After a thrilling comeback win against the Buffalo Bills, the Houston Texans marched to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the explosive Kansas City Chiefs. I understand your concern and worry about reliving this game, but you can learn more from your losses than your wins. Reviewing the Bills game last week, it was clear that Deshaun Watson learned a lot from his first playoffs loss against the Indianapolis Colts in 2018. As much as we all want to wipe this game from our memory, I'm sure he will follow the same suit with this Chiefs loss and not make the same mistakes. The defense gets a lot of blame for this game, but after the first quarter, the offense only put up 7 points throughout the rest of the game, let's see what went right, and what went wrong.
Watson Watch Volume 13: AFC Divisional Round vs Kansas City Chiefs
The Texans got the ball first and were looking to set the tone early. All year long we had struggled with slow starts, but BOB was not holding back. The first play of the game would prove to be extremely pivotal, even if it was frustrating in the moment. With a bunch formation to the left, the Texans ran a WR screen that has never seemed to work for as long as BOB has been here. They don't send the OL out to block and help out DeAndre Hopkins, instead relying on him to make just one defender miss. As we know, that's not exactly a strength of Nuk's, and he only picks up 1 yard. But remember this play, because Nuk walked so that Kenny Stills could run.
Five plays later, at midfield, the Texans trotted out in the exact same formation. Bunch to the left, Darren Fells and Carlos Hyde to the right. Who knows what the initial play call was, but I would put money on the fact that it wasn't the fake screen we know and love. Pre-snap, you can see Deshaun Watson screaming something and tapping his helmet, the sign for an audible. So what did he see? As safety Daniel Sorenson (#49) walked down into the box, Watson read Cover 0, as there was no deep safety(ies).
This is a prime example of Watson's IQ and why giving him the freedom to make calls at the LOS, is extremely beneficial. He knows the Chiefs are an aggressive defense, and he knows that showing this same bunch formation that they just threw a screen on, would tip off the defense. If we faked the screen, it would be like waiving a red cape in front of a bull. And just as Watson predicted, the Chiefs were fooled. As Will Fuller runs his bubble route, faking the screen, Sorenson flies downfield with no regard for anything behind him. Kenny Stills subtly fakes his block and zooms off, past the CB who is flat out confused. That was Watson's easiest TD throw of the year, and it's all because he outsmarted the defense.
As the defense forced a three and out, this team had a different feeling about them. We weren't falling on our faces to start a playoff game. This was not 2016 against Alex Smith. Things were different, and things continued to be different, as Barkevious Mingo blocked the Chiefs punt, and Lonnie Johnson ran it in for six. An instant 14-0 lead, had Arrowhead quiet, and me mouthing off on Twitter. But we weren't done there.
The defense forced another punt, large in thanks to the Chiefs weapons forgetting that they are allowed to catch the ball. Watson led the Texans to midfield, but were stopped there, as Frank Clark obliterated Chris Clark. He had himself a day, and I can only imagine how different this game would've been if we had Tytus Howard healthy. Oh well, we punted it back to the Chiefs, but their time of possession wouldn't last long, as Tyreek Hill muffed the catch, and Keion Crossen recovered the ball on the Chiefs 6 yard line.
What was happening? Every little bounce was going our way and it certainly felt like the NFL gods wanted us to win. The embarrassing mistakes that we usually mistake in big time moments were happening to the Chiefs, and I wasn't complaining one bit. As Watson lined the offense up on the goal line, he knew he had to capitalize on the mistake. As he motioned Nuk across the formation, a CB followed him, but then didn't line up over top of him. This was a slight tell that the Chiefs were in zone, and Watson knew that Fells route over the middle would be perfect to beat it. Fells job was to find the hole in the zones and just turn around as quickly as possible. Pretty easy task, he and Watson read the same thing, and this might've been Watson's second easiest TD throw of the day.
21-0, in the blink of an eye. What were we witnessing? Was I dreaming? I legitimately asked my roommates to pinch me. The Texans, the same Texans that no one ever believes in, were up 21-0 on the AFC Super Bowl favorites. I was dreaming of the beautiful Texans V Titans AFC Championship Game. The beautiful AFC South Bowl, where we would easily beat them and be on our way to the first ever Super Bowl in franchise history. Ah, what a beautiful thought.
That dream remained alive as the next drive, the Chiefs couldn't find a rhythm and were forced into another three and out. Getting the ball back early in the second quarter, and I knew that we needed to keep our foot on the gas pedal. These were the Chiefs after all, we needed a couple more scores to really put this away. Little did I know we'd need a lot more than just a couple...
Nonetheless, the Texans drove down into the Chiefs red zone, from a good balance of Carlos Hyde, and Deshaun Watson making plays. They got to a crucial 3rd down and 9. The Chiefs cover up Watson's first reads nicely, and he's forced to check it down to Duke Johnson. He ends up just barely one yard short of the sticks, and here comes haunting moment #1.
Knowing that 3 points still keeps the score at a 3 point game, BOB initially decided to go for it on 4th. They were sending guys out and someone didn't get the memo. Watson waved someone on the field, but I can't tell who. They decided to try and rush into the huddle and play, but BOB called a timeout to get things under control, and make sure they were comfortable, not rushed. Who knows what happened in the timeout, but BOB had a change of heart. He later said he didn't have a good play in mind, but that's clearly a BS answer, because they were ready to run something before someone messed up and couldn't get on the field. Nonetheless, the Texans offense cleared the field, and Fairbairn nailed the FG. 24-0 and I so badly wish I could just stop right here. In an alternate world I like to go to when people bring up this game, the Texans continued their onslaught and dismantled the Chiefs. Destroying the Titans and handling the 49ers in the SB too. It's just a better place to be at, if this game still haunts you, I welcome you to come join my island. It's a much happier place.
Things were still looking good, but there was no question that coming up short like this, and then making the switch to kick the FG took away all the Texans momentum that they had built up. Just as quickly as we had turned that switch, the Chiefs turned it back the opposite way. Our special teams unit had been stellar all year, but were due for at least one blunder. This blunder, would come at the worst possible time. On the ensuing kickoff, Mecole Hardman took it 58 yards, to get to the HOU 48 yard line. Then in just two throws, Patrick Mahomes found Damien Williams to put the Chiefs on the board.
24-7, it's all good, still a 3 point game, let's just keep the ball moving, kill some clock and go score again. No problem, right? After two runs to Hyde, and an incompletion to Fuller, the offense had stalled and BOB had a decision to make. He could clearly tell all momentum was lost, and that this next drive was pivotal to the outcome of the game. Instead of punting the ball away and living to fight another day, he trusted athletic Justin Reid to get 5 yards, on the fake punt. I actually love the decision to go for it. He knew that the defense had been bailed out by drops on the first couple drives, and that in the blink of an eye, the Chiefs offense could detonate and ruin our dreams. So I'm with going for it, I'm also with how they went for it. BOB's special teams have always been conservative, I can't even think of a time we faked it once. Also, J Reid was the "Punt Protector" all season long, so we didn't even give the Chiefs a different look that would tip them off. Everything looked identical, and I bet everyone watching was thinking it would be your typical punt. That is, until Jon Weeks snapped it to Reid, instead of Bryan Anger. Reid sprinted out to the right and seemed to be home free, but safety Daniel Sorenson, frustrated with his previous mistake, was not going to be beat twice. He played it very safe, and you have to give him credit for making a clean tackle. If Reid made one cut inside and juked Sorenson, the outcome of the game could've been completely different. The oulook on BOB would be completely different. He took a risk, it didn't work, but I believe in process>results. If you go through the right process to make decisions, the results will show for it over time, even if they look bad right away. That fake punt probably works more often than it doesn't. We've long wanted BOB to be aggressive, and when he finally is, we rain down on him? If that play worked, he would be crowned a genius, and the entire narrative on him is flipped. The media and all of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook doesn't jump on the BOB Bandwagon of Hate.
But, the play didn't work, the Chiefs got the ball back, and it only got worse. Taking a risk like that was needed in my opinion, but now that it failed, it only made the Chiefs chances for winning easier. While it could've been the play to swing momentum back in our favor, it just pushed it over the Chiefs edge. They scored in three plays, 24-14. But the pain wouldn't end there, as they kicked it off, it was DeAndre Carter's turn to fumble the ball and give them possession on our goal line. Three plays later, 24-21.
In a span of 6 minutes, the Chiefs had been gifted their chance to get right back into the game. We got all the breaks to go our way in the 1st quarter, and they certainly owned the 2nd. But it was essentially a fresh game, a clean slate, and Watson needed to respond with points. They started the drive off hot, gaining 30 yards on the first three points. But then everything went wrong. Hyde gained nothing on his run as Nick Martin got beat. They tried another screen to Nuk, who started running backwards and across the formation, as he passed it to Watson for some reason. He fumbled the ball, recovered it, thank god, but it was nothing short of a disaster. We were faced with a crucial 3rd and 12, that obviously needed to be achieved. 3rd down conversions are a great measure of how great your QB is, and Watson should've completed this one.
The Chiefs start off in a single high shell, indicating Cover 1 or Cover 3. Post snap, they start to rotate to a Cover 2 sink look, and Watson has Hopkins over the middle. He fires it to him, and hits him right in the hands, but the Honey Badger came over from his zone to lay a hit on Hop. It wasn't even a big hit, but he clearly wasn't expecting it, causing him to drop the easy pass.
Having the benefit of slow motion, it looks like Mathieu hit Nuk a split second early. It wasn't egregious by any means, and not something the refs could've noticed and flagged in the moment. But that was a MASSIVE moment in the game, where the Texans were gaining momentum and looking to turn the tide. Another moment that just didn't go our way. The Chiefs got the ball back and scored with ease, taking the lead and discouraging me from even keeping track anymore. What does it matter.
We got the ball back with 40 seconds left in the half and had a chance to respond. Watson had got it done with less to work with, and he got them in field goal position, but Fairbairn missed the 51 yarder. The simplest things that we normally excel at, just weren't going our way. Nuk dropping a pass, Fairbairn missing a kick, especially right after nailing the clutch game winner against the Bills. That hurt.
But the game wasn't lost just yet. It was still a one score game going into half. Yeah, the lead had been squandered, but hope had not been completely lost. Or at least, it shouldn't have been. With Watson at the helm, we were never out of a game. He would lead us to victory, right?
The Chiefs got the ball to start the half, and continued to rain terror on our helpless defense. Thank god I'm only looking at the offense, seeing what went wrong with the defense would be way too much. That's how secret government operations should torture people to get information out of them. Trust me, it would be real effective. Anyways, it was Watson's turn to put up points, but they wouldn't get very far. An illegal formation on 1st down had us behind schedule from the jump and on 3rd and 5, there was nowhere for Watson to go. He looked initially to his left for Duke or Fells, but both were covered. Frank Clark got by Tunsil, who had to push him past the pocket. Watson felt the pressure and tried to make magic happen, running in circles avoiding Chief after Chief. This is one of those plays where it seems like Watson is trying to do too much, but he was fighting for his life. It was 3rd down, there was no "live to see another day", he was doing his best to buy time for someone to get open. But no one else put in the same effort as him. Three WRs on the right side of the field but none of them came over to help. Watson was hung out to dry, desperately trying to run for the first, but Clark was relentless, finishing him off.
Another drive quickly gone bad, and forcing the defense out on the field much faster than they'd like. 7 more points for the bad guys. The Texans hold on this game had switched hands completely, and now they were the outsiders looking in. Watson did his best to spark a comeback though, starting off the next drive with a 21 yard gain to Nuk. The Chiefs were in Tampa 2, and Watson had Nuk on a deep crossing route. It was important how Nuk ran the route though, as if he continued horizontally, he would be covered by a zone. But he and Watson read the same thing, and connected, as Nuk cut his route off in the hole of the zone.
Watson and the offense continued to click. He completed a throw for 11 yards to Stills, then faced a 3rd and 6. He faced pressure from Frank Clark yet again, and this play is a perfect example of why we need to let Watson be who he is. People will complain he holds onto the ball too long and doesn't know when to throw it away, but on crucial 3rd downs like these, you need that guy who is never out of a play. He scrambles around, looking for someone open. Things look bleak, but unlike the other 3rd down, his weapons actually put in effort to get open. Nuk comes back to the ball and Watson delivers a strike, with just enough room for Nuk to toe drag it in.
Those magical off script plays happen more often than the sacks. Yes, they can be frustrating, but if you ask him to stop being the hero that he is, you lose a lot more than you gain. Right after a failed trick play with Kenny Stills, Watson made sure that we wouldn't lose the little momentum we had been gaining. The Chiefs were in a single high look pre snap, but post snap, that safety ran to the boundary side (short side). The field safety, was backing up from the box, and so Will Fuller had no one bracketing him over top. Watson noticed this quickly and threw up a bomb before Fuller was even with his CB. He trusted that Fuller's speed would win out, and it did, tracking down the perfect 39 yard throw.
That throw was perfectly placed, so that the safety had no chance, and setting up the Texans on the 5 yard line, they wouldn't miss this opportunity. With a bunch formation to the right, the WRs and Fells acted as blockers, while Tunsil pulled to the edge. Watson followed his convoy who blocked admirably and escorted him into the end zone.
Okay, I lied, quick score check and that TD put the Texans down 10. The game seemed like it was in their grasp, but the defense needed to fight back as well. Instead, it only took Mahomes, Hill and Kelce four plays to shut down our hopes yet again. It took us 9 plays and 2 3rd down conversions to score, while they could just make it look like nothing. That was the difference. Everything came easy for them, and we had to work for every inch. We didn't have the explosive capabilities that they did, and the level of competition on defense wasn't close.
That continued to be the theme as we couldn't pick up where we left off on our next offensive drive. Getting to midfield was pretty much as far as we got most of that day. This time a drop on 3rd led to 4th and 4. A must convert, we just couldn't get it done. There isn't a point in this entire play where ONE Texan is open. NOT ONE. What is Watson supposed to do here. At the last second Hop has inside position on a CB, so Watson tosses it while under pressure and cross body. No luck. Turnover.
Watching the offense for the remainder of the game and a couple things stood out. 1.) We couldn't get open often enough. The Chiefs were able to sit in Cover 1 most of the game, and our weapons couldn't create space. I would've liked to see more rub routes to make it easier on us. 2.) We had some crucial drops. In the 4th quarter alone, Fells had 3, Stills, D Hop and Duke had 1 each. 6 drops in a quarter! What is Deshaun supposed to do about that. 3.) The last thing I noticed is something I alluded to earlier. It just took us so long to move the ball. The Chiefs were able to pick up yards in chunks, while we were stuck nickel and diming down the field. Watson had to complete so many more passes, to gain the same amount of yards. He had to be perfect more times than Mahomes did, to get the same job done. We put too much on his plate and didn't help him out one bit.
But that's exactly what BOB has done this offseason, make Watson's job easier. Going out and getting WRs that specialize in creating separation in Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb. That will help Watson get the ball out quicker, stay in rhythm and avoid sacks. Also the addition of Cooks gives us another elite deep threat, for when Fuller gets injured, the offense doesn't need to change. And when the two are both healthy, the offense will look as explosive as the Chiefs, minimizing the number of perfect throws Watson has to make, and scoring quicker. That way, if we find ourselves in a position down three or more scores, we can still have confidence in a comeback. We can score three or more times in one quarter based off our pure talent, not a blocked punt and muffed return. We're built like the Chiefs, to beat the Chiefs. If you can't beat em, join em, am I right?