From Reliant Stadium, Houston
This Sunday it was different. The Chiefs loss last Sunday to Indianapolis and then this Sunday to Houston count the same in the standings. But falling 35-31 to the Texans left the Chiefs flying home this time with their pride deeply bruised.
“Sure we did some good things, but it doesn’t matter, we lost,” said CB Brandon Carr. “There’s nothing to be excited about.”
That wasn’t the case last week, when the Chiefs lost 19-9 to the Colts and all they wanted to talk about was how they were competitive in losing to Indianapolis. There was none of that talk in this loser’s locker room at Reliant Stadium.
So what was the difference? The game against the Texans was there for the Chiefs to win. It was a game they controlled from most of three quarters. They held a 14-point lead, and a pair of 10-point leads, including a 31-21 score with only seven minutes left in the game.
But Houston scored the game’s last two touchdowns, including the game winner when QB Matt Schaub found WR Andre Johnson in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard TD pass with 28 seconds left to play.
The game ended with QB Matt Cassel trying to scramble around so he could throw one towards the end zone, but he was sacked by Texans DT Amobi Okoye as the clock clicked to zero.
The outcome wiped out a redemptive performance by WR Dwayne Bowe. A week after dropping a touchdown pass against the Colts, Bowe had two touchdown catches and six receptions in all for 108 yards. The loss made unimportant a 228-yard rushing day by the Chiefs, including a 19-carry, 100-yard performance by Thomas Jones. In the defeat, it devalued one of Cassel’s best passing days of his Chiefs career, posting a passer rating of 122.9 and throwing three touchdown passes, with a pair to Bowe and another one to OLB/TE Mike Vrabel.
“What a game,” said head coach Todd Haley. “I know our team gained some valuable experience from this. It was a step in a positive direction, but that doesn’t make the outcome any nicer. There are a lot of guys in deep, deep pain. That’s encouraging to me. This group fought together.”
The killer was the last seven minutes of the game, when the Chiefs held a 10-point lead and saw it evaporated into a four-point deficit.
“They are a very good team on offense,” said FS Jon McGraw. “They have some very talented and explosive players. We didn’t do what we needed to do to minimize their chances with the ball. We didn’t execute.”
The Chiefs came out fast and dominated the first quarter of the game. Houston won the pre-game coin toss and elected to defer until the second half. After Javier Arenas returned the opening kickoff 23 yards, the Chiefs began their first possession of the game at the Texans 26-yard line.
It was not a good start as Jamaal Charles was stopped for a two-yard loss on the first offensive play. But Cassel hit Bowe for a 14-yard completion on a 3rd-and-8 play. Cassel converted a 3rd-and-2 with a designed running play that gained eight yards. They faced a 4th-and-2 at the Houston 17 and rather than the FG, Haley decided to go for a first down. Cassel’s pass to WR Terrance Copper was incomplete, but Texans CB Kareem Jackson was called for pass interference and the Chiefs had 1st-and-10 at the Houston 11-yard line.
RG Ryan Lilja was called for a false start, Jones ran for eight yards and Cassel connected with Dexter McCluster for a six-yard play. On 3rd-and-1, Jones was stopped for no gain. Haley again walked away from the field goal, and on 4th-and-1 at the Houston 2, Cassel connected with Vrabel for a two-yard TD.
It was the 10th regular season TD catch of Vrabel’s career and his 12th overall including the playoffs. Not bad when you consider he has only 12 catches, all have gone for scores.
The drive was the longest of the season to date for the Chiefs offense, 15 plays for 74 yards and they used 8 minutes, 37 seconds of the first quarter clock. Ryan Succop’s PAT kick gave the Chiefs an early 7-0 lead.
It was the Kansas City defense’s turn on the field and they didn’t stay long, as they held the Houston offense to three plays and out. The teams traded punts as the first quarter came to an end. In the final tally, the Texans managed just 17 offensive yards in the first quarter, compared to 101 yards for the Chiefs. Cassel finished the first quarter seven of eight throwing the ball for 47 yards and a TD.
On the first play of the second quarter the Texans more than doubled their offensive output, as RB Arian Foster got loose for a 21-yard run. But three plays later Houston punted, and then the Chiefs turned around and punted it right back.
That’s when Schaub put together a scoring drive for the Texans, starting at his 26-yard line. It took nine plays and moved 74 yards in 4:37, before Schaub found TE Joel Dreessen for a five-yard TD pass. Dreessen got away from SS Eric Berry in the end zone and made the catch. The PAT kick from Neil Rackers tied the score at 7-7.
After another exchange of punts, the Chiefs offense put together a drive against the clock. Starting on their 37-yard, Cassel’s pass to Charles lost five yards and C Casey Wiegmann was called for holding. Houston declined the penalty. After the two-minute warning, Cassel connected on three yards with McCluster and then a 19-yard play to Bowe where it looked like the Chiefs receiver trapped the ball. The replay booth asked for a review and after referee Ron Winter went under the hood to view the play, he did not see anything to cause him to overturn the call.
That gave the Chiefs a 1st-and-10 at the Houston 46-yard line. Charles ran for 16 yards, Jones got three on a run and then 10 on a pass from Cassel. On 1st-and-10 at the 17, Cassel got good protection and threw a strike to Bowe in the end zone for as touchdown. Succop’s PAT kick game the Chiefs a 14-7 lead that they carried into half-time.
Cassel finished the half hitting 13 of 15 passes for 95 yards and a pair of TDs. Bowe had three catches for 50 yards and Charles had 11 carries for 53 yards. Overall, the Chiefs offense gained 193 yards, compared to 115 for the Texans.
The offensive production for the Chiefs continued in the third quarter, when Cassel led them on a nine-play, 77-yard drive that ended with another TD pass to Bowe. This time, it was for 42 yards and it was all Bowe, who made a great run, weaving through the Texans secondary and getting into the end zone.
With Succop’s PAT it was 21-7 for the Chiefs.
From there, the Chiefs started to tinker on their kickoffs, as Succop was hitting mortar kicks, dropping them in the area of the 20-yard line as they wanted to keep the ball away from Houston KR Jacoby Jones. Unfortunately, twice that provided Houston with good starting field position and they turned those into a pair of touchdowns.
The first one came when the Texans started at their own 34-yard line, and in three plays went the 66 yards, the score coming on a 38-yard scoring run by RB Derrick Ward. He went wide left and at least five different Chiefs defensive players got a hand on him, but none got more than that as he blasted into the end zone.
The Chiefs came back and went 65 yards on their next possession, but had to settle for a 24-yard field goal from Succop that gave them a 24-14 lead.
Another mortar kick backfired, as it was returned by FB Vonta Leach 26-yards to the Kansas City 46-yard line. Schaub directed them to 11 plays and a two-yard scoring run by Foster. With the PAT kick, the Chiefs margin was cut to 24-21.
But Cassel and the offense came to the rescue again, as they put together a nine-play, 70-yard drive down the field that ended with an 11-yard TD run by Jones. One of the key plays in the drive came when former Chiefs SS Bernard Pollard was flagged for a personal foul when he hit Jones out of bounds at the end of a run. Combined with the gain and the penalty, it was a 26-yard advance.
Jones scored on the next play, with an 11-yard run where he went left, got a block from a pulling RG Ryan Lilja and then a block downfield from Copper. Succop’s PAT gave the Chiefs a 31-21 lead with just over seven minutes to play.
That’s when the Texans went out and won the game. An eight-play, 86-yard drive ended with Foster punching it in for a one-yard score. The Houston defense then held the Chiefs to three plays and a punt, and Dustin Colquitt’s kick landed in the end zone for a touch back.
So Schaub started his offense at their 20-yard line with 2:22 to play and two timeouts in his pocket. He hit Johnson for passes of 15 and then 31 yards. TE Owen Daniels caught one for 11 yards on a 3rd-and-10 play. Foster ran for two yards and the Texans had 2nd-and-8 from the Chiefs 11-yard line.
That’s when Johnson got away from coverage at the back of the left end zone and pulled down the winning score.