Texans vs. Chiefs: Takeaways from Houston's 17-16 Loss Against Kansas City
Cutting right to the chase, things couldn't be any worse for the Texans heading into their bye week. Not only did they lose to the Chiefs, they also lost linebacker Brian Cushing to another injury — one that will reportedly put him out for the remainder of the season, according to Albert Breer of NFL.com.
In his debut Texans starting quarterback, Case Keenum did show some poise. Losing running back Arian Foster didn't help him out, though, and once again, it was a big performance from Andre Johnson that kept the Texans in the game, even though they ended up having nothing to show for it.
Here are the Week 7 takeaways for the Houston Texans.
Case Keenum Could Be the Permanent Starter
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Playing without the injured Matt Schaub, the Texans looked good with Case Keenum at quarterback on Sunday.
Aside from the incompletion that gave the Chiefs the ball back and Alex Smith the chance to take a knee and end the game, Keenum's 271 yards passing and a touchdown was a pretty good debut, especially for a Texans' team that hasn't seen any scoring as of late.
The rest of the Texans' cast on offense never really helped him out, however, and the loss of Arian Foster early in the game only contributed to that. With Schaub's future still anyone's guess, Keenum has earned a grade of "A" in most people's books.
Sure, third downs and red-zone efficiency were still the same old problems, but there wasn't much to fault with the rookie Keenum.
Shiloh Keo Is Coming into His Own
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Before Ed Reed returned for Houston after missing this season's first two games due to an injured hip, Shiloh Keo saw some pretty good game-time for the Texans.
He made the most of his playing time once again on Sunday.
There wasn't much to make of the Texans' overall defensive effort against the Chiefs, but the one bright spot was Keo's interception—only the second pick of his career.
Keo has 19 tackles this season—more than Reed—and a pretty good resume after Wade Phillips' defense stopped the Chiefs from throwing any touchdown passes.
There were a few occasions when Dwayne Bowe was left open in the middle of the field, but aside from that, Keo is developing into a solid fill-in player who can be trusted against some of the league's top receivers.
Texans Need to See More of DeVier Posey
We have still yet to see what DeVier Posey can really offer the Texans offense, but fortunately, we saw enough of a glimpse against the Chiefs that still makes him look like a smart 2012 third-round draft pick.
After DeAndre Hopkins had been quiet in the past couple of weeks, Posey was happy to play the second-best receiver behind Andre Johnson on Sunday with 79 yards in receiving yardage. A 42-yard catch by Posey set up Keenum's first touchdown pass of his career to Johnson. Posey didn't really struggle to get physical with the Chiefs cornerbacks at the line, as he made his way downfield.
With only six receptions so far this season, there is still a lot we haven't seen from the 23-year-old. Now that the Texans may have better quarterback production from Keenum, though, Posey may see a few more passes thrown his way.
Special Teams Is Becoming a Problem
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A week after their disastrous kick-return effort against St. Louis, the Texans' special teams units didn't look altogether on their games again on Sunday, either.
This time, it wasn't kicker Randy Bullock's inaccuracy that gave Gary Kubiak a headache, it was Houston's kick coverage on a 57-yard kickoff return and a 29-yard punt return that caused problems. Chalk it up to a lack of tackling or just a lot of speed on the Texans' front, but something needs to change.
The issue here is that punter Shane Lechler has been killing it, and had a few punts inside the Chiefs' 20-yard line. When those punts are returned for such big gains, it's a buzz-killer and puts even more strain on a Houston defense that ranks sixth in total points allowed.
That's two weeks in a row that special teams have cost the Texans serious points.
The Running Game Might Still Be Fine
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Running the ball was supposed to be a little easier against the Chiefs, but the Texans instead made it hard for themselves with two big injuries.
The first Houston injury was Arian Foster's pulled hamstring, It seems that Foster just isn't destined to have a healthy 2013 season. The second injury for Houston was a hard shot to Ben Tate's rib area, which left him with only 50 yards on 11 carries.
Things look pretty bleak heading into the bye week, but with Foster's immediate future hazy, there's no reason to lose faith in Tate. It's likely that Tate will bounce back after a week off. Even though head coach Gary Kubiak has been sharing the ball between the two backs all season, Tate has shown he is just as lethal as Foster.
Unfortunately, the Texans will miss Foster's vision if he misses some playing time, and Tate certainly is nowhere near as fast. However, Tate does offer a serious receiving threat on those short underneath routes and is perhaps a more powerful blocker in the backfield to give Keenum some time.
Offensive Line Woes
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As good as Case Keenum looked on Sunday, there's no overlooking the fact that the offense managed minus-1 yard in offense for the fourth quarter. Much of the blame for that was on the offensive line.
Neither Keenum nor Matt Schaub could be faulted for blaming their offensive line this season. The Texans had already allowed 44 hits on their quarterback before facing Kansas City and Keenum was roughed up by the Chiefs for much of the game.
Whether it's injuries or inexperience, Houston's offensive line has been largely responsible for a part of the stagnant running game and continues to be pummeled by opposing defenses' pass rush. It was a hard shot on Schaub that caused his injury last week, and with injuries to two running backs this time around, Texans' opponents have shown that they aren't having much problem pushing through blocks and being physical.
What Can We Expect from the Defense Without Brian Cushing?
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Not having Brian Cushing at linebacker for the Texans is a scary thought going into the bye week, mainly because the defense of the Texans is now a total guessing game.
When Cushing was told last season that he would miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, the same feeling was felt, as the Texans went on to struggle right through another disappointing playoff loss. This time around, though, there's no stellar offense to fall back on, and even the thought of playoff football for Houston is a long shot at best.
Even though it's been a pretty quiet season for Cushing, losing him to such a major injury is still going to be tough for the Texans, no matter how good their defense is playing. The biggest loss felt will be Cushing's containment of quarterbacks and his partnership with J.J. Watt that had kept quarterbacks like Russell Wilson in check a few weeks ago.
The injury does open the door for other guys to fill in, but the decline in the Texans already-low sack totals is right around the corner. If Wade Phillips can still maintain one of the top rush defenses in the league, that could be one of the biggest positives to take away from a lost season.
The Bye Week Couldn't Have Come at a Better Time
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The Houston Texans' bye week will find Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Owen Daniels, Brian Cushing and Tim Dobbins resting their injuries, along with a bunch of other players who are beaten up from a terrible start to the season.
The season might already be lost, but it's a chance for the Texans to regroup and figure out how this season can be best used for the future. Whether or not that decision involves Schaub could be doubtful, and the replacement of Cushing will also set up the defense for better or worse.
When the Texans had the bye week last season, they were 6-1. How times have changed.