HOUSTON (AP) - Houston was relieved to escape with a win over Kansas City.
Now the Texans will have to figure out how to turn around their struggling defense with star middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans out for the season.
Andre Johnson caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Matt Schaub with 28 seconds remaining to complete the comeback from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit and give Houston a 35-31 win on Sunday. The Texans (4-2) trailed 31-21 with just over 7 minutes left after Thomas Jones' 11-yard touchdown run. Schaub threw two long passes to Owen Daniels before Arian Foster scored with 3:30 left to cut the Chiefs' lead to 3.
Houston's defense is giving up almost 28 points a game and ranks among the worst in the NFL in total yards and passing yards allowed per game. Things could get worse now that Ryans, the anchor of the defense, has suffered a season-ending Achilles' tendon injury.
Coach Gary Kubiak said the offense will have to carry the defense while it works through its' problems.
"The key right now is we've got to play really big offensively as a team," he said. "We've got to take on more responsibility with our football team now and do an even better job. Today was pretty ... good but we're going to have to continue to play extremely well."
The Texans got a boost on Sunday by Johnson's big game after the Pro Bowler has struggled with an ankle injury for the last few weeks. He said a new, more flexible brace, helped his play this week. He finished with eight receptions for 138 yards.
"The one I wore today for the first time makes me play with more confidence than the other braces did," he said. "Today I was just able to go out and play and not really worry about it."
Matt Cassel threw three touchdown passes for the Chiefs (3-2), who were trying to bounce back from 19-9 loss to Indianapolis and failed in their bid to match the team's best start since 1998.
"We're not there yet. We're in a process," second-year coach Todd Haley said. "It takes time, but we continue to make positive strides."
Arian Foster cut Kansas City's lead to 31-28 with a 1-yard run with about 3 1/2 minutes left. He jumped head first over the pile for the score to cap an 86-yard drive. Then Houston's defense held to give the Texans one last shot at the win.
"Guys were determined that no matter what happened today we were going to go out and get this victory," Johnson said. "When our defense got that stop there was no doubt in my mind that we would win the game."
Kansas City made it 31-21 with an 11-yard run by Thomas Jones with about seven minutes left. That score was set up when Houston's Bernard Pollard was penalized for hitting Jones out of bounds at the end of a 10-yard run a play earlier.
The Chiefs settled for a 24-yard field goal by Ryan Succop that made it 24-14 late in the third quarter after having a first down at the 9-yard line and managing just three yards.
Vonta Leach returned the ensuing kickoff for a career-long 26 yards and Foster scored a 2-yard run a few plays later to get Houston within 24-21 early in the fourth quarter.
Houston cut the lead to 21-14 with a 38-yard touchdown run by Derrick Ward with about seven minutes left in the third quarter. Ward made a move to the outside and shook off several defenders on his run down the sideline.
The Chiefs seemed to have control Sunday after scoring on their first three possessions in the second half.
Cassel was sharper than he's been all season, completing 20 of 29 passes without an interception against the Texans' porous pass defense. Dwayne Bowe made two TD catches and finished with six receptions for 108 yards.
"At a number of different points in the game, we felt we were in control," Cassel said. "We were confident about where we were in the game. We were playing a great opponent, and their offense just continued to come back and come back."
Bowe's second touchdown came when he took a short pass from Cassel and evaded three defenders to dart 42 yards to push Kansas City's lead to 21-7 in the third quarter.
Cassel connected with Bowe on a 17-yard touchdown pass just before halftime to give Kansas City a 14-7 lead. Bowe had a 19-yard reception on that drive that looked like it may have hit the ground, but it was upheld on review.
Ryans was injured on that touchdown and will have surgery in the next couple of days to repair the injury. A second-round pick in 2006, Ryans has had more than 110 tackles in each of his first four NFL seasons.
Houston finally got going on its third possession, scoring on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Schaub to tight end Joel Dreessen to make it 7-7 midway through the second quarter. Johnson had a 44-yard reception to key that drive.
The Chiefs used a 15-play, clock-eating drive capped by a 2-yard touchdown pass by Cassel to open the game and take a 7-0 lead. That drive featured two fourth down conversions, including one on the touchdown pass. Houston rookie cornerback Kareem Jackson was called for pass interference on the other one to keep the drive going.