The grades are in for the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-24 losers to the Houston Texans Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
KC Star of the Game
Tyreek Hill began making up for lost time. After missing the last four with a sternoclavicular joint injury in his shoulder, Hill made his presence felt from the start. His 46-yard touchdown reception ended the Chiefs’ first drive. His 6-yard touchdown catch opened the second-half scoring.
The Chiefs had gotten good games from fellow wideouts Sammy Watkins (now injured), Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman, but there is no substitute for Hill’s speed and talent.
Reason to hope: The next game is on the road, where the Chiefs haven’t lost (3-0). And Andy Reid believes his team hasn’t veered too far off the tracks yet. “We just have to flip a few things,” Reid said. “You’re just a play or two away from coming out of this thing with a win. Every season you’re going to have some hurdles you have to scale and this is one of those challenges. It tests you. But we’ll bear down and get it done.”
Reason to mope: Have losses on successive weekends at Arrowhead Stadium changed the perception of what’s possible for the Chiefs this season? Ten games remain in the regular season, plenty of time to regain footing. But these two losses have been jarring and exposed some serious weaknesses, like run defense.
Next: The short week has arrived. The Chiefs will visit the Denver Broncos Thursday. The game will be televised on Fox (Ch. 4) and the NFL Network. Kickoff is 7:20 p.m. Central. It’s the first of two straight night games. The Chiefs play host to the Packers on Sunday Night Football on Oct. 27.
Passing offense: C
A Mahomes interception and lost fumble while dropping back were killers. Those takeaways led to two Texans touchdowns. Even with three touchdown tosses, the NFL’s most productive passing game hasn’t been able to pull out a victory. Mahomes was 19 of 35 for 277 yards, his first sub-300-yard game this season.
Passing defense: C
The Chiefs got some help here. Will Fuller dropped a couple passes that could have been touchdowns. DeAndre Hopkins couldn’t come up with a catch near the goal line, and on the next play Charvarius Ward one-handed an end zone interception. Rookie Juan Thornhill also collected an end zone interception (though knocking the ball down would’ve given KC better field position than the ensuing touchback).
But the Chiefs couldn’t turn either takeaway into points. When the Chiefs needed a play at the end — the Texans passed up a field-goal attempt and went for it on fourth-and-3 at the 27 — Deshaun Watson hit Hopkins to clinch Houston’s win.
Rushing offense: D
The Chiefs have become so one-dimensional the grade hardly matters. But their inability or unwillingness to run the ball allows opponents to control the clock. Houston had the ball for 39:48. The Chiefs have become too predictable. It doesn’t help that Mahomes’ ability to run has been curtailed by an ankle injury.
Rushing defense: F
This part of the Chiefs’ game wasn’t effective even when tackles Chris Jones and Xavier Williams were healthy. Carlos Hyde, traded by the Chiefs before the season, rushed for a season-best 116 yards as the Texans rumbled for 192 on the ground as a team. This is the biggest problem for the Chiefs during their two-game losing streak. Houston ran 83 offensive plays to the Chiefs’ 47 and held the ball for 39 minutes, 48 seconds, largely because KC couldn’t stop the run.
Special teams: C
Penalties on the first two kickoff returns meant the Chiefs started drives at their 9 and and their 10. Harrison Butker missed a 50-yard field goal. Punter Dustin Colquitt saved the grade, however, with a 68-yard punt that bounced out of bounds at the Texans’ 7 early in the fourth quarter. Great field positoin, but the defense couldn’t hold as Houston drove 93 yards for the game-winning TD.
The Chiefs could have taken a 17-16 halftime lead, but Andy Reid decided to attack from the 20 with 32 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Mahomes was hit and fumbled, and that turned into a Texans touchdown. The Chiefs simply got too greedy. Also, they had 11 more penalties on Sunday, most of them coming in the first half. Discipline is suddenly and often lacking with this team, and that starts at the top.