards, with 77 coming on the ground. His 19-yard touchdown run to put the Texans ahead 7-0 was his longest rushing TD since 2016.

"Hard runner, great vision, going to play until the final whistle," Watson said. "It's about finding a new rhythm of a new offense. He [Johnson] did a good job of making plays and running the ball."

Head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien added: "I thought he played well. He's a good player, and he did a lot of things we can build on. He ran the ball and caught passes out of the backfield. There is a lot to build on there."

It's one game. In fact, this was the opening to an anomaly of a season that did not have a four-week dress rehearsal before the opening kick-off. With a doubt, the Texans will make some improvements and get better as they prepare for their home opener next Sunday at NRG Stadium.

But giving up a total of 166 rushing yards led by a rookie is enough to cause for immense concern — especially when your next opponent is against reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens.

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