By Sam McPherson
The Kansas City Chiefs officially off the hook when it comes to NFL postseason losing streaks. They went on the road and dominated the Houston Texans Saturday afternoon, taking the opening kickoff back for a touchdown and never taking their foot off the gas pedal for the rest of the game. The Chiefs’ 30-0 victory means that Kansas City advances to the AFC Divisional playoffs for the first time since 2003.
It was the organization’s first playoff win since January 1993 when Joe Montana quarterbacked the team to the AFC Championship Game. This time, another San Francisco 49ers castoff QB, Alex Smith,was the offensive architect, completing 17 of his 22 passes on the day. Meanwhile, the defense smothered Houston QB Brian Hoyer, forcing him into five turnovers.
Smith was sloppy early, throwing his first career postseason interception, but he recovered very well. For the game, Smith posted a 98.7 QB rating, throwing a touchdown in the second half and completing passes for 190 yards. Tight end Travis Kelce was the dominant offensive player of the day, catching eight passes for 128 yards, and Smith completed passes to seven different receivers overall. Settling for three field goals was a frustrating, but that’s how Head Coach Andy Reid rolls.
The running game was steady and systematic, pounding out yard after yard against a Houston defense just got more and more tired as the Kansas City offense held the ball for 34:25 of game time. Running back Spencer Ware led the team with 67 yards in 16 carries, but even Smith got into the running act. His 27 yards on five carries kept the Texans off balance and had a 65-yard run called back on a holding penalty too.
What can you say about a defense that throws a playoff shutout on the road? The defense harassed Hoyer into five turnovers, including two in each of the first two quarters. The Chiefs didn’t let up in the second half either, getting the fifth turnover with a 27-0 lead. Overall, the Texans had only 226 yards of offense and star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins managed only 69 yards on six receptions. Hopkins became the first NFL WR in history to have 100-yard receiving games with four different QBs this year, but Kansas City never let him loose. Other than one 49-yard run by a Houston back, the Chiefs were perfect on defense.
Special Teams: A
Knile Davis returned the opening kickoff 106 yards for a touchdown, perhaps the game was over right then. It was a punch to the gut of the Texans and their home crowd and the Chiefs rode that momentum to the big win, the third-largest shutout road win in NFL playoff history. Also, placekicker Cairo Santos set a franchise postseason record with a 49-yard field goal, breaking the record of legend Jan Stenerud set in Super Bowl IV by one yard. Overall, Santos hit all three of his FG attempts.
The fact the offense settled for three field goals in a blowout game is the only blemish on Reid’s effort in this game. He is one of the most conservative NFL coaches today and it has cost Reid in the past. However, he clearly felt solid with his defense today and trusted them enough against Hoyer and the Texans. It’s easy to do that when the defense forces a turnover on four of the first six opponent possessions. Reid had all the answers for the Houston game plan today, earning his first career shutout as an NFL head coach, surprisingly.
Next Up: Another Road Game
If Pittsburgh beats Cincinnati on Saturday night, the Chiefs head to New England. If the Bengals win, then Kansas City goes to Denver. Either game has appeal to the red-hot Chiefs right now. With 11 straight victories and the playoff monkey off the franchise’s back, the sky is the limit for Reid and Kansas City right now. The Patriots are banged up, and the Chiefs know they can beat the Broncos. In fact, it’s not too hard to think that Kansas City could be the AFC favorite right now to reach the Super Bowl.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.