The opening game of the playoffs saw the hottest team in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs, take on the AFC South winning Houston Texans. The Texans had won their (terrible) division with a 9-7 record, whilst the Chiefs had not lost a game since week 6 of the regular season. Few pundits predicted a close game, but the Chiefs shut out the Texans, 30-0. Away from home. Here are five reasons why the game turned out the way it did:
Knile Davis’ 106-yard touchdown.
There surely isn’t a more satisfying feeling then scoring a touchdown. Even more so when, for the entire regular season, you’ve been the third or fourth choice running back, and on the first play of the playoffs, you take a kick off to the house for the second longest run in post season history. The Chiefs special teams unit must be given credit too for the way they blocked, but the play was much more significant than just the seven points. It meant the Chiefs were ahead from the get go, leaving Houston, a team whose offence had been missing in action some games this season, had to chase the game immediately. It was a spectacular play to watch, and it was a play that set the tone for how the rest of the game would pan out. Houston were ranked the worst special teams unit in the NFL this season. This one play set their ranking in stone.
Brian Hoyer and the QB position in Houston.
I still genuinely can’t believe that a team with Brian Hoyer, yes Brian Hoyer as their starting quarterback, made the playoffs. If you think the NFC East was terrible this year, god knows what the AFC South was like. Hoyer is one of the worst at his position. He makes terrible decisions in the pocket, can’t get out of the pocket even against an average defense, and against a great defense, he utterly collapsed. Hoyer’s stat line for the night: 15/34, 136 yards, 0 TD, 4 INTs. With a QB rating of 15.9. That, simply put, is utter garbage. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said that he did not even consider pulling Hoyer from the game. To cut O’Brien some slack, when you have Brandon Weeden as your back up option, I don’t know what is worse. If Houston want to progress as a team, they have to address the most important position in the league this off-season. They might not have a top draft pick, but plenty of good QBs fall back in the draft. Just ask Russell Wilson.
Kansas City’s defense
As bad as Hoyer played, you have to give credit to Kansas City’s defense. If you had them in your fantasy league, you know how good they were. In Texas, this unit showed why they are the most important reason the ball club has won 11 straight games. The Chiefs D only had six interceptions throughout the entire regular season in 2014. On Saturday, they had three sacks, four INTS and two forced fumbles. Furthermore, the Chiefs secondary completely dominated against the Houston receivers, and a Duane Brown-less Texans offensive line were decimated up front by the visitors D line. In short, they played the perfect game on the defensive side of the ball.
Again, if you had the Houston Texans as your starting fantasy defense this year, you probably scored between 5-10 points every week and at least made the playoffs. They were one of the hottest defenses in the league, but with Brian Hoyer basically throwing the game away on his own, the Houston D had to come up with some big plays. Apart from the Brian Cushing INT, they didn’t. JJ Watt, probably the best defensive lineman in the game, was double-teamed at the line of scrimmage. Alex Smith and the KC offence ran a lot of receiver screens, zone read option plays and jet-sweeps, to make sure Watt couldn’t get into and disrupt the game. Watt earned one tackle and left the game with a groin injury. He didn’t return, and apart from Whitney Mercilus getting three sacks, no one on the Texans D stepped up in Watt’s place.
Kansas City’s offensive “game managing” the second half
I know there will be a few of you out there will still think Alex Smith is not a good QB. Yes, he got benched for Colin Kapernick in San Francisco and had to watch Super Bowl XLVII from the sidelines, but that does not mean he is a bad QB. Although poor in the first half, especially when KC’s D were continually getting turnovers, not to mention that awful INT he threw to Brian Cushing, in the second half, Smith did the job he needed to do. He hates being labelled as a “game manager,” but his 17/22, 190 yard, 1 TD stat line shows that he managed to control the game and suck the life out of the Texans’ players and fans. Furthermore, the Chiefs ran the ball 141 yards. This was a team that had supposedly had no hope to run the football when Jamaal Charles went down for the year with a torn ACL, but Spencer Ware (who scored a TD) and Charcandrick West have been excellent since Charles was put on Injured Reserve. The Chiefs made up for an awful first half on offence, with a measured and controlled second half. To summarise, the game was not a classic. Far from it. For the Texans, it did feel like a game too far, and whilst there is some very good talent on both sides of the ball (i.e. DeAndre Hopkins, JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney) there is a lot of dead wood (aka any QB on the roster). With Jacksonville on the rise, and Indianapolis looking like they will have a healthy Andrew Luck back next season, Houston seriously needs to look at making adjustments, particularly at quarterback, if they are to have any hope of making the playoffs next season. For the Chiefs, that now makes it 11 wins in a row. I saw this team rout the Detroit Lions at Wembley in November, and I thought they were too good to be a 2-5 team. I was right. They were. However, if they continually get good field position next Saturday against the Patriots and waste it like they did in Texas, expect Tom Brady, with Rob Gronkowski and a returning Julian Edleman, to punish them.