In the history of the Texans, a 2-0 start hasn't been a guarantee of anything. In 2010 and 2013, they started 2-0, and went on to 6-10 and 2-14 records. In 2011 and 2012, the Texans started 2-0, and went on to the two greatest seasons in franchise history. But 2-0 can certainly have a different feel depending on how they get there.
Two weeks into the season, this iteration of Texans football feels like it's on very solid ground, behind a stout, elite level defense, and an offense that gets just enough big plays and burns just enough clock to stay off the "liability" list. On Sunday, both sides of the ball made enough plays to help exorcise the Kansas City Chief demons that tormented Texan fans last season.
Here are five of the most underrated plays from Sunday afternoon's 19-12 Texans win...
1st quarter, 9:01 to go
KANSAS CITY 1st and 10, KC 40 yard line
PLAY: Jadeveon Clowney bats down screen pass
Early in the game, the first Texans drive had ended in disaster, with Brock Osweiler throwing an interception to CB Marcus Peters in the end zone that was returned back out to the Chiefs' 18 yard line. Alex Smith promptly completed his first three passes, two to Texans nemesis TE Travis Kelce, for two first downs. The Chiefs were on the move, and this was feeling a lot like the two games from last season between these two teams. Then, on first down from the 40 yard line, Clowney lined up at left defensive end. Inside linebacker Max Bullough, just before the snap, tapped Clowney on the hip to slide him inside one gap. On the snap, Clowney shot that gap between twoKC offensive linemen and knocked down a well set up screen pass with a big left paw. That play led to a third down where an errant snap was recovered by J.J. Watt, and one play later, the Texans were up 7-0 on a DeAndre Hopkins' touchdown catch. Smith would end up throwing five straight incompletions, setting the tone for what would be a wildly inaccurate afternoon for the Chiefs' signal caller. And it all started with the Clowney batted down pass.
1st quarter, 6:26 to go
KANSAS CITY 3rd and 2, KC 37 yard line
PLAY: A.J. Bouye defends short pass intended for Travis Kelce
On the next Kansas City drive, Texans CB Kevin Johnson intercepted a Smith deep ball on 3rd and 7. However, an offsides call on linebacker Whitney Mercilus nullified the turnover, and gave the Chiefs 3rd and 2 at their own 37 yard line. Smith called for a quick hitter over the middle to Kelce (who went for about eight billion yards last season against the Texans) and Bouye made a great play on the ball to knock it down. This would be a harbinger of things to come, as Bouye did a fantastic job every time he was locked up in single coverage on Kelce. It also got the Houston defense off the field on third down and short, an early confidence booster that fed the Texans' defense as the half went on.
2nd quarter, 7:09 to go
HOUSTON 4th and 1, KC 46 yard line
PLAY: Angle route completion to Lamar Miller
This was the third of three straight first downs attained by the Texans through the air on this drive, and this one was on fourth down. In a way, this play is a bit of a glimpse into a problem area for the Texans — their inability to line up in short yardage situations and run the football, putting a hat on a hat. It bit them on the first drive of the game inside the Chiefs' five yard line, when their NEED to throw resulted in an interception. Here, on fourth and one, their need to throw the football worked out fine, as Miller ran an angle route into a soft spot in the defense to get the first down. The Texans would end up moving the ball down to the Kansas City 14 yard line, in position to tack on a field goal to go up 10-3.
LAMAR MILLER SIDE BAR: Here is where I'd also like to pay tribute to Lamar Miller, who has made a huge impact for a guy whose long runs the first two games have been 12 yards in Week One and 8 yards in Week Two. Miller, who was acquired in large part for his home run hitting ability, has been able to shoulder the load in grinding out tough yards in the fourth quarter to keep the clock moving. On Sunday, in two fourth quarter drives, Miller carried seven times for 27 yards and five times for 18 yards on drives that burned off 5:22 and 4:38 (EXACTLY ten minutes!) and each added field goals to the team's point total. Kudos to Lamar Miller for revealing a club in his bag that we didn't know he had.
During that final drive, there were two huge plays, in particular, that allowed the Texans to reestablish a ten-point lead late in the game. They were...
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4th quarter, 4:09 to go
HOUSTON 3rd and 6, KC 48 yard line
PLAY: 13 yard catch and run by Jonathan Grimes
This was a huge play to keep the drive going. After the game, Osweiler revealed the Texans saw a weakness in film in the coverage on this play, and Osweiler audibled into this route, a quick pass out to the left flat that saw Hopkins lay a great block on Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson to spring Grimes. The only complaint about this play was with Grimes running out of bounds, as staying in bounds would've kept the clock running, and forced KC to burn a timeout.
The other play was...
4th quarter, 3:46 to go
HOUSTON 3rd and 17, KC 42 yard line
PLAY: 16 yard catch by DeAndre Hopkins
...after a potentially disastrous hands-to-the-face penalty on G Xavier Su'a-Filo moved the Texans outside field goal range, from 3rd and 2 to 3rd and 17, Hopkins went to work on Chiefs CB Philip Gaines. Osweiler hit the Texans Pro Bowl WR on a crossing route over the middle and a stretch by Hopkins nearly picked up the first down. It was short of the marker, but did pick up enough yards to turn a possible punt into a 43 yard field goal attempt. The Texans needed every Hopkins yard, as a Chiefs defender tipped the field goal attempt enough to make the ball knuckle through the uprights, barely clearing the crossbar.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.