Even so, the Chiefs put together a balanced offense, a strong defense and a special teams performance that was -- OK, so two out of three ain't bad.
The club-record, 211-yard rushing performance of Silent Larry Johnson gave the Chiefs their best offensive balance of the season and earned Johnson AFC of the Week Honors. The Chiefs ran the ball 42 times for 226 yards while throwing it 29 times for 220 yards.
"That's when our offense is at its best, when we're balanced like that," quarterback Trent Green said. "For (Johnson) to do what he did created a lot of openings."
With Houston having to respect the Kansas City run after Johnson had 58 yards and a 23-yard TD after just his first eight carries, Green got the best protection he's seen in weeks and finally found time to look downfield. His 26-yard TD strike to Eddie Kennison that made it a 24-7 game was a beautifully executed post that needed time to develop.
"The important thing is that we were able to get the ball up the field," Green said. "We were able to stretch the field on a number of plays, and that comes from good balance. The running game helped the passing game, and by throwing up the field, we opened things for the running game. That's when we're most effective."
Defensively, the Chiefs limited Houston to only 259 total yards and one of 11 third-down conversions. The Texans didn't manage a first down until the second quarter, though in fairness, an early first-down pass to Andre Johnson was negated when safety Sammy Knight baited him into throwing a punch and losing 15 after the play.
Kansas City even produced a defensive score for only the second time this season. Eric Warfield's pick of David Carr and 57-yard TD return gave Kansas City a 31-7 halftime edge.
The touchdown was a nice comeback for Warfield, who a week ago was burned for both touchdown passes in the 14-3 loss at Buffalo that put the Chiefs on the underside of the playoff bubble. Speaking at a team meeting before the Houston game, Warfield promised a better showing in Texas.
"I didn't want anybody to lose confidence in me and my ability just because of what happened in last week's game," he said. "I let my team down on two plays. I told them I was going to continue to get better and this defense would continue to get better."
The only thing keeping the win from being Vermeil's complete game was Kansas City's still woeful kickoff coverage, the NFL's worst in terms of average return. Jerome Mathis' 99-yard kickoff return made a game of it briefly at 10-7 in the first quarter.
"Our kickoff coverage," Vermeil said, "was lousy."
The Chiefs went home 6-4 anyway to face a killer stretch run that includes four homes games with New England (this week), Denver, San Diego and Cincinnati, and road games at Dallas and the New York Giants.
"This is like an NBA best-of-seven playoff series, and we just won the opener," Vermeil said. "Every week's a playoff game now."
From here on, certainly. But not even the NBA lets a team like Houston in the playoffs.
For the third straight week, Larry Johnson put up triple digits in rushing, and for the third straight week, The Angry One refused to discuss it afterward with anyone but the team's radio network -- an interview available only to late-night listeners.
On the day he rushed a career-high 36 times and was reinserted into the game in mop-up time to get the few yards necessary to break Barry Word's 200-yard team single-game rushing record, Larry the Lip kept it buttoned this time after initially telling Chiefs PR people that he would talk in the interview room.
Maybe it's for the best.
After not talking following a 132-yard game in the Buffalo loss the previous week, Johnson went on a Monday morning sports talk show and opined that the Chiefs had gotten too "cute" in their offensive strategy. Vermeil and others were only mildly irritated -- "I don't know how many games Larry has coached," Vermeil began -- and an irate Johnson backpedaled later in the week, saying he held himself just as responsible for not running right at or through people.
Anyway, he kept his comments to himself Sunday night, though his teammates spoke for him.
"(The record) means a lot to all of us," said fullback Tony Richardson, who as the blocking back for Priest Holmes and now Johnson has often had to speak for both when his quirky halfbacks turned silent. "Our offensive linemen, tight ends and the fullback don't always get much recognition in the running game, but while Larry obviously ran very hard today, it was a total team effort. Remember, the defense kept getting us the ball back.
"Everyone was committed to seeing him have a big day."
Added quarterback Trent Green: "He's an explosive runner who when he gets in the open field can make people miss or run guys over. To think that he'd come out tonight and run for more than 200 yards -- there's no way of knowing that. But, we were looking for big things from him.
"He knows the load is on him now. He was playing well in spot duty when Priest was healthy, but he's really growing into that position. His confidence is growing, and the offensive line's confidence in him is growing."
The mark will not carry an asterisk, given Houston's standing as the NFL's worst rush defense coming in.
The Chiefs went a seventh game in 10 outings without allowing an opposing touchdown in the opening quarter. Kansas City has given up just 27 first-quarter points this year.
CHIEFS PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
RB Larry Johnson, in rushing for a club-record 211 yards on 36 carries against Houston, had 100-plus yards by halftime for the second straight week.
TE Tony Gonzalez posted his best game of the season with a nine-catch, 98-yard effort. In doing so he passed the 50-reception mark for the eighth straight season. No tight end in NFL history has that many consecutive 50-catch seasons.
QB Trent Green amassed a 108.4 passer rating after hitting 19 of 29 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. It was only his second triple-digit rating of the season.
WR Samie Parker returned to the starting lineup and eventually to the end zone for the first time following a four-game absence with a knee injury. Parker's 6-yard touchdown pass from Trent Green was his second of the season.
DE Jared Allen performed as a long snapper against Houston for the first time in the NFL when he replaced long-time long snapper Kendall Gammon, who injured his lower leg in the second quarter. Allen snapped on two PATs and a punt. Though he had not snapped in a game since his collegiate days at Idaho State, Allen was on the money with two of his three tries, and holder Dustin Colquitt hauled in his one PAT snap that was high.
CB Patrick Surtain left Houston's Reliant Stadium on crutches with what the team said was an ankle sprain. The severity of the injury was not immediately known, but it's doubtful that Surtain will be running on the sore foot anytime soon. Veteran Dewayne Washington played the entire second half in his absence
CHIEFS REPORT CARD VS. TEXANS
PASSING OFFENSE: (A) -- QB Trent Green spread the ball around to seven receivers. Even little-used TE Kris Wilson caught his second pass of the season. Green's 108.4 passer rating came off 19-of-29 accuracy with two TD passes to Eddie Kennison and one to Samie Parker. Green's offensive line gave him his best pass protection in weeks after he was sacked six times the previous week in Buffalo.
RUSHING OFFENSE: (A) -- RB Larry Johnson followed his blocking well, and his offensive line responded with everything from creases to gaping holes through which Johnson bolted for his team-record 221 yards. He was at his best on a stop-and-go, tackle-breaking 23-yard touchdown run that put the Chiefs up 10-0 after their second possession.
PASS DEFENSE: (B) -- Despite the loss of CB Patrick Surtain to a sprained ankle in the second quarter, and the fact that nickel back Bennie Sapp played all night after injuring a hip early, the Chiefs kept David Carr's short passes from becoming long ones. Carr had only 73 of his eventual 182 passing yards by halftime, and Eric Warfield's pick and 57-yard TD return just three seconds before intermission essentially sealed the game. The longest throw of the night was a check-down that Domanick Davis turned into a 33-yard gain against a defense playing deep zones to protect a 31-7 lead.
RUSH DEFENSE: (B) -- Houston played primarily with a short, quick passing game, but Davis had some decent runs in the second half when the Chiefs, leading 31-7 at halftime, were sitting back in deep zones. Davis ran for 57 yards, and the Texans averaged 4.1 yards per try.
SPECIAL TEAMS: (D) -- The only disappointment of the night. Jerome Mathis' 99-yard kickoff return after Kansas City took a quick 10-0 lead could have blunted any momentum the Chiefs had generated had Houston been able to do anything at all on offense. Even after Warfield's TD return just before halftime, Mathis nearly ran another one back before Chris Horn finally got him out of bounds after a 53-yard return. K Lawrence Tynes converted his one field-goal try from 35 yards, and P Dustin Colquitt was less than OK with a 39.8 gross but a mere 25.5 net.
COACHING: (B) -- Al Saunders had an effective game plan against the Texans' awful rush defense. His run-pass mix represented a well-called game. Gunther Cunningham's defense was ready for Carr's quick passing game and prevented short passes from becoming big plays.
Some Parts Were Not Special for KC
WarpaintIllustrated.com Top Stories
Three Backfields With Question MarksEvery week, Fantasy Football Expert Mark Morales-Smith examines the most turbulent backfields in the NFL to help decipher whether or not there are any Fantasy stars in the making..…
Chiefs Put Justin Houston on PUP ListWith roster cuts looming, the Kansas City Chiefs have placed All Pro linebacker Justin Houston on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, meaning he won’t be able to return to…
Schwartz Brothers in Kansas City Makes SenseOn Tuesday afternoon, the Kansas City Chiefs will complete their first roster purge of the week. In order to get down to the league limit of 75 players, the Chiefs who cut eight…
Berry Signs as Chiefs Begin Roster CutsOn Sunday All Pro Safety Eric Berry, signed his one-year tender. That means today the Kansas City Chiefs coaching staff will get their first on field glimpse of their starting…
Chiefs Acquire CB Kenneth Acker from 49ersShortly after the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Chicago Bears on Saturday afternoon, the team announced they had acquired Cornerback, Kenneth Acker, from the San Francisco 49ers.…