There were plenty of people standing on the Houston Texans sideline that felt they had something to prove against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Just about all of them succeeded, too.
Deshaun Watson threw for 280 yards and a touchdown while running for two more, outdueling Chiefs counterpart Patrick Mahomes, who was famously picked two spots ahead of him in the 2017 draft.
Carlos Hyde ran for 116 yards and a touchdown against the team that traded him to Houston in the preseason, when the Chiefs decided there was no room for him in their own backfield.
Most importantly, Bill O’Brien proved he could beat a team pegged a Super Bowl contender, leading the Texans to a come-from-behind 31-24 victory after losing three of his last four to Kansas City.
“They care about the team. They seem to have fun with each other. We’ve just got to keep it going,” said O’Brien, whose losses to the Chiefs include a postseason defeat. “We just had a really good win against a good team, but we’re 4-2 and 4-2 gets you nowhere.”
Better than being 3-3, though.
That was still a possibility until DeAndre Hopkins made a sliding grab on fourth-and-3 from the Kansas City 27 with just under 2 minutes to go. That allowed the Texans to run out the clock and deal the Chiefs (4-2) their second consecutive loss — both at Arrowhead Stadium.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to deal with all the adversity and the up and down and flow of the game and to be able to fight for 60 minutes,” Watson said. “That’s what we did. We kept fighting and kept pushing and kept encouraging. This locker room, everyone is always fighting to the end regardless of the score. We don’t look at the scoreboard. We’re going to play 60 minutes every game.”
Mahomes, hobbled once again by a sore left ankle, finished with 273 yards passing and three TDs while throwing his first interception of the season. Two of the scores went to Tyreek Hill, who returned for the first time since breaking his collarbone in a Week 1 win in Jacksonville.
“We just have to flip a few things,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “The margin of winning and losing in this league is minute. We were this close to coming out of this thing with a win.”
It wasn’t a pretty game for either side. They combined for 21 penalties totaling nearly 150 yards, and that didn’t include close to a dozen flags that were offsetting, overruled or declined.
It was Kansas City that started hot, engineering drives of at least 90 yards twice in the first quarter. Hill finished the first with a 46-yard reception — the first touchdown throw in a first quarter by Mahomes since Week 1 — while Damien Williams finished the second with a 14-yard TD catch.
In between, Hyde coughed up the ball on Houston’s first offensive play.
But the big running back soon atoned for his mistake. Hyde battered the Chiefs’ porous run defense the rest of the game, punctuating a big first half against his ex-team with a short touchdown run.
“It was big for him to come in here and do what he did,” Watson said.
The Texans then took the lead into the locker room after Mahomes was strip-sacked with 20 seconds left and Houston recovered, and Watson waltzed into the end zone on the very next play.
It wasn’t the last time he reached pay dirt.
Mahomes hit Hill again in the third quarter to give the Chiefs the lead back , but the Houston quarterback answered with a 12-play, 93-yard drive consuming more than 8 1/2 minutes. By the time he spun into the end zone and converted the 2-point try, the Texans had a 31-24 lead with 6:17 to go.
Kansas City went three-and-out on its next possession, and a defense that has been maligned for most of Reid’s tenure with the Chiefs failed to make a stop once again.
“We haven’t played a perfect game on defense,” Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark said, “and we’re not going to play a perfect game, but we need to play a bit better. We need to eliminate the rush. When you eliminate the rush, you can have more fun.”
The first pick Mahomes had thrown this season was nearly wiped out when an official threw a flag for pass interference. But after referee Shawn Hochuli announced the penalty, the officials huddled and decided to pick up the flag in a bizarre series of events.
“It was man coverage and I saw (Travis) Kelce getting ready to do his move, so I threw it to where he was going to be and he got tackled,” Mahomes said. “With how the ruling worked, they said since the ball was uncatchable it wasn’t pass interference or something.”
Texans: CB Johnathan Joseph (hamstring) was inactive after showing up on the injury report Friday. Also inactive were WR Kenny Stills (hamstring) and RB Taiwan Jones (hip). … RT Tytus Howard (knee), CB Bradley Roby (hamstring) and LB Zach Cunningham (knee) left during the game.
Chiefs: Inactive starters included WR Sammy Watkins (hamstring), LT Eric Fisher (groin), LG Andrew Wylie (ankle), DT Chris Jones (groin) and LB Anthony Hitchens (groin). … CB Kendall Fuller was due to get X-rays on his right hand after leaving the game. He had surgery on the same hand last season.
Texans visit the Colts next Sunday.
Chiefs visit the Broncos on Thursday night.