Dominant Chiefs Open Strong Against Spluttering Texans

Texans 20 - 34 Chiefs

After 200+ days without meaningful on field action the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs continued where they left off in February with an imperious demolishing of the Houston Texans. 

Led by the magnificent Patrick Mahomes, the KC offense was scary in its efficiency. The Chiefs put up 31 points without really getting out of second gear, a warning shot to all their opponents in 2020 that this offense can win in a number of different ways. They were aided by a pro-active pass rush and a sticky secondary, with Chris Jones dominant on the interior and rookie L’Jarius Sneed, who was much targeted early but gave up little and snagged a fourth quarter pick.

All eyes will be on the Texans as they host Baltimore and Pittsburgh in coming weeks. The offensive line was unable to give newly minted quarterback Deshaun Watson a clean pocket to throw from. When they did the throws he did get off were dropped far too often. A fact that was extremely noticeable given the trading away of All-Pro De’Andre Hopkins this offseason. 

Balanced & Ruthless

MVP 2020
Image credit: Kansas City Chiefs

On a recent episode of the Touchdowns NFL podcast Seven Step Drop I named Russell Wilson the best passer in the NFL because of his fantastic Completion Percentage Above Expectation. Tonight Mahomes came out and threw in a way more reminiscent of the Seattle passer. With fewer downfield throws but a ruthless accuracy and exquisite ball placement that made the passing offense so tough for the Texans to stop. 

If Mahomes is able to replicate this level of accuracy and show a little bit more of the dangerous downfield attack we are used to, he will go down as the most talented thrower of the ball of all time.

In stark contrast to their opponents the Chiefs weapons came to play this evening. Kelce, Hill and Watkins all posted an EPA (Estimated Points Added) figure of 5 or better. This was key to the Chiefs incredibly efficient attack which controlled this game.

In addition to this the Chiefs running game was far above what we saw a year ago. Rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire showed much of the game that had LSU fans fall in love with him over the past few years. With over 100 yards and touchdown on debut in the league, CEH has landed the first blow in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race. He has also allowed his team to show that you can’t go all out to stop the passing attack against this team or they will waste you on the ground.   

Came To Play

Many of the questions asked of this Chiefs team have been on the defensive side of the ball. Additions and draft picks over the past few seasons have shored things up and it showed on Thursday. Led from the front by Chris Jones, who dominated the interior of the Texans offensive line, getting to Watson himself and opening up space for Frank Clark to do the same. They were able to bring consistent pressure against the Texans QB, slowing down their offense. 

This effort was replicated on the back end, where the secondary played tight coverage for much of the game. With an offense this powerful, the defense does not need to win for the whole sixty minutes. However a consistent period of 20 to 30 minutes of solid play allows the offense to run up a lead. When that happens, the Chiefs win. I am convinced this is the best team in the NFL, Thursday only strengthened that.

Texans Must Reset

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

For the Texans feelings will be mixed. It wasn’t that they lost to the reigning champions, it was the manner of the loss. They were beset by many of the same problems that they have been for some years. The offensive line was porous, the defensive line ineffective. Add to that problems in a wide receiver unit that recently lost Hopkins, and the bright spot of David Johnson looking much closer to his old self than he did last season in Arizona offers little comfort. 

A fair few of these problems were of the Texans own making. Newly acquired free agent Randall Cobb was only targeted three times. Despite his speciality being the quick passing game that the Texans needed to switch to give the pressure they were under. With Brandin Cooks carrying an injury in the build up the usage was baffling, as was the play calling. 

After an offseason in which Coach/GM Bill O’Brien made some off the wall decisions, he needs to make sure that the coaching of this team is top notch. More games like this one and he will very quickly be on the hot seat.  

Alex Chinery

Head of Analytics