The Houston Texans picked up where they left off last season by giving up an early lead and then getting routed by the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
The eventual Super Bowl champions ended the Texans playoff run last season in an embarrassing rout and then crushed them 34-20 to open the 2020 season last Thursday night.
“There’s a lot to fix,” coach Bill O’Brien said after the game. “It’s only one game. We have to improve pretty quickly. But it’s only one game. We have to get back to work pretty soon and fix these things.”
The Texans took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter as David Johnson scored the first touchdown of the NFL season on a 19-yard run. The Chiefs then rattled off 31 unanswered points before the Texans picked up a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to close the gap at the end.
The loss to the Chiefs wasn’t as bad as the divisional round playoff game last January when the Texans opened up a 24-0 lead, only to go into halftime down 28-24 and the ultimately lose 51-31, but the shift in momentum and the tone of the games were very similar.
This time around, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes hit 24 of 32 passing attempts for 211 yards and three touchdowns for a 123.3 quarterback rating. Making an impressive NFL debut for the Chiefs was rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who ran 138 yards on 25 carries and scored a touchdown.
“The first half we had trouble stopping the run and the time of possession was not good, which involves the offense, too, but we’ve got to play the run better, obviously,” O’Brien said. “We came out in the second half and they scored on that first drive, which was tough because we needed a stop there to do it.”
Texans defensive end J.J. Watt had a similar take.
“We didn’t play well enough to win,” he said. “We have to stop the run a lot better, we have to put ourselves in situations on third down where we can get off the field. We can’t give up 17-play drives, we have to get off the field. We didn’t do that. We have to create takeaways. We didn’t do that. Give them credit, obviously they’re a great football team and they played better than we did today.”
For the Texans, Deshaun Watson completed 20 of 32 for 253 yards, one touchdown, and one interception for a rating of 84.5. Will Fuller lead Texans receivers with eight receptions for 112 yards. Johnson was the leading rusher with 77 yards and 11 carries.
“We’ve got to continue to do our job and find the right rhythm, get guys on the same page. That’s pretty much it,” Watson said.
“I thought the guys fought,” O’Brien said. “We were able to get a couple touchdowns at the end but it was too little, too late, so there’s some things to build on but we’ve got a long way to go here… We have to improve very quickly.”
The Texans will host the Baltimore Ravens Sunday afternoon at 3:25 p.m. at NRG Stadium. The Ravens are coming off of a 38-6 drubbing of the Cleveland Browns. Lamar Jackson led Baltimore by connecting on 20 of 25 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns Sunday. He also led the team in rushing with 45 yards on seven carries.
There was a huge spotlight on the Texans-Chiefs game as the NFL dealt with the twin distractions of the coronavirus pandemic and social justice issues. The crowd was limited to 22 percent of capacity, meaning just under 17,000 fans were allowed in the stadium. The players were allowed to wear stickers on the backs of their helmets with names or phrases related to equal treatment of Blacks.
During the playing of the national anthem, the Texans stayed in the locker room and the Chiefs took the field in a mixed display of kneeling, locking arms, and proper salute to the flag. Both teams came out to midfield and locked arms in solidarity for a moment of silence in recognition for the need for societal and racial change, but were met with boos from the fans.
“There are things going on in this country and we wanted to show we were unified as a league,” Mahomes said after the game.
Both head coaches said they were unaware of the booing, but the players noticed.
“The moment of unity I thought was good. The booing was unfortunate during that moment. I don’t fully understand that,” Watt said.
O’Brien said it was a team decision to stay in the locker room during the national anthem.
“We met as a team, we met as a leadership group, about 20 players met three or four times … the players decided they wanted to be sure… it’s really not about the flag, it’s about making sure people understand that Black lives do matter and there is s systemic racism problem in this country. That’s what our players decided to do as a team.”
Watson and Mahomes coordinated the moment of unity before the game.
“We talked until last night. We kept it up front. He told us what they’re going to do, I told him what we wanted to do and we got on the same page and we all knew what was going down,” Watson said.
He said the team leaders wanted to make sure the focus was on unity, not division.
“We respect the military, we respect America, we respect everything the NFL wanted to do but we didn’t want any confusion or any negative flashbacks with guys kneeling for one (anthem) and standing for the other, so we decided to stay inside and come out afterward and do the moment of silence,” Watsons said.
Watt said he has learned a lot from his teammates during the off season and training camp.
“A locker room is a very diverse place. There’s people from all different backgrounds, there’s people from different situations,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of many locker rooms throughout my life. In this locker room we’ve had more conversations than we’ve ever had about topics that may be uncomfortable to talk about. Maybe people have never opened up these conversations. For me I’ve learned a lot; I’ve been educated a lot. It’s really been a growing experience for our team, and we’ve come a lot closer because of it. I have friendships and relationships in this locker room that will last a lifetime.”