ReFo: Texans @ Chiefs, Week 7
One team fading fast and the other churning out win after win, the Houston Texans visited Kansas City in Week 7 and battled to a somewhat surprising one-point loss. The Chiefs move on and, with Denver’s Sunday Night fall, are the league’s lone remaining undefeated team. Question their schedule, question their quarterback, but the fact is they’ve not dropped a decision and that defense might just be enough to carry them further.
As we look through the Chiefs-Texans matchup, here are three performances from each side that stood out:
Houston – Three Performances of Note
With his name called to start the game for Houston following their recent QB issues, Case Keenum experienced what was largely a tale of two halves. In the first, he played safe and relatively error-free, but punctuated it with a well-thrown ball to the back of the end zone for a deep score to open the second quarter. In the second half, though, his story was more about off-target throws (including a dropped interception that was wiped from the record by a penalty) and a pair of fumbles on two of the three plays that Tamba Hali got to him. The second of those fumbles was lost in the game’s final minutes and sealed the one-point win for KC. The positives didn’t outweigh the critical negatives as he ended with a -1.2 overall and failed to put an end to the Texans’ QB questions.
Cushing Down Again
Both Houston running backs, Arian Foster and Ben Tate, suffered injuries during the game – Foster forced to the sideline for the majority of it – but the most damaging loss to result from Week 7 was that of linebacker Brian Cushing. Taking a Jamaal Charles block to his left knee, Cushing crumpled and was carted off minutes later. To that point in the game he had done enough good to come up with a +2.9 overall grade with positives in both run defense and as a pass rusher. On the season, he’s been a Top-3-graded run defender among the league’s inside linebackers and was tops in Run Stop Percentage (18.7%). For a team in a five-game free fall and desperately looking for some way to halt the slide, losing a leader for the remainder of the season is especially brutal and will be a tough loss to absorb.
Reed in the Red
For the third straight week, Houston safety Ed Reed posted a negative grade, this one further into the red than the two previous. With few ball-hawking opportunities deep in the defensive backfield to be had, Reed’s play in other areas was a selection of missed tackles, first down catches surrendered, and a defensive offsides penalty on a mis-timed snap. Reed was washed under as the second defender taken out by a downfield block by Dwayne Bowe late in the third quarter, and in a lead-footed moment, he was left frozen inside the 5-yard line as Alex Smith saw an option handoff go awry and bolted through the middle of the defense (past a watching Reed) into the end zone. Not a lot went right for Reed in this one.
Kansas City – Three Performances of Note
Pounding the Middle
Running straight at the heart of the defense, the Chiefs continually hammered the interior of the Houston D-line – not always with big results, but when they went to the left of center, their seven carries for 38 yards (5.4 per) to that gap proved to be their largest chunk of work on the ground. With only three runs sent wide left or right, Jamaal Charles’ year of effective efforts to either side of center continued. He’s now earned 200 of his 559 rushing yards there, averaging 4.6 yards per carry to the left of center and 5.3 to the right as the new-look Chiefs are committed to the body blows.
Hali Checks In
Even on afternoons when he isn’t peppering the stat sheet play-after-play, Tamba Hali can come up with well-timed moments to shape the game. In this one, Hali’s impact on the books as a pass rusher was a trio of fourth-quarter sacks, two of which forced fumbles, one recovered by the Texans. On the other – as Hali looped around from the defense’s left and arrived at Keenum, chasing from behind – he jarred the ball loose and gave the Chiefs a takeaway that ended any hope of a winning field goal drive for Huston. Hali is sitting second among 3-4 outside linebackers in Pass Rushing Productivity with a 16.7 mark and his 54 total pressures lead the league, but even on a day where the big numbers weren’t there throughout, there was no doubting his effect on the game.
Poe Wins Out
In the anticipated matchup of Chiefs nose tackle Dontari Poe (+2.2) and Texans center Chris Myers (-2.6), Poe emerged with a convincing victory. Despite moments of give and take, Poe notched a pair of hurries and a hit on the QB at Myers’ expense to go with three tackles for no or short gains. After just two games with green overall grades in 2012, Poe has hit stride and is looking at a near-full page with five of seven games this year showing significant positives. Myers, on the other hand, suffers his first red day – and just his second in the last two seasons. A big trophy for Poe with this display against the league’s top-graded center.
– Not mentioned above, defenders J.J. Watt for Houston and Mike Devito for Kansas City led their teams in overall grades, Devito doing so in just 39 snaps.
– Keenum, when blitzed, posted a 137.5 passer rating and +0.9 PFF grade. When the defense sat back, those numbers fell to 85.4 and -3.3.
– Dexter McCluster’s 69 yards after catch (of his 70 total yards) leads all receivers this week.
PFF Game Ball
In a game largely decided by the interior line matchups, the KC pairing of Devito and Poe ruled the day and they’ll share the prize.
Follow Rick on Twitter @PFF_Rick