- There's no denying that Kansas City QB Alex Smith remains a strong MVP candidate, with zero losses and zero interceptions, but on Sunday Night Football, it was all about the injuries.
Three thoughts from the Chiefs’ 42–34 victory over the Texans.
1. There’s no ignoring the brilliant play of Chiefs QB Alex Smith, who completed 29 of 37 attempts (78%) with three touchdowns and no interceptions, but this game will be remembered more for its injuries than the result. Kansas City got off comparatively light with a concussion for tight end Travis Kelce, and a graphic leg injury for wide receiver Chris Conley—watching his Achilles’ tendon recoil in slow motion is not for the squeamish. For the Texans, who lost J.J. Watt (tibial plateau fracture) and Whitney Mercilus (pectoral) to what look like long-term injuries, Sunday night seemed like a death blow to any playoff hopes. It was a remarkable thing to watch this Texans defense function as well as it did without two key players in the front seven, but the Chiefs’ speed on offense ultimately won out. The breaking point was perfectly illustrated on Kareem Hunt’s slump-busting 23-yard second-half run, aided by a fake jet sweep handoff to Tyreek Hill which froze backside edge defender Jadaveon Clowney. The lethal combination of Hill and Hunt can only be contained for so long.
2. The Chiefs did a really nice job with delay blitzes and spies who jumped on Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson the moment he stepped out of the pocket with the football, likely setting a blueprint for the next 11 defenses he’ll face. Houston running back Lamar Miller (15 carries, 74 yards) did well enough against Kansas City’s potent front seven, but when Watson was forced to play from behind, his inexperience and lack of intermediate passing options showed. Watson did however showcase a cannon of an arm with monster deep throws to Will Fuller, Deandre Hopkins and Steven Anderson in the fourth quarter. Watson can be something truly special with a pair of strong offensive tackles, a legitimate pass-catching tight end and an ounce of discretion when scrambling for yards in garbage time of blowouts.
3. Kansas City took a major hit with the loss of safety Eric Berry early this season, and will probably start feeling it big time over the next month, with the Steelers, Raiders, Broncos and Cowboys coming up on the schedule in succession. Cornerback Marcus Peters is emerging as a lockdown corner, and Ron Parker is serviceable at safety, but fellow safety Daniel Sorensen and cornerback Terrance Mitchell will get exploited by teams who can figure out how to keep Justin Houston and Chris Jones from collapsing the pocket. There’s just no excuse for some of the deep balls in obvious passing situations which Houston consistently converted in the fourth quarter of this game. The Chiefs’ undefeated season and ultimately its playoff hopes will hinge on the availability of Houston, Jones and Peters.