FOURTH-DOWN GAMBLE PAYS OFF IN 31-24 WIN
Watson, gutsy Texans get big win over Mahomes, Chiefs in Kansas City
The first Deshaun Watson-Patrick Mahomes battle went to Watson and the Texans in an impressive 31-24 victory. Let's take a look at how it played out.
Positives: Carlos Hyde came to play. He pounded the Chiefs - who have been bad against the run all year - for 116 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. As a team they rushed for 194 and averaged 5.0 per carry. Deshaun Watson was not as brilliant as last week, but he had a solid day, other than the two interceptions (see below). He did a lot of damage with his legs, rushing for 44 yards and two touchdowns, and he was not sacked for the second week in a row, a credit to the improving offensive line. He completed 30 of 42 for 280 yards, a touchdown and the two picks (one worked as a punt). When the Texans got the ball back with five minutes left and a seven-point lead, they chewed up clock, running it down to the two-minute warning. They went for it on fourth down, Watson hit DeAndre Hopkins for a first down and the game was over. A ballsy call by Bill O'Brien that paid off, and the Texans ran out the clock.
Negatives: After a career day last week, Will Fuller reverted to the inconsistent player he has been most of his career. He had three drops, two of which could have gone for touchdowns. Fuller can get open, but drops have been a problem throughout his career. Right tackle Titus Howard, who was really improving week to week, suffered what appeared to be a serious leg injury. The line was finally playing well, so this is a big blow. Watson threw the two interceptions, including a bad one in the end zone trying to force the ball to Hopkins. The play before, Hopkins dropped a probable touchdown. Hopkins has not been great this season and that was a bad sequence. Still, Watson can't make that throw. You have to come away with points in that situation. Both guys did make up for it on the fourth down play late in the game. Finally, kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn is a mess. He missed yet another extra point and a field goal. O'Brien chose not to bring him in for a clinching field goal late.
Positives: They got a rare pick of Patrick Mahomes in the first half, costing the Chiefs points. They also came up with a huge strip sack right before the half, leading to a touchdown. They gave up just seven points in the second half against one of the best offenses in the league. They came up with a huge three and out with just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter, giving the ball back to the offense with a seven-point lead. They held Mahomes to his lowest yardage total of the season (273),.
Negatives: Mahomes and the Chiefs are going to get their points. They punched the Texans in the face right off the bat with big plays and 17 first-half points. The Texans again had too many penalties, mistakes you usually can't make against the Chiefs, but they bounced back strong after the rough start. Bradley Roby was playing well before limping off the field, a serious blow to a struggling secondary. But overall they played well enough to win against a terrific offense.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This was a huge win for the Texans, considering they rarely beat good teams on the road. This is their second such win of the season, and after the Colts beat KC last week, the Texans needed to hold serve. They did in a big way. The coaching staff made great adjustments at halftime, and they overcame some mistakes. The fourth-down call was brilliant.
The secondary was down two corners, yet managed to make enough plays to keep the Chiefs in check in the second half. There is no way around it; this is a huge win.
I have been critical of O'Brien, but he called a first-rate game, engineered a balanced offense, and made a big-time call late in the game to put it away. Too often the Texans depend on the other team messing up at the end of games. This time they grabbed it by the throat and went out and won the football game.