KANSAS CITY, Mo. – They scratched, they clawed and they fought in the trenches during virtually every second throughout four quarters of play.
And when the final seconds ticked off the clock with the team in victory formation, the Chiefs moved to 7-0 after winning a hotly contested 17-16 battle against the Houston Texans.
“Every win is a great win in the National Football League,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “We’ll enjoy every one of them that we have the opportunity to enjoy. I thought this was a good team victory.”
Indeed, it took a team effort from the Chiefs, as the Texans proved a worthy opponent despite entering Week Seven on a four-game losing streak and turning to third-string quarterback Case Keenum for a spark.
Starting in place of an injured Matt Schaub (ankle, foot), Keenum offered a strong performance by completing 15-of-25 passes for 271 yards and a touchdown.
“We found a little heartbeat today,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “I thought we came in here and played the type of game we had to play if you’re to come in here and win. We had ourselves in that position.”
Making his first NFL start and seeing his first regular-season action, the second-year pro led the Texans to two scoring drives on its first two possessions. The first drive resulted in a 48-yard field goal by Randy Bullock to give Houston a 3-0 drive.
The Chiefs immediately answered on an 11-play, 82-yard drive capped off by running back Jamaal Charles’ 1-yard touchdown run to give the Chiefs a 7-3 lead.
Charles would finish the game with 86 yards rushing on 21 attempts and 37 yards receiving on three catches, marking his seventh straight game with 100-plus total yards from scrimmage.
Meanwhile, showing poise in front of a raucous Arrowhead Stadium crowd, Keenum led the Texans down the field on a five-play, 81-yard drive.
He found wide receiver DeVier Posey for a 42-yard gain, and then ended the drive with a beautifully thrown pass to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a 29-yard score to give the Texans a 10-7 lead.
The Chiefs would respond on its fourth possession midway in the second quarter.
Starting at its own 3-yard line, the Chiefs engineered a clock-consuming series on a 15-play, 97-yard drive that ended on quarterback Alex Smith’s 5-yard touchdown run, his first as a Chief, to give Kansas City a 14-10 halftime lead.
Prior to rushing for the touchdown, it appeared as though Smith wanted to hand off to Charles. However, nobody took the handoff when Smith turned to his left and Charles cut to Smith’s right.
“There was probably a little miscommunication there,” Reid said. “It worked.”
Charles was more to the point than his head coach.
“Yeah, we made that play up,” Charles said with a laugh. “I went the wrong way. I was moving around and all the formations were moving all day and I just forgot which way to go. My mind went blank and I’m just glad that Alex was able to execute the play and score.”
The Texans cut into the lead on its second possession of the second half after recovering a Charles fumble at the Chiefs’28-yard line. Keenum found tight end Garrett Graham for 27 yards to give Houston a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line when the Chiefs defense stiffened.
Keenum attempted a quarterback sneak, but was turned away by defensive end Tyson Jackson. The Texans were without running back Arian Foster, who left the game in the first half with a hamstring injury and on the next play turned to Greg Jones, who was stuffed for a 2-yard loss by safety Kendrick Lewis.
Keenum’s third-down pass fell incomplete and Houston settled for a field goal to cut the Chiefs’ lead to 14-13.
“The guys rose up at a very important time and I thought they did a nice job,” Reid said of the goal-line stand.
The Chiefs found themselves in business on the ensuing kickoff where Quintin Demps returned the kick 57 yards to Houston’s 46-yard line.
Smith, who finished the game completing 23-of-34 passes for 240 yards and an interception, hurt the Texans on this drive with a 23-yard run to put the Chiefs at the 20-yard line.
A 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on a hit to Smith’s head moved the ball to the 10-yard line, but the Chiefs had to settle for a Ryan Succop 22-yard field goal to push the lead to 17-13.
The Texans quickly responded on the next possession. Keenum was forced out of the pocket and scrambled around in the backfield avoiding tacklers before launching a pass down the field to wide receiver Andre Johnson, who hauled it in for a 42-yard gain.
“He came in, in a very hostile environment against a good football team, and he played well,” Texans defensive end J.J. Watts said of Keenum. “Some of those plays he made, that’s exciting stuff.”
Unfortunately for the Texans, the Chiefs defense bent, but didn’t break on the drive. Houston had to settle for another Bullock field goal to cut the Chiefs’ lead to 17-16.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Chiefs defense, which swarmed Keenum on Houston’s final three possessions.
Linebacker Tamba Hali recorded 2 ½ sacks, splitting one with Justin Houston and cornerback Brandon Flowers notched a sack. Hali also forced a fumble on a sack – recovered by linebacker Derrick Johnson – during the Texans’ final possession to seal the game with 1:41 remaining on the clock and the Texans without a timeout.
All that remained was Smith taking a knee to end the game after the defense rose to the occasion for yet another week.
“Listen, you know just as well as I do, in this league you win with great defenses and that how it was,” Reid said. “You can’t be successful like we are without having a great defense.”
NOTES: Chiefs coach Andy Reid said wide receiver Dexter McCluster was hit in the head, but it was McCluster’s eye that bothered him … McCluster left the game briefly, and then was cleared to return … Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles becomes just the second player in NFL history to have 100 or more yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in each of the first seven games of a season … Charles joins Pro Football Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson as the only two to accomplish the feat … Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who had five catches for 66 yards, has 6,023 yards receiving for his career … Bowe became the sixth player in team history to cross 6,000 yards and the fastest in 95 games … With five sacks against the Texans, the Chiefs now have 35 on the season … The Chiefs have defeated the two NFL teams from Texas, the Texans and Dallas Cowboys, by the same 17-16 score this season … Texans linebacker Brian Cushing suffered a torn LCL and broken leg and is out for the season, according to numerous media reports.