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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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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