Chiefs vs. Texans final score, things to know: Alex Smith is a legit MVP candidate
Alex Smith, Game Manager, has been replaced by one of the league's best quarterbacks
The Chiefs are the best team in football and there might not be a close second. A month after demolishing the Patriots in Foxborough in the season opener, the Chiefs ran their record to 5-0 after defeating the Texans 42-34 on Sunday night.
In years past, Kansas City has either had a formidable defense without much in the way of an offense, or a solid quarterback without any game-changing playmakers around him. This group appears to have everything. Yes, it's the first week of October, and a lot can change over the next three months, but as it stands, it's impossible not to love how well this team is playing.
Every other team in the AFC has flaws -- the Patriots' defense is atrocious, the Steelers' offense is sputtering and the Broncos' quarterback situation isn't yet settled -- and through it all the Chiefs keep winning in convincing fashion. We'll learn a lot about this team over the next few weeks, but for now here are six takeaways from their win in Houston.
Alex Smith is a late bloomer
Captain Checkdown. Game Manager. Play-it-safe Smitty. We made up that last one, but it still fits the pattern of what we've all come to know about Alex Smith, at least until this season: Need a handoff, a screen pass, or a quick slant, he's your guy. Trailing by four points with less than two minutes to go and 80 yards between you and the end zone? Look somewhere else.
But Smith has been a different player since arriving in Kansas City in 2014, and through five games this season he's gone from a top-15 quarterback to legit NFL MVP candidate. No really, we aren't joking. Here's where Smith ranked in total value among all passers in each of the last four seasons, according to Football Outsiders' metrics:
- 2014: 14th
- 2015: 15th
- 2016: 12th
- 2017: 4th
For an idea of just how good Smith has been this season, consider this: He came into Sunday night's came completing 76 percent of his throws after completing more than 67 percent during his first three years in Kansas City. Against the Texans, Smith went 29 of 37 with three touchdown passes, which brings his season total to 11. He has yet to turn the ball over. His touchdown/interception ratio from 2014-16: 2.5.
Smith also ain't afraid to throw deep with accuracy, which had been a knock against him in previous seasons.
By the way: Smith has one year left on his contract and the Chiefs traded up in the 2017 NFL Draft to take Pat Mahomes. It's hard to imagine that the Chiefs would move on from Smith after the season and pick up $17 million in cap space by cutting or trading him, but the organization also didn't give up a draft haul to have Mahomes sit on the bench for two years. If Smith somehow doesn't return to Kansas City, he'll be well compensated by one of the 20 or so other team desperately searching for a franchise quarterback.
About those other weapons
It's funny to think that the conversation about the Chiefs' offensive weapons starts with Smith, but that's a fact. That said, his job has been made immeasurably easier because of the addition of rookie running back Kareem Hunt, who joins tight end Travis Kelce and jack-of-all-trades Tyreek Hill.
The Texans contained Hunt for much of the first half, but the NFL's leading rusher got going over the final 30 minutes when the Chiefs opened up their lead. He finished the evening with 107 yards on 29 carries, including a long of 23.
Kelce left the game in the first half after being evaluated for a concussion but not before doing this:
Then there's Hill, who had a quiet evening until this happened midway through the fourth quarter:
Deshaun Watson continues to grow
The rookie first-rounder got off to a slow start, but as the game progressed, he picked up where he left off in recent weeks: showing exactly why the Texans traded up to get him and why he should have been the starter from Day 1. Instead, Watson replaced Tom Savage 30 minutes into the season and all he has done the past three games is complete 64 percent of his throws for 845 yards, with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. Five of those touchdowns -- and none of the interceptions -- came against the Chiefs.
Here's the first, to DeAndre Hopkins, that got the Texans on the board:
And here's the last to -- you guessed it -- DeAndre Hopkins as time expired:
If the Chiefs are looking for a reason to move on from Smith, Watson's early season success is it. Of course, there's a huge difference between cutting bait with Brock Osweiler and letting Smith walk after the best season of his NFL career, but again, Kansas City didn't draft Mahomes to sit around for two years.
Injuries were a big storyline
Injuries are the worst thing about football, but they're as much a part of the game as running, blocking and tackling. On Sunday night, the Texans lost two of their best players on the first series. First, linebacker Whitney Mercilus went out with a chest injury, and a few plays later, J.J. Watt suffered a knee injury and .
Watt was transported to the hospital in an ambulance where he was diagnosed with a tibial plateau fracture to his left leg. The Houston Chronicle's John McClain reports that Watt's injury will require surgery and that his season is over, though ESPN's Adam Schefter says the Texans aren't sure how long Watt will be sidelined.
Watt, who played in just three games in 2016 because of a back injury, came into Week 5 looking for his first sack on the season, though according to Pro Football Focus he still was the second-rated defensive end in the league behind only Aaron Donald.
Fun Facts (unless you're the opponent)
- The last time the Chiefs had a turnover? The very first offensive play of the season when Kareem Hunt fumbled against the Patriots.
- Tyreek Hill's 82-yard punt gave the Chiefs 11 special teams touchdowns since 2013. Over that same span, they have allowed exactly zero special teams touchdowns.
The Texans (2-3) host the Browns (0-5) while the undefeated Chiefs host the Steelers (3-2) in a rematch of last year's AFC divisional matchup. In fact, the Steelers beat the Chiefs twice last season: a 43-14 shellacking in Week 4 in Pittsburgh and an 18-16 victory in Kansas City in the playoffs. It begins a tough stretch for the Chiefs that includes a game in Oakland, back home to face Denver and then to Dallas before the Week 10 bye.
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