With wide receiver Tyreek Hill back in the lineup, the Kansas City Chiefs got off to a hot start against the Houston Texans, jumping out to a 17-3 lead.
But penalties on both sides of the ball and a continued inability to stop the run contributed to a 31-24 loss at Arrowhead Stadium, spelling the Chiefs’ second straight defeat after a 4-0 start.
It’s the first time since coach Andy Reid’s first season in Kansas City in 2013 that the Chiefs have lost two straight at home.
The Chiefs were penalized 11 times for 79 yards, marking the second straight week the team hit double digits with infractions.
“We’re a little more disciplined than what we’re showing with the penalties and drops and so on,” Reid said. “And tackling. We have a bunch of things we have to work on here and get them turned around. I’ve seen us do it better and we will do it better.”
The Chiefs and Texans swapped leads twice in the second half. Down 23-17, the Chiefs reclaimed the advantage 24-23 after quarterback Patrick Mahomes found Hill in the end zone for a 6-yard score.
Hill, who’d missed the previous four games with a shoulder injury, made a successful return. His presence was felt on the Chiefs’ opening drive, with a 46-yard touchdown grab down the middle of the field. Hill out-jumped former Chiefs cornerback Phillip Gaines and Houston safety Justin Reid at the 3-yard line before turning and lunging into the end zone.
The two-time All-Pro selection and three-time Pro Bowler produced his sixth career multi-touchdown game in his first action since suffering a shoulder injury in Week 1. Sunday marked Hill’s first multi-touchdown game since he scored two against the Los Angeles Rams in November 2018.
Hill led the Chiefs’ receiving group Sunday with five catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns on 10 targets. Mahomes completed 19 of 35 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns and an interception, his first sub-300-yard passing game of the season.
“It was good to get him back out there,” Reid said. “That was a positive, to have him back out there and come out healthy.”
The Chiefs’ lead lasted into the fourth quarter, but the Texans retook it behind a punishing ground attack and time-consuming 93-yard drive. Watson finished the 12-play march with a 1-yard touchdown run, then connected with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a successful 2-point conversion to give the Texans a 31-24 lead with 6:24 remaining.
The momentum shifted midway through the second quarter after Mahomes threw his first interception of the season into the end zone with the Chiefs ahead 17-9.
An official threw a flag for an apparent pass interference infraction away from the play after Texans cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. threw Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce to the ground near the line of scrimmage. But after a discussion among the officiating crew, head referee Shawn Hochuli ruled the ball was in the air toward the end zone when the contact occurred, so there was no pass interference.
Houston capitalized on the turnover with a 12-play, 80-yard drive capped by Carlos Hyde’s 2-yard touchdown run to pull within one point of the Chiefs, 17-16, with 3:10 remaining in the first half.
The Chiefs had an opportunity to put points on the board before intermission, but Harrison Butker’s 50-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right. Houston got the ball back in good field position and threatened to move into scoring position before the end of the half, but Watson’s deep pass intended for wide receiver Keke Coutee was intercepted by safety Juan Thornhill in the end zone for a touchback.
“Honestly, I was just doing my job, doing what I got to do,” Thornhill said. “I turned around and saw the ball there, and just made a play on the ball.”
Kansas City, though, turned the ball back over on the very next play after Texans defensive lineman Charles Omenihu beat center Austin Reiter on an inside pass rush to sack and force a fumble from Mahomes. Texans linebacker Benardrick McKinney recovered the ball at the Chiefs’ 3-yard line, and Watson scored one play later on a scramble around the right end to lead the Texans to a 23-17 advantage through two quarters.
“I thought we did some good things,” Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “There were certain stretches where we didn’t play well enough, though.”
Defensively, the Chiefs got all they could handle from the Texans offense’ and its punishing run game.
Watson completed 30 of 42 passes for 280 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. Watson also hurt the Chiefs with his legs, gaining 42 yards and two touchdowns on 10 attempts.
Hyde, acquired and then released by the Chiefs in the offseason, paced a ground game that amassed 192 yards and three touchdowns against the league’s 30th-ranked run defense. The Chiefs entered Week 6 allowing an average of 174.5 yards per game over the past month, and their struggles continue.
“We just got to be able to be more physical at the point of attack because this is starting to be a consistent thing and it’s costing us games,” said linebacker Darron Lee, who pointed out that he adversely affected the team with “crucial missed tackles.”
With Hyde’s 116 yards rushing and a touchdown leading the way, the Texans become the fifth straight opponent to total more than 150 yards rushing against the Chiefs. Hyde became the fourth straight running back to top the 100-yard rushing mark against KC’s defense, and his effort helped Houston dominate the time of possession, 39:48 to 20:12.
Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller suffered a thumb injury in the second half and did not finish the game.
The Chiefs have a short turnaround coming, with a Week 7 matchup against the Denver Broncos on Thursday Night Football, but there was no panic after Sunday’s loss.
“Four and two is not the end of the world,” running back LeSean McCoy said in reference to the Chiefs’ record now. “That’s the message, man. It’s not the end of the world. We just got to regroup and let’s get a win. We get a win, we’ll be 5-2. We’ll be fine.”
Lee echoed his teammate’s assessment.
“You don’t panic,” Lee said. “We’ve got to reboot and get ready for Thursday, and just get this thing turned around.”