The Chiefs did not come out as ice-cold against Houston as they did last week versus San Diego, but they did turn in another uneven first half to start week two of the 2016 season. The Chiefs are fortunate to be down just 13-3 at the half.
Alex Smith finished the first half 8 of 16 for merely 53 yards, and threw five straight incompletions amid a 4-of-10 start passing for just 23 yards.
The Chiefs defense has contained Houston, especially on the ground. The Texans have just 34 rushing yards in the first half. Quarterback Brock Osweiler did connect on a deep pass to Will Fuller and a 27-yard touchdown to DeAndre Hopkins, but the Chiefs defense otherwise held its ground.
Three thoughts on what the Chiefs need to do in the second half.
The Chiefs committed two costly turnovers that directly lead to 10 points for the Texans. Back-to-back penalties also crippled a second-quarter drive that could have led to points.
Cornerback Marcus Peters had a roller-coaster first half. He made a great goal-line interception that stopped one Houston drive, but was targeted both on the deep ball to Fuller and on the touchdown toss to Hopkins.
Peters also committed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that setup the Texans for a field goal. Another unsportsmanlike penalty will lead to an ejection for Peters.
The Chiefs committed three turnovers in the first half and have a minus-2 turnover differential. That is unsustainable.
Get rhythm in the passing game
Smith has not had much protection, and that can be attributed just as much to the Texans pass rush ability as to injuries for Chiefs on the offensive line. The Chiefs surrendered four sacks and five quarterback hurries to the aggressive Texans’ pass rush.
But Smith and the passing game have been off since a couple of early short completions. Smith misfired on several throws, Jeremy Maclin committed a rare drop and a bad snap by center Mitch Morse created a turnover.
The Chiefs timing in the passing game appears askew, and that could stem from the changes on the offensive line. Last week the Chiefs made critical halftime adjustments that dramatically turned around the passing game. They need to go to that well again this week.
Lean on Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West
Ware turned in a heroic performance last week, and the Chiefs need him to light it up again in the second half.
Ware picked up 48 rushing yards on just seven carries in the first half with no receptions. West added 33 yards on the ground on three carries, including a big 28-yard run near the end of the half. Getting Ware and West involved in the passing game and picking up yards on the ground could help jump start the offense.
The fumble by Ware late in the half proved doubly costly, killing a potential scoring drive and setting up a short field for the Texans.
Ware and West continue to split time, and while Ware has carried the bulk of the offensive load, getting the dynamic duo involved more in the offense is essential to loosening up the Texans defense and providing more opportunities for Smith.