Chiefs vs. Texans: Deshaun Watson’s MVP hopes and 8 other stories to follow

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 29: Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans throws a pass during a game against the Carolina Panthers at NRG Stadium on September 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 29: Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans throws a pass during a game against the Carolina Panthers at NRG Stadium on September 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /
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KANSAS CITY, MO – OCTOBER 06: Frank Clark #55 of the Kansas City Chiefs reaches for Marlon Mack #25 of the Indianapolis Colts in the fourth quarter at Arrowhead Stadium on October 6, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images) /

The Chiefs should get pressure

This offseason, the Chiefs revamped their entire defense. From the end of last season to the beginning of this season, we switched from a 4-3 base to a 3-4 based and introduced seven new starters to the rotation.

Few areas on the defense experienced more talent infusion than the defensive line, with half of the line being brought in during free agency to the tune of some very large contracts. Yet, it all seemed smart.

Adding Frank Clark and Alex Okafor gave the Chiefs an incredibly solid starting defensive line on paper. Last season, this group collectively generated 32.5 sacks and 65 quarterback hits. Most teams would be very happy with those numbers.

It turns out, so would Chiefs coaches and their fans because this line isn’t living up to anything close to those numbers. Through five games the starting line has only produced five sacks and 11 quarterback hits.

If those numbers don’t seem paltry enough, if you extrapolate them out for a 16 game season you’re looking at this group only generating 16 sacks and 35 quarterback hits. That is essentially half what this unit produced last season, and they just lost their best player for at least a few weeks in Chris Jones.

Luckily, there are two reasons to be confident about this unit on Sunday as well as going forward. The first is that the Texans have struggled mightily to protect Deshaun Watson. During the 2018 season, the Texans allowed a jaw dropping 62 sacks which was the most of any team in the league.

They were also number one in hits to their quarterback at 126. At one point, Watson was so banged up he couldn’t even fly with the team but instead had to take a bus hundreds of miles to their game in Jacksonville. It was a major problem for them and you could argue fixing it was their top priority going into the offseason.

Unfortunately, even adding Laremy Tunsil via trade with the Dolphins, it’s tough to say they actually figured it out. As I stated earlier in the article, through five games Watson has been sacked the fifth most and hit the eight most of any quarterback.

The second reason, as Frank Clark has put it, is that sacks come in bunches. If there was ever a game for this statement to ring true it would be Sunday against the Texans and their relatively weak offensive line. Tyrann Mathieu expressed the sentiment that at a certain point, regardless of scheme playing defense is a matter of pride. I expect him to get his teammates mentally prepared to bounce back and attack on Sunday.

A closer look at penalties

A lot has been made about this particular topic, and rightfully so. It seems year in and year out the Chiefs have a significantly hard time with penalties. It’s actually interesting, but the first four years of Andy Reid’s tenure with the Chiefs this wasn’t a problem at all. In fact, the Chiefs averaged the 20th most penalties per year from 2013-2016.

It wasn’t until 2017, when the Chiefs finished with the sixth most that this problem began to rear it’s ugly head. Then, which is honestly shocking given how good of a coach Reid has been throughout his entire career, the Chiefs finished with the most penalties of any team in the league in 2018. All in all, they averaged nine penalties per game for 72 yards.

Sadly, it’s oddly poetic that what ultimately kept them from a Super Bowl was a penalty. My stomach hurts just typing that sentence, but it’s the truth. Fortunately, before Sunday’s game against the Colts in which the Chiefs had 11 penalties for 125 yards they were actually improving in this category. At that point, they were the eighth best team at avoiding penalties with only 6.5 per game.

Sunday’s game dropped them quite a few spots to 17, and coincidentally they’re now tied with their opponent Sunday. Through five games both the Chiefs and Texans have 37 penalties, the Chiefs for 376 yards and the Texans for 351 yards.

The difference is somewhat minimal, but the Texans seem to be consistently at their average where the Chiefs main outlier is last Sunday’s game against the Colts. If the Chiefs can clean up the penalties this should give them another edge against the Texans on Sunday.