HOUSTON -- Entering the Houston Texans’ 2020 opener, quarterback Deshaun Watson said facing the Kansas City Chiefs immediately gave his team an “opportunity” to “compete with a great team,” one that ended the Texans' 2019 campaign in last season’s playoffs.
Instead, for the second straight meeting, the Texans were shown that they are not on the level of the defending Super Bowl champions, losing 34-20 to the Chiefs on Thursday night. Up next, they face another team with title aspirations: the Baltimore Ravens, who are coming off a 14-win season behind reigning MVP Lamar Jackson.
Houston lost by 14 points in Kansas City, but the Texans scored just one touchdown through three quarters. Their last two scores came with less than eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, when they were already trailing 31-7.
After the game, Watson, who finished the game 20-for-32 for 253 yards with a passing touchdown and rushing touchdown, didn’t seem concerned about the Texans’ offensive inefficiency, which was on display during a national broadcast in their first game since trading three-time All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
“I was sharp,” Watson said. “I took what the defense gave me. They took away a lot of deep shots and I tried to give my guys some opportunities to make plays, and sometimes we capitalized and sometimes we didn't and we just have to continue to grow from there. I did what I needed to do to stay as close as possible and keep this team in reach to try and win the game.”
The Texans were counting on their new-look offense, which boasts speed and experience at wide receiver, to blend well with the skill set of their franchise quarterback. Instead, Watson mostly relied on Will Fuller, his most familiar target, who had eight catches on 10 targets for 112 yards. New acquisitions Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb combined for four catches on eight targets for 52 yards. Kenny Stills didn’t catch either of his two targets.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Watson had a 69.2% completion percentage when targeting open receivers (at least three yards of separation), which is his second-lowest completion percentage in a game in his career. Last season, with Hopkins, Watson had an 86.7% completion percentage when targeting open receivers.
Part of the reason for that was the Chiefs’ impressive pass rush. Watson was pressured on 13 of his 40 dropbacks on Thursday, and completed only one pass with an interception and four sacks taken, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.
The Texans posted their worst pass-block win rate in a game since the start of the 2018 season, sustaining their blocks for 2.5 seconds just 38% of the time, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Each Texans offensive lineman allowed at least two pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. Second-year right tackle Tytus Howard had a 75% pass-block win rate, the second-worst mark of his young NFL career, and allowed two sacks, the first time in his career he has been responsible for multiple sacks in a game. Coach Bill O’Brien said the Texans had trouble with Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark and “some of their games up front.” Defensive tackle Chris Jones had a 21.2% pass-rush win rate and six pressures.
Watson said Houston needs to “get guys healthy and get guys back into that rhythm,” noting that this was the first live action he saw with some of his new offensive weapons. Cooks' status was a game-time decision due to a quad injury and he missed practice time over the past week.
One bright spot for Houston was running back David Johnson. Acquired in the Hopkins trade in March, he showed promise that the Texans' backfield should be improved. Johnson finished with 77 rushing yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and three catches for 32 yards.
“There’s a lot to build on, but it’s obviously not where you want to be,” O’Brien said. “There’s definitely things to build on, and we gotta improve very quickly this week.”
The Texans hope they can improve on this performance -- and quickly -- before they host the Ravens team that beat them 41-7 in Week 11 last season.
“There’s a lot of things to fix,” O’Brien said. “It’s one game, and we have to improve very quickly. But it is just one game. And so we have to get back here. ... We’ve got to get back to work very soon and fix these things.”