Still this game was their best defensive effort of the season, Kansas City's Swiss cheese rush defense gave up only 76 ground yards. In contrast, Priest Holmes came out of the walking cast he wore six days earlier to counter with 134 rushing yards. The two teams finished even in turnovers (one each).
So much for statistical trends that would suggest a Kansas City victory in a game played at Arrowhead Stadium.
"I thought we were the better football team today. We just didn't win, and that's the only stat that counts," said LB Monty Beisel after Kris Brown's 49-yard field goal with two seconds remaining gave the Texans a 24-21 upset win.
After losing a third straight home game (dating back to the '03 playoff loss to Indianapolis) that dropped a team with preseason Super Bowl aspirations to an 0-3 record, the Chiefs were left stunned and reeling after their last-minute loss to the Texans, a team they routed in Houston just a year ago in their 13-3 campaign.
"Not in a million years," linebacker Monty Beisel said when asked if he ever imagined he'd be talking about an 0-3 start this season. "I didn't think we'd be 0-2. I didn't think we'd be 0-1."
A season-opening loss at division-rival Denver was not unexpected. Even a loss to defending NFC champ Carolina in the home opener at Arrowhead could be explained.
But falling at home to Houston, a team also looking for its first win, was all but inexplicable.
"It's hard to believe we're 0-3," said Eric Hicks, repeating a refrain heard everywhere in the devastated Chiefs locker room. "We're not an 0-3 team."
Cite any number of factors for a loss in which Kansas City truly outplayed the visitor. Nine penalties for 85 yards in the first half alone -- with two potential momentum-turning second-half penalties offset by Houston fouls -- were a major contributor. Two red zone failures from the 6 (on downs just before halftime in a 7-3 game) and the 1 (on an interception in a 14-6 game) were huge, too. Especially when Marcus Coleman's pick and 102-yard touchdown return provided a 15-point swing that turned KC's bid to take a 21-6 lead into a 14-all third-quarter tie.
Then in the fourth quarter, trying to protect a 21-14 lead with 10 minutes remaining, the Kansas City defense that had played so well for so long couldn't stop David Carr from driving 68 yards for a touchdown and 42 yards in the final 2:18 for the game-winning field goal.
Now the 0-3 Chiefs are a team lacking confidence and wondering when, or if, a turnaround game is on the horizon. It was supposed to come against the Texans. It will be tougher to get next Monday night in Baltimore or after a bye week, on Oct. 17 in Jacksonville.
Can anyone say 0-5? Chiefs fans hope not but the players are not giving up.
As tight end Tony Gonzalez noted correctly, "This is going to test everyone in this locker room, and it's going to test our fans, because things are really bad right now. That's an understatement."
CHIEFS NOTES, QUOTES & GRADES:
The Chiefs are 0-3 for the first time since the dark days of 1980. That team started the season 0-4 but rallied for an 8-8 finish.
Three teams have begun a season 0-3 and still managed to make the playoffs since the NFL went to its six-team playoff format. They are the 1992 Chargers (who finished 11-5), the '95 Lions (10-6) and the '98 Bills (10-6).
Dick Vermeil, who second-guessed himself for calling for two field goals (making only one) on a couple of fourth-and-short situations in the Carolina loss last week, was second-guessing himself again Sunday after going for it on fourth-and-2 from the 6 late in the first half of a 7-3 game. The gambit failed when Priest Holmes was stopped a yard short.
"I'd made up my mind (to go for it) before the game ever started," Vermeil explained. "Last week when I didn't do it, I felt I sort of drained some of the motivation and fire from our squad."
Losing a fourth-down gamble with 1:52 left before halftime is one thing. But a Vermeil decision seconds later was inexcusable.
After Houston's Jonathan Wells broke a second-and-10 run for 13 yards and a first down at the Texans 18, Vermeil called his final timeout -- a move even he said was a bad call.
"I shouldn't have taken the timeout," he admitted. "I'd made up my mind before the play that if they ran the ball, I was taking a timeout. I didn't know they were going to run for a first down."
Houston ended up driving for Brown's first 49-yard field goal with 10 seconds left to cut the halftime deficit to 7-6.
CB Eric Warfield's leaping end zone interception that stopped Houston's first-series drive to the KC 10 was his third of the season -- tops in NFL. It was a much-needed bright spot for Warfield, who earlier in the week was arrested for drunken driving a third time in three years. Warfield now faces a state felony charge and a likely NFL suspension.
RB Priest Holmes, who surprised everyone but his teammates in coming back from an ankle injury to rush for 134 yards and the top spot on the Chiefs career rushing chart, did not catch a pass for the first time in 3-plus seasons in Kansas City.
QB Trent Green hit nine straight passes before his second-and-goal throw from the 2 was intercepted by Marcus Coleman and returned 102 yards for a game-changing TD.
WR Chris Horn's performance in his first NFL game may make the Chiefs rethink his position as an emergency replacement for the injured Eddie Kennison. With Kennison down for Houston, KC signed Horn off the practice squad and cut third QB Damon Huard to open a roster spot. Huard will re-sign this week, but the Chiefs may want to keep Horn after he caught a 6-yard TD pass.
P Jason Baker, released by the Chiefs on the final roster cut to 53, will remain Kansas City's punter only as long as his replacement, Steve Cheek, is down with the mysterious calf injury he sustained during a Sept. 23 practice. Cheek could be down for another couple weeks.
QUOTE OF THE GAME:
"This is crazy. I never thought it would start out like this. I feel like somebody's got me in a headlock and I can't get out. The only positive I can take from this is that it will make a great story at the end of the year." TE Tony Gonzalez, still believing the Chiefs can turn around their 0-3 season in the final 13 games.