Yesterday's 45-17 route over the Houston Texans marked Kansas City's largest output of points since their win over the Denver Broncos last December. It also turned out to be the biggest day of Larry Johnson's young career. The third year running back from Penn State solidified his role as the heir apparent to Priest Holmes. He single handedly carried Kansas City's struggling offense to victory.
Johnson's ability to run between the tackles put the Texans on their heels early in the game. In the Chiefs first two possessions Johnson managed to run for 58 yards and his best runs of the night happened to be the touchdown that capped the Chiefs second drive of the game. Following back to back passes to Dante Hall and Tony Gonzalez the Chiefs decided to run the ball on second and three from the Texan 23 yard line. Johnson took the handoff, passed the line of scrimmage and made three nice cuts before he powered his way in to the end zone. For the rest of the night Johnson left Texan defenders in his wake and by the time halftime rolled around Johnson had already amassed 117 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns.
Prior to Sunday night the Chiefs hadn't had a running back rush for 200 yards since Barry Word did it 15 years ago against the Detroit Lions. Since that time Word's performance has stood as the franchise single-game rushing record even great backs like Christian Okoye, Marcus Allen, and Priest Holmes have never managed to surpass it. That record now belongs to Johnson with his 36 carry 211 yard trouncing of the Texans.
Thanks to Larry Johnson's running the Chiefs passing attack came back to life. Trent Green was 19 of 29 for 220yards and three touchdowns. Green did manage to throw one interception but that one can almost be thrown out as it should have been a reception that slipped through the hands of Eddie Kennison.
Outside of the running game Green also benefited from the changes the Chiefs made in their pass protection. As opposed to last weeks game in Buffalo the Chiefs only stayed with a five man protection three times in this game. This means that they were keeping an extra blocker or two beyond the five offensive linemen. Most of the time that fullback Tony Richardson with a six man protection and at other times it was a seven man protection that included not only Richardson but tight end Jason Dunn.
Tight end Tony Gonzalez also turned in one of his top performances of the season as he hauled in nine passes for 98 yards. Like his teammate Larry Johnson Gonzalez joined in on the record breaking night. The record set by Gonzalez however is a league record that makes him the first tight end in NFL history to have eighth consecutive 50 catch seasons.
Lost in all of the hoopla over the offense was the strong performance turned in by Kansas City's defense. The Texans only converted one of eleven third down attempts on the evening. Even further they held the Texans offense to a meager 14 first downs. It should also be noted that the defense surrendered just ten points to the Houston's offense. The other seven points were scored by the Texans special teams.
The best play out of the defense came on a goal line stand with 1:41 left in the third quarter. Twice the Texans ran a naked bootleg to the right side only to have the linebackers and safeties play it correctly. This forced Carr to throw in to the end zone where Bennie Sapp had perfect coverage on Jabar Gaffney to knock the ball away on both occasions.
The most surprising thing to see out of Kansas City's defense was their inability to sack David Carr. You would figure that the Chiefs aggressive and pressure heavy defense would have a field day against one of the worst pass protecting lines in the NFL. Unfortunately the Chiefs only registered one sack on the game when Carlos Hall caught Carr from behind as he scrambled out of the pocket late in the fourth quarter. Fortunately Kansas City's dry spell on sacks had more to do with Houston's decision to use quick drops and shorter routs. This makes it tougher to get to the quarterback because it keeps the amount of time the quarterback had to hold the ball to a minimum.
When looking at individual performances on defense Eric Warfield had one of the best games of his career. Warfield finished the night with a team high nine tackles, one fumble recovery and an interception for a touchdown. Warfield's performance almost makes you wonder where this team would be right now had he not missed the first four games of the season.
The only downside of the game was the performance on special teams. The Chiefs kick off coverage unit has struggled all season and with four minutes left in the first quarter it finally caught up with them. Fielding a kickoff at the 1-yard line Texans return man Jerome Mathis flew up the left sideline for a momentum changing touchdown. Mathis later almost broke a second kick for a touchdown just before that half that would have answered Eric Warfield's touchdown on an interception.
The Chiefs are undoubtedly glad to come out of Houston with a win but the road becomes much tougher from here on out. If the Chiefs want to have a shot of making it to the post season they'll have to duplicate Sunday's effort on more than one occasion over the balance of the season. With six games left on the schedule their remaining opponents have a combined record of 41-19 and are averaging seven wins a piece. This will be the toughest stretch of games the Chiefs have experienced in recent memory though luckily for them four are of them are at home; starting this Sunday against the New England Patriots.
The Point After: Chiefs vs. Texans
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