Texans vs. Chiefs: Full Roster Report Card for Kansas City
The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Houston Texans by a score of 17-16 Sunday. The Chiefs played perhaps their best game of the season on offense but didn't have the points to show for it thanks to two turnovers.
The defense continued to shine, holding yet another foe below its season scoring average and generating stops and turnovers at critical moments.
The Chiefs now push their winning streak out to seven games to start the season and will take on the Cleveland Browns in the third and final game of their homestand in Week 8.
Without further ado, here are the roster report card grades for Kansas City.
After a couple of shaky outings, Alex Smith seems to have regained his smart, efficient aura. Smith did turn the ball over once on an interception but was largely an effective, patient and more importantly accurate thrower.
Smith had been struggling in recent weeks with throwing the football high to his receivers. His ball placement against the Texans, however, was excellent. Smith led two lengthy, sustained clock-draining drives, and an offense that had been the Chiefs' Achilles' heel suddenly looked more than merely competent.
If the Chiefs and Smith can continue to roll out performances like this, they'll be tough for anyone to stop.
Jamaal Charles continues to be the cog that makes the Chiefs go. He chipped in another 123-yard cumulative performance, 86 of that on the ground. He also had a rushing touchdown.
Charles' workload has been heavy this season, and as a result, the Chiefs are trying to get other running backs involved to save on wear and tear. Knile Davis, Cyrus Gray and Dexter McCluster chipped in five carries total but came away with only 12 yards between them.
A troubling sign for Charles was his fumble. This marks the third straight week Charles has fumbled the football, not a good sign hitting the midseason stretch. If Charles can shore up the fumbling and the Chiefs can get more production out of their other running backs, it'd go a long way toward a stretch run.
It appears Kansas City suddenly noticed Dwayne Bowe is on the roster. The Chiefs targeted Bowe early and often to mixed results. He finished the game with five receptions on nine targets for 66 yards, but two balls he missed on were quite catchable, and both came at inopportune times for Kansas City.
Dexter McCluster has stepped his game up the last few weeks, cementing himself as the Chiefs' No. 3 receiver and generally producing in a utility/all-purpose role. McCluster finished with four receptions on five targets and led Kansas City with 70 receiving yards.
Donnie Avery had a respectable three catches on four targets for 33 yards, and A.J. Jenkins got on the field quite a bit for the Chiefs but wasn't targeted.
Grade: A- There were a few missed opportunities, but all in all the receiving corps' strongest outing this season.
Week 7 saw the return of Anthony Fasano to the Chiefs lineup. The addition of Fasano allowed the Chiefs to open the playbook a bit and get him and Sean McGrath on the field at the same time.
Fasano finished the game with four receptions on five targets for 27 yards and was vital in protection in both the run and pass games.
Sean McGrath, the breakout fan favorite, finished with one reception for one yard on two targets. His other target was an attempted fourth-down conversion in the end zone, but McGrath was out of bounds and unable to haul in the potential touchdown pass.
Grade: A- Having Fasano back allowed the Chiefs to be more multiple in their looks on offense.
The offensive line has been perhaps the weakest link in Kansas City's offense early this season. Against the Texans, though, it may have started its road to redemption.
The line did a much better job of opening holes in the run game and surrendered only two sacks of quarterback Alex Smith despite having feared pass-rusher J.J. Watt to contend with.
Right tackle Eric Fisher looked much quicker off the ball especially. Fisher has been a liability in pass protection all season but had arguably his strongest game as a pro. Fisher didn't need McGrath or Fasano helping him to double-team in obvious passing situations, which should be a very encouraging sign for the Chiefs going forward.
Mike DeVito may be the most unheralded player in the NFL, relative to what he brings to the table. DeVito was constantly double-teamed by the Houston Texans in their zone-run game but did a fantastic job eating up blockers and not letting them get to the second level. He also grabbed four tackles of his own.
Nose tackle Dontari Poe continues to be a force in the middle, finishing with three tackles, an assist and a pass deflection.
So much of what DeVito, Poe and fellow defensive end Tyson Jackson do doesn't show up in the box score, but their impact is what allows this Chief defense to thrive. Eating up blocks and allowing the Chiefs to create exterior pressure from the linebackers, this team wouldn't be where it is without the superior play from the defensive line.
The Texans finished the game with a mere 63 yards on the ground from their running backs.
It seems I'm back here every week talking about how great the Chiefs linebacker corps is doing, and it's entirely deserved.
While Justin Houston's sack pace may have slowed, his early-season impact is allowing Tamba Hali and even inside linebacker Derrick Johnson to feast on opposing quarterbacks. Opposing offensive lines are forced to pick their poison in defending against the Chiefs, though thus far it just seems as though teams are deciding which side they wanted to be sacked from.
The linebackers picked up another four sacks and a forced fumble of Texans quarterback Case Keenum in the waning seconds of the game to seal the win for Kansas City.
In looking back over the tape, it didn't look as though the Chiefs were prepared for debuting Texans quarterback Case Keenum to be as good as he was. The Texans built pass concepts off of play action and used quick three-step drops to get Keenum in a rhythm early.
The Chiefs were playing off man in the secondary, looking like they were more scared to get beat than make the play.
Rookie Marcus Cooper again showed up big, playing well in man coverage and knocking a sure touchdown out of the hands of a Texans receiver, forcing a field goal. Brandon Flowers picked up a sack, and Eric Berry had a couple of timely pass deflections.
Sean Smith made a pair of poor gambles in the game that resulted in big gains for Houston. Smith was known as a "gambler" in Miami, and his judgment lapses ultimately led to the Dolphins parting ways with him. Smith needs to lie within the confines of the Chiefs' defensive philosophy and not try to make plays on the ball that aren't there.
Kansas City's special teams units continued their invaluable play, as kicker Ryan Succop went 3-of-3 on extra-point and field-goal tries. Punter Dustin Colquitt dropped two of his four punts on the day inside the 20-yard line as well.
The Chiefs also received a boost in the return game, as both Dexter McCluster and Quintin Demps had large returns, helping Kansas City to shape the field-position game.
Outside of the defensive front seven, the Chiefs' special teams units may be the strongest area of the team.