KC-HOU grades: Chiefs’ defense, Alex Smith shine in shutout

Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Chiefs' blowout Wild-Card win over the Texans.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

KC-HOU grades: Chiefs’ defense, Alex Smith shine in shutout

Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from Saturday’s 30-0 Chiefs playoff win over the Texans:

Kansas City Chiefs

–With seven points on the board before he even touched the ball, and five turnovers from his defense over the course of the game, there wasn’t too much pressure on QB Alex Smith (+2.3 PFF game grade). The Chiefs responded with a fairly conservative game plan. Smith dropped back to pass 27 times, his second-lowest total of the season, and his 22 passing attempts tied for a season low. As usual, he kept mostly within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage (14 of 22 attempts), and avoided risk. His first-quarter interception wasn’t egregious or comparable to any of Hoyer’s four picks — Smith put the ball slightly behind his receiver on the play and LB Brian Cushing caught the tipped pass. Overall, it was a solid but unspectacular performance from Smith, who led second-half touchdown drives of 94 and 71 yards to put the game out of reach. He actually graded better as a rusher (+1.6) after averaging more than five yards per carry on the ground, not including a 60-yard scramble that was called back.

–Kansas City saw a well-rounded performance from their starting defensive line, with Mike Devito, Dontari Poe, and Allen Bailey each grading at +1.5 or above. Devito only played 19 snaps, but stalemated several Houston double teams at the point of attack and notched a defensive stop. In the middle, Poe had two stops to go with two pressures, one of which was a third-quarter play during which he destroyed center Ben Jones (-1.2) at the snap and got into the face of Hoyer to force an interception. He also added a fumble recovery in the first, courtesy of Allen Bailey, who bulled Houston’s left guard into Hoyer’s arm for his first of two sack-forced fumbles.

–In coverage, the Chiefs limited DeAndre Hopkins to six catches for 69 yards. CB Sean Smith (-0.2) drew the bulk of the work against Hopkins (six targets), lining up almost exclusively at the right outside corner spot, as he’s done all season. Those six targets resulted in four catches for 45 yards, including several first downs, but Smith also made a couple of positive plays, including cutting the WR off in the end zone on a fourth-quarter play. Against other receivers, he allowed just one catch for seven yards and ended with a 32.9 passer rating allowed against him, though two declined coverage penalties lowered his grade somewhat.

Top performers

C Zach Fulton (+3.0)

RG Jah Reid (+2.8)

LG Jeff Allen (+2.4)

QB Alex Smith (+2.3)

DE Mike Devito (+1.8)


Houston Texans

–It was a rough day for Brian Hoyer (-5.8), with four picks and two sack-fumbles (one lost). His second interception was probably the worst of the four, coming inside Kansas City’s five-yard line on second and goal in the second quarter. At that point, the Texans were in position to potentially go into halftime down by less than a touchdown, but instead Hoyer threw the ball right to LB Josh Mauga with Dontari Poe in his face. For the game, Hoyer completed just four passes that traveled more than 10 yards in the air. He tried to get the ball to DeAndre Hopkins often, sending 11 passes toward his top receiver, but the two connected on only six of those plays with a 35.8 passer rating.

–J.J. Watt (+3.1) only lasted 33 snaps, but up to that point he managed three pressures and a few other positive plays, giving tackle Eric Fisher (-2.0) in particular a tough time (check out the play at 3:44 of the second quarter for an example). That was about as well as he usually plays, even without Jadeveon Clowney in the lineup to draw blockers away. LB Whitney Mercilus helped pick up the slack once again and followed up his best pass-rushing performance of the season with another multi-sack game, this time getting three sacks to go with two other pressures (although it’s worth noting that Mercilus had the benefit of rushing against TE Travis Kelce (-2.0) for much of the game).

–Another Texans defender who played well despite the loss was linebacker John Simon, who finished with a season-high +3.4 game grade. He compiled three stops, and, as with Mercilus, most of his positive work came against Kelce in run defense, although Fisher was the victim on what was probably his best play of the game. Rookie Bernardrick McKinney (+1.0) also chipped in with four defensive stops, helping hold the Chiefs under four yards per carry rushing and making up for a struggling Brian Cushing (-2.0).

Top performers

RT Derek Newton (+5.0)

LB John Simon (+3.4)

DE J.J. Watt (+3.1)

LG Xavier Su’a-Filo (+2.5)

LB Whitney Mercilus (+1.8)

  • crosseyedlemon

    I know we weren’t expecting much from the AFC South representative but sheeesh! the Jet fans have to know their team could have at least made a game of it.

    • shayaan

      the jets lost to the TJ Yates led texans in late november.

  • Craig W

    JJ Watt didn’t do anything

    • Sam Doohan

      He didn’t do anything that splashy but every single snap he was doing something positive. That’s one thing these grades are great at illustrating. Even on a small number of snaps, even when he’s not blowing up the QB, Watt contributes positively to every snap he’s on the field. That’s why he’s such an impressive guy, because he’s working exactly as hard every time the ball is snapped..

      • JL

        He affected 3 snaps out of 33…….and he gets a 3.1, that is ridiculous. For 2 hurries and a swipe which didn’t even stop Ware from making a positive play. 0 Tackles…..and 2 hurries….one which led to Smith’s 60 yd run that was negated by a holding call on the WR Wilson. One hurry led toi a Mercillus sack…the other was a completion for a first down.

    • NAJ

      He didn’t do anything tangible that dense idiots like you can see. The only thing JJ Watt did was change the whole gameplan of the Chiefs to avoid him at all costs….He faced double teams a lot and still disrupted plays.Did you not watch all the quick screens and sweeps they ran opposite of Watt?

      • zaph

        Ah yes, 0 tackles, and 0 assists according to PFF official grades. Such an impact player. I watched the game. The Chiefs just avoided him, and if they didn’t, they just chipped him with TEs and RBs while he was engaged with blockers. KC has damn near nullified Watt every time they’ve played against the Texans with the same strategy. Surprised the rest of the league hasn’t caught on yet on how to neutralize him.

        Also, side note, the fact that multiple Texans players have higher grades than any KC player in a 30-0 shutout is hilarious. These grades are pretty awful. They suggest that Marcus Peters and Sean Smith are the Chiefs two worst DBs, and that 1 sack, 1 hurry, 2 tackle, 3 stop Jaye Howard was graded negatively is pretty impressive.

        • shayaan

          the fact that someone with two sacks, both of them forced fumbles, has half the grade of someone with a few hurries and one tackle, doesn’t pass the smell test.

          • JL

            Well he’s not JJ Watt. Watt did nothing special in that game except stand there during the run option attempting to figure out who to cove…but he did it will well getting a +3 grade.

      • Tony

        No, he just didn’t do anything significant. Period. He was in in one of Merciless’ sacks and was involved in a run stuff at the LOS. He also was close to sacking Alex Smith in the third quarter, but Smith escaped and got 60 yards upfield. That was pretty much it.

        The Chiefs didn’t avoid him at all costs- they left him unblocked multiple times and even ran right at him while doing so. The Chiefs ran their usual offense all day long. They absolutley did not change their playcalls because of Watt.

        Watt had a positive impact and deserves a positive grade. However, he was definitley not more ore impactful than several of the Chiefs defensive players (particularly Bailey and Poe). I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again- PFF bends over backwards to interpret the play of certain players (e.g. Mathis, Mack, Watt) as elite, even when their impact is minimal. The confirmation bias on this site is staggering. That’s why I love coming here to see their extremely warped analyses after a game.

        Why don’t you stick to name-calling? That seems to be one of your stregnths.

        • Autocephallus

          “I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again- PFF bends over backwards to interpret the play of certain players (e.g. Mathis, Mack, Watt) as elite, even when their impact is minimal.”

          They do the same thing with Justin Houston, or didn’t you notice? You call out the supposed confirmation bias of this site, but can’t acknowledge your own.

  • Autocephallus

    Texans had no business being anywhere near the playoffs and it showed.

    • dlund6cutler

      That’s alright Jacksonville will make it next year.

  • Fredroks

    Love how Kelce’s 10 catches for 128 earn him a -2