The most opportunistic defense in the NFL and strong special teams have allowed the Kansas City Chiefs to overcome a mediocre offense for the second-best start in team history.
The Houston Texans haven’t been quite as fortunate, with a glaring turnover problem weighing down its league-best defense and otherwise quality offense.
Kansas City (6-0) will look to capitalize on those issues Sunday when it hosts Houston, which will have to overcome a murky quarterback situation to avoid its first five-game losing streak in nearly eight years.
Defense and special teams have accounted for 46.1 percent of the Chiefs’ points, including five touchdowns. The 2003 Chiefs had seven TDs from the defense and special teams in their first six wins during a 9-0 start, the only one in team history better than this year’s.
Husain Abdullah’s 44-yard interception return for a score with 1:35 left helped seal a 24-7 home victory over Oakland on Sunday.
“It’s something we talked about from Day One, the scoring. There’s equal opportunity in all three phases,” coach Andy Reid said. “We wanted everybody to have their chance to score a touchdown.”
Houston (2-4) isn’t nearly as upbeat despite allowing 252.8 yards per game, easily the best mark in the NFL. The Texans’ offense is averaging 395.7 yards, seventh most in the league, but they’re scoring 17.7 points per game — the seventh-lowest mark.
A minus-12 turnover differential has been a big reason for that; only the winless New York Giants at minus-16 are worse.
The Texans have committed 12 turnovers during their four-game slide. They haven’t lost five in a row since a six-game skid Nov. 6-Dec. 11, 2005.
“Turnovers get you beat in this league and they’re getting us beat on a consistent basis,” said coach Gary Kubiak, who won division titles the last two years but may be on the hot seat with a 4-8 record since an 11-1 start last season.
After throwing nine interceptions in the previous five games, Matt Schaub was finally turnover-free in a 38-13 home loss to St. Louis on Sunday. But Schaub will not be able to play after leaving last week’s game with a lower leg injury suffered on a third-quarter sack.
Kubiak said Case Keenum will start in Schaub’s place. Keenum was a record-setting quarterback at the University of Houston
before spending last season on the practice squad. The undrafted free
agent has never appeared in a regular-season NFL game.
T.J. Yates was 12 of 17 for 98 yards in relief of Schaub last week but was picked off twice — including an interception returned for a touchdown, making it five straight games Houston surrendered a pick-six — and sacked twice in just over a quarter of play. Kansas City leads the league with 31 sacks.
This matchup features the two leading rushers in the AFC, with Houston’s Arian Foster running for 341 yards in the past three games to push his season total to a conference-best 531.
Jamaal Charles, second in the league with 129.2 scrimmage yards per game behind Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy (145.2), has accounted for seven of Kansas City’s 12 offensive TDs. The Chiefs leaned on Charles heavily again versus the Raiders; he recorded 128 of the team’s 216 total yards.
The Chiefs’ 326.3 yards-per-game average ranks 25th in the NFL, and Alex Smith is 32nd with 6.16 yards per passing attempt.
“If we can get our offense to play as well as our defense is playing right now, it’s going to be great,” receiver Dexter McCluster said.
Former Pro Bowler Dwayne Bowe has disappointed thus far with 20 receptions for 229 yards and two TDs. However, he caught six passes for 108 yards and two scores in the teams’ last meeting, a 35-31 Texans home win Oct. 17, 2010.
Andre Johnson caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Schaub with 28 seconds remaining to cap a 10-point fourth-quarter comeback, which gave Houston a 3-2 series advantage. Johnson has averaged 105.6 receiving yards with four TDs in five career games against Kansas City.
Arrowhead Stadium — which set a Guinness World Record for loudest outdoor sports stadium in Sunday’s game with the crowd reaching 137.5 decibels — could prove a hindrance for Keenum and the Houston offense.
The Raiders were whistled for three false starts and three delay-of-game penalties, and the Texans have been penalized for more yardage than any other team with 459.
Houston announced Wednesday it will be without starting safety Danieal Manning for the rest of the year due to a right knee injury suffered Sunday. Third-year player Shiloh Keo will take his place.