Chiefs defense comes through when team needs it most -- in the fourth quarter
Five things we learned from the Chiefs' 17-16 win over Houston on Sunday
By JEFFREY FLANAGANFS Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. --Five things we learned from the Chiefs’ 17-16 win over Houston on Sunday.
IN THE CLUTCH
For more than three quarters, the Houston offensive line pretty much controlled the Chiefs' front seven and limited the Chiefs to just one sack.
But then defensive coordinator Bob Sutton made one small tweak with the Chiefs' blitz package, and suddenly the floodgates opened as the Chiefs got four sacks in the final period. Linebacker Tamba Hali led the charge with 2 1/2 sacks and two forced fumbles.
"Just a little switch in how we blitzed," Hali said. "Credit to the coaches for doing that. And credit the coaches for switching some things up to help stop the run. That forced them to pass a little more."
The tweak was obvious: Sutton at one point in the fourth quarter began sending Hali, Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson all from the same side of the ball.
"That makes the offense try to pick one of us or two of us," Hali said. "But they can't get all three."
With the Texans facing a third-and-8 from their own 43 with eight minutes left, the Chiefs' Houston roared in untouched and sacked quarterback Case Keenum.
On the Texans' next possession, with the Texans facing a third-and-4 from their 28, Hali came in untouched and sacked Keenum.
Then with 1:41 left, Hali got free again and sacked Keenum, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Johnson.
"Just too many guys overloaded on one side," Hali said. "Great team effort by us."
READ OPTION TO NO ONE
One of the funniest-looking plays -- and most successful -- was the 5-yard touchdown run by quarterback Alex Smith in the second quarter.
The play started with several players shifting and going in motion. Then with everyone finally set, Smith took the snap out of the shotgun, turned and appeared to be ready to fake a handoff as if he were conducting a zone read. Only one problem: No one was there for the fake handoff.
Smith didn't panic, though. He continued to try to sell the fake, then darted up the middle through a gaping hole for the score.
Chiefs players on the sideline were practically giggling at the result.
"It was a great play by Alex, though," tight end Anthony Fasano said. "We all enjoyed that one."
Smith wouldn't point fingers at who was out of position. (It was Jamaal Charles.)
"All I tried to do was get the defensive end on that side to pause a little," Smith said. "Then I tried to get to the hole as fast as possible."
The play worked brilliantly.
"I really think we should just put it into the offense as is," Fasano said, smiling.
Fasano, by the way, returned after missing a month because of knee and ankle injuries. And his return was more than welcomed by the offense.
"He brings a lot of experience and leadership to the offense," tackle Branden Albert said. "It's great to have him back, both with blocking and catching the ball. It will make a difference."
Fasano didn't exactly light up the stat sheet -- he had four catches for 27 yards. But he did catch a big pass down at the Texans' goal line in the fourth quarter and appeared to perhaps have stretched enough to break the plane for a touchdown that virtually would have sealed the deal.
Fasano was ruled short of the end zone, though. The play was reviewed and the call stood.
Fasano was pretty sure he got in.
"I could sense my shoulder had broken the plane," he said. "And the ball was right there below it. I don't know -- just didn't get the call there."
The Chiefs wound up failing to get in on third and fourth down, too, and turned the ball over to the Texans with a one-point lead.
BOWE BLOCKING SHOW
Wideout Dwayne Bowe played much of the game in the slot as the Chiefs tried to set up some physical mismatches for him against nickel backs. He was targeted nine times and caught five passes for 66 yards.
But perhaps his most noticeable play was on a third-and-21 when Smith hit Dexter McCluster for 43 yards in the second half. Bowe took out three Texans while blocking on the play.
Remember that Bowe's season last year ended when he broke his ribs trying to block on a play, so his commitment to blocking this year is noted.
"My job on that play was to get someone to the ground," Bowe said. "That's all I did. Nothing special. This is football. You can't go in scared or thinking of injuries. We're all doing our jobs."
NOT CLASSY, JUST SMART
The question kept coming up in the locker room afterward: Was it a classy move by the Chiefs to simply take a knee after Derrick Johnson recovered a fumble at the Houston 1-yard line with 1:34 left?
Chiefs players dutifully and courteously answered the question that yes, it was a classy move by coach Andy Reid, and the Chiefs are a classy organization, and there's no reason to run up the score, and so on and so forth.
But hey, of course the Chiefs didn't go for another touchdown because if they had, and if they had scored, that still would have left it a one-possession game at 24-16. You don't give the opponent a chance to tie the score when you can just take a knee three times -- Houston was out of timeouts -- and end the game in victory formation.