KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Don’t be surprised if Sunday’s game in Houston means just a bit more for than Texans than it does the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs swept the Texans a year ago, and bloodied Houston badly in a 30-0 romp in the wildcard playoff round. That loss played a part in the Texans rebuilding their offense with the additions of quarterback Brock Osweiler and running back Lamar Miller.
Texans coach Bill O’Brien said he felt the team needed something new to blend with their core group of veterans.
“This is a different year, we’re a different team, we have a lot of different players especially on offense.” O’Brien said. “I just think that we added a few positions, running back, quarterback, receiver, offensive line, but there’s a lot of guys that have been here with us for three years.”
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith expects a boisterous crowd in Houston.
“Especially with our recent history like this,” Smith said, “whether it be from a playoff game or just how much we’ve played them in the last couple years. It’s good though. It’s what we want and it’s what football is about.”
For the rematch with the Texans, here’s five quick things to know about Sunday’s game.
1. Offensive line injuries
The Chiefs offensive line protecting Smith will miss two starters. Chiefs coach Andy Reid ruled starting guards Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (ankle) and Parker Ehinger (concussion) out for Sunday’s game.
Zach Fulton, the Swiss Army knife of the Chiefs offensive line, fills one breach while veteran Jah Reid steps in the other. Both have experience and Reid feels comfortable with his first seven offensive linemen.
“I feel pretty comfortable about seven or eight guys that I feel could go in there and play,” Reid said during the preseason. “Definitely seven that I feel are starting caliber that I have full confidence could go in there, start and play for us.”
The problem arises if another injury hits the group. Swing tackle Bryan Witzmann remains the lone lineman on the bench, barring a roster move to promote an offensive lineman from the practice squad. Witzmann has no experience playing guard.
The Chiefs have Jarrod Pughsley and Jordan Devey on the practice squad if they feel the need to promote an extra lineman before the game.
2. Houston Texans banged up too
The Texans suffered a devastating loss last weekend when Brian Cushing left the game against Chicago with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
O’Brien called Cushing, “the heart and soul of our football team.”
Starting left tackle Duane Brown also remains out for the Texans. He continues recovering from quadriceps surgery in January.
The Texans’ biggest defensive threat, defensive end J.J.Watt, continues nursing a back injury. The team listed Watt limited in practice Thursday, but he played 88 percent of his team’s snaps against the Bears Sunday.
Yet Houston’s defense remains a threat even with the injuries. The Texans picked up five sacks along with 13 quarterback hurries and an interception against Chicago.
3. New look Texans offense
In addition to Osweiler and Miller, the Texans also added first-round draft pick Will Fuller at wide receiver and free agent guard Jeff Allen from the Chiefs.
Fuller made five catches for 107 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut last Sunday. Fellow rookie wide receiver Braxton Miller from Ohio State also caught a pass in his debut.
Osweiler may be new to the Texans, but he’s not new to the Chiefs. He studied the team closely while with Denver, and played a half against Kansas City last year.
“I’ve watched a lot of games from the sideline, but to get that half of play against those guys,” Osweiler said. “it’ll certainly help me just understanding who some of those defensive backs are, what their skill set is, what they’re good at, you know, maybe an area that I might be able to attack somebody in.”
O’Brien said he appreciates the intelligence Allen carries with him.
“He’s a guy that really understands football and our system,” O’Brien said. “He plays a little bit of a mean streak and that’s a good thing for an offensive lineman.”
4. Chiefs pass defense
The Chiefs young secondary and patchwork pass rush struggled in its first test against Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers. The defense surrendered 243 yards passing and 27 points with just one sack, three quarterback hurries and no turnovers.
The bright side for the Chiefs pass defense lies in the second half performance. Rivers went just 9-of-16 passing for just 92 yards in the second half. But that also came after the Chargers lost injured wide receiver Keenan Allen, who lit up the Chiefs defense with six catches for 63 yards in the first half.
The Texans have passing threats in Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins. The duo accounted for 161 of the teams 215 yards passing in the season opener.
It will be up to the Chiefs young corners Marcus Peters, Phillip Gaines and Steven Nelson to shut down Fuller and Hopkins.
5. Keeping streaks alive
The Chiefs have a franchise-record 11-game winning streak in the regular season, dating back to their 21-13 win against Pittsburgh Oct. 25, 2015.
The Chiefs twice posted nine-game winning streaks, once in 2003 and again in 2013.
That nine-game winning streak in 2003 started the Andy Reid era in Kansas City. In between that streak and the current 11-0 run, the Chiefs were 12-17 under Reid.
The team also has a three-game winning streak against the Texans, including a sweep last year in the season opener and the wildcard playoff round.