Texans forget the past, brace for Chiefs
HOUSTON -- It started Sunday in the immediate aftermath of their dismantling of the Tennessee Titans and lingered Wednesday as Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien continued shifting the focus from celebrating that win to preparing to face the lone undefeated team in the NFL.
O'Brien essentially entered his postgame press conference with a wet blanket in hand, poised to smother the hoopla surrounding the record-setting performance of rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Three days later, when asked if the team recognized Watson for claiming AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors following his five-touchdown performance in a 57-14 victory, O'Brien was quick to stamp out that bit of enthusiasm as well. What had passed was past.
"No. I think it's a great honor, but no," O'Brien said. "We're definitely focused on Kansas City. I think, at the end of the day, I think those awards are great. I really do. I think it's a great honor for him to get that as a rookie, but I think the goal of every week is to make sure we're focused on the task at hand."
An added benefit to the Texans' 445-yard output against the Titans was the methodical precision in which they controlled the line of scrimmage and, by proxy, time of possession. That served as a significant aid to a defense that has performed unevenly thus far, a unit looking to maintain momentum when the Kansas City Chiefs (4-0) visit NRG Stadium on Sunday night.
The Texans (2-2) were ravaged on the ground by Jacksonville in their opener and left vulnerable through the air by the Patriots two weeks later. Sandwiched around those losses were strong defensive performances against the Bengals and Titans, against whom the Texans possessed the ball 19 seconds shy of 40 minutes. Tennessee managed 41 offensive plays, a number that allowed for the Texans to remain fresh defensively throughout the blowout.
When the offense and defense play "complementary football," a term O'Brien is fond of uttering, people tend to get excited. In the midst of preparing for Kansas City, the Texans have also allotted time for dampening the excitement that often follows impressive wins.
"I mean, we're 2-2. Let's not get ahead of ourselves here," Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said. "It's not like we're the ones that are 4-0, so we've got to be a little bit tempered with that. But we're very excited.
"Obviously, a big game coming up on Sunday against a team who is undefeated in our conference, so, yeah, it's a really big game. Hopefully we can have the same type of performance we had last week and yeah, it's exciting, but we also need to make sure that we stay on the ground here."
Exhilaration is running rampant in Kansas City as well, with the Chiefs pacing the NFL in point differential (plus-45) while ranking third in points scored (30.5 per game) and tied for 10th in points allowed (19.3). The Chiefs pummeled the Patriots to open the season and pulled a win out of the fire in a tense back-and-forth with the Redskins on Monday.
The Chiefs have been middling defensively, ranking 22nd in yards per play (5.5), so much of the credit for their fast start has rested at the feet of surprising rookie running back Kareem Hunt and veteran quarterback Alex Smith, 33, who is playing the best football of his 12-year career.
Presumably faced with having to fend off rookie Patrick Mahomes, selected 10th overall out of Texas Tech, for his starting job, Smith has responded by posting career highs in completing percentage (76), touchdown percentage (6.6), interceptions percentage (0.0) and passer rating (124.2). Smith leads the NFL in all four categories, in addition to his three game-winning drives.
Many have credited Chiefs coach Andy Reid for unlocking Smith's talent by surrendering the keys of the offense. Reid, in turn, credited Smith for developing under consistent tutelage.
"I think, first of all, there's been a little consistency with it, which he didn't have a ton of until Jim (Harbaugh) got there -- to San Francisco, I'm saying," Reid said of Smith's time with the 49ers. "And then two ... is that he's kind of raised these kids up. They're kind of his guys and he trusts them and has been able to teach them from a player's standpoint. So, it's kind of fun to watch that."
Updated October 5, 2017