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Five Keys to Victory: Chiefs vs. Texans Follow Up

Every week, we here at Arrowhead Addict break down the Kansas City Chiefs’ matchup of the week and predict five things the team will have to do in order to win. Once the game is over, we take a look at the Five Keys and see how well the team did. Welcome to Five Keys to Victory Follow Up.

It was a “gritty” – some would say ugly – win against the Houston Texans, but the Kansas City Chiefs – your Kansas City Chiefs – are now 7-0. They hold the best record in the NFL. The road to the Superbowl goes through the middle of the Truman Sports Complex in Kansas City Missouri. Chew on that for a minute.

Original comments are in normal type and my follow up comments are in bold.

Key #1: Stop J.J. Watt from Trying to Eat Alex Smith Like a Burrito

The reigning defensive player of the year is dangerous. He was something special as a rookie and then came back last season looking twice as dangerous. The Texans 2-4 record has nothing to do with the relentless, vicious and exceptional play of Watt. He can line up anywhere on the defensive front, and has earned the name “J.J. SWAT” for his ability to get his long arms up and knock down balls at the line of scrimmage. The offensive line will have its hands and feet and everything else full trying to contain the defensive powerhouse that is Watt.

For an offensive line that’s been pretty offensive, I thought the Chiefs front five performed quite well against Watt and the Texans defense. Watt ended the day with six tackles and one sack on Smith. Considering the guy is the reigning DPoY from last season, I call this a win.

Key #1: Achieved

Key #2: Control the Houston Running Game

The Texans have what I think most Chiefs fans wish the Chiefs had: two very good running backs. While I’m not taking anything away from Cyrus Gray or Knile Davis, neither of them can run with the Texans’ number two back, Ben Tate. Combined with Arian Foster out of the backfield, they give Houston a powerful ground game. The Chiefs defense has shown flashes of brilliance against the run, but with the Bob Sutton Attacking Scheme, sometimes they let a big play slip through their coverage. If they let Foster or Tate find the open field too much, they’ll make this defense pay.

Yes, I know Arian Foster went out of the game after only running for 11 yards. But as I said, Ben Tate is just as viable an option as Foster. Tate is a legitimate starter if he plays behind anyone besides Foster and the Chiefs defense still held him to only 50 yards. On the day, the Texans were only able to gain 73 yards on the ground. Considering the Chiefs have been giving up more than this to lesser rushing offenses, I call this a huge win.

Key #2: Achieved

Key #3: Exploit the Weakness – Destroy the Rookie QB

Building up to this game there was much speculation on who would be under center for the Texans. Incumbent starter, Matt Schaub, went down last week with an ankle injury, backup T.J. Yates stepped and in and quickly picked up where Schaub left off by throwing a pick six. With their starter out this week, the Texans turned to their “diamond in the rough” rookie QB, Case Keenum. He could be the most prolific passer to come out of college in the history of prolific passers, but until you actually have Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and Dontari Poe bearing down on you, you just don’t know how you’re going to react. The Chiefs need to rattle this kid early and keep the pressure up through the game.

In the first half, Keenum looked like he was channeling his “inner Tom Brady” and  throwing all over the field. His first NFL touchdown pass, a beautifully thrown ball to rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the back of the end zone made me cringe with how the game was going. Then, the second half came. Keenum was welcomed to the NFL properly with a sandwich sack by both Hali and Houston. He was terrorized by Flowers. And, of course was the victim of not one, but two Hali strip/sacks, the second sealing the victory for the Chiefs.

Key #3: Achieved

Key #4:  Exploit the Other Weakness – Run the Ball

While the Houston Texans boast the best defense in the NFL in regards to total yards allowed, they’re ranked 25th against the run. The Chiefs have one of the best running backs in the league. This should be an easy mismatch to exploit. Charles as well as his stable of backups need to get it done on the ground. This could be (and let’s hope) the week that Jamaal Charles breaks one of his 80 yard sprints to the end zone.

The Chiefs picked up 123 yards on the ground with Jamaal Charles gaining the lion’s share with 86 and a touchdown. Alex Smith burned the Texans defense with his legs as well, rushing for 28 yards and a touchdown himself. The Chiefs had no qualms about exploiting the Texans porous rushing defense, and took it straight to Houston.

Key #4: Achieved

Key #5:  Attack the Strengths – Pass the Ball?

While the Chiefs should have an easy time running the ball, passing the ball could prove to be more difficult. In addition to having the best defense with yards allowed, the Texans also boast the best passing defense. This is dangerous because passing the ball is where the Chiefs offense has struggled the most this season. I wouldn’t look for Smith to post huge numbers this week (do we ever?) but after wearing the defense down with the short passing game, this could be the week we see him go long.

I’ll get some arguments here, but the Chiefs excelled here as well. Prior to Sunday’s game, the Texans passing defense (the best in the league) was only allowing 129 yards per game through the air. Alex Smith and his stable of receivers (he completed passes to eight different receivers, including one to himself) nearly doubled the average yards per game. Smith threw for 240 yards, which greatly surpassed what the Texans were allowing to this point. While there were no scores through the air (still miffed about the botched call on the Anthony Fasano touchdown and Smith’s late decision to not throw on 4th and goal) the Chiefs were still able to put up decent numbers against a stingy defense.

Key #5: Achieved

While the game may have appeared “gritty” or “ugly” or whatever other negative adjective you want to use to describe it, the bottom line is, the team met every goal we set out for them and won the game. There are plenty of lessons to be learned here, and the team will continue to improve, but getting better when they’re currently the best team in the NFL is an encouraging thought indeed.

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