Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes will likely meet in more playoff games. But only Mahomes is an NFL champion now.
Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson shared a moment after the Chiefs rolled back to a 51-31 playoff win.
Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien is used to taking grief.
Justin Reid is a young defensive force for Bill O'Brien's Houston Texans.
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is playing like a star.
Patrick Mahomes has been good in any type of weather for the Chiefs.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After it’s over, after the most star-crossed franchise in Houston sports turns a 24-0 lead into a 51-31 loss, Deshaun Watson is giving an impassioned defense of his coach. And DeAndre Hopkins is trying to breathe without feeling too much pain.
In these two scenes, you can see the heart still in the Houston Texans — even after they had their guts ripped out by Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Many will turn this meltdown (sorry, 24-0 in the first quarter is not close to equal to blowing a 35-3 third quarter advantage no matter how old you are) into a push for coach Bill O’Brien’s head.
O’Brien is not getting fired by the McNair family. More importantly, he shouldn’t be. The fury around O’Brien largely centers around a fake punt decision that’s actually a smart, aggressive call. It also misses the larger truth.
These Texans were not ready to win this game. Not with a defense capable of giving up 51 points in a championshiop caliber moment. Take away the two shorter field touchdowns (the failed fake punt which gave KC the ball at the 33-yard line and DeAndre Carer’s kickoff return fumble which set Mahomes up at the 6 and Romeo Crennel’s defense still surrenders 37 points.
Watson is good, throwing for 388 yards, two touchdowns and rushing for another touchdown. Yet, the Texans are still blown off the field in the second half. This quarterback will be back in more of these moments. Next time, hopefully he’ll have a better defense — and surer return man — with him.
“You might be disappointed, but I’m not,” Watson says. “As long as I’m part of this organization, we’re going to be in games like this.”
Watson clearly wants O’Brien to be in the next big game with him, too.
“No doubt,” Watson shoots back when asked if O’Brien is the right coach for the Texans. “You might have doubt, but I don’t. I love that man — and I’ll always play hard for that man. Y’all can say what you want to say in the media, but as long as I’m at quarterback, he’s cool with me. He’s got my heart and he’s going to get my 110 percent every time I step on that field.
“So y’all can say whatever, but (I’ll) always be rooting for that man and am going to play hard for him.”
Crammed into a visitors locker room at Arrowhead Stadium that seems more built to the dimensions of a 1960s high school football team rather than realities of the modern NFL, dealing with their disappointment, shock and ahh, these Texans do not turn on each other. Or their coaches.
Instead, Hopkins patiently answers questions at his locker — right through his considerable pain. Hopkins suffered a significant rib injury in the first half, but he still comes back out to play the entire second half, finishing with nine catches for 118 yards. And few perfectly functioning ribs.
“He is a tough guy,” O’Brien says.
One of the wildest playoff games in NFL history — one in which the road team goes up by 24 points, somehow gets down by four at halftime and loses by 20 — ends with the Texans stunned but not completely broken.
This didn’t feel like a choke as much as an avalanche. There are some unlikely plays involved in the Texans building that 24-0 lead, with both a blocked punt touchdown and a muffed punt included. Once the Chiefs right themselves, Patrick Mahomes turns into the ultimate maestro, throwing for five touchdowns as the Kansas City offense makes scoring look as easy as playing Madden on rookie mode.
“I don’t think you dream about people putting up 50 points,” Texans nose tackle D.J. Reader says. “But, it happened.”
By the fourth quarter, Chiefs are grabbing beers from fans and tossing them over themselves after scoring touchdowns (never say Blake Bell didn’t have a moment with his touchdown inspiring left tackle Eric Fisher to smash two cans of beer with his head). It’s a crazy scene, fitting of a game that will remembered for decades to come.
“Being down 24-0 in the NFL, you don’t win a lot of those games,” Mahomes says afterwards.
Mahomes suffered his own playoff heartbreaker to Tom Brady in the AFC Championship Game last season. As he moved onto to another one, Watson made sure to give him some love.
“I told him to go take it all,” Watson says.
The Chiefs have to be considered the Super Bowl favorites now — and not just because they get the Titans at home in the AFC Championship Game, a fate that the Texans could have grabbed too. Houston now has not had a team in a conference championship game since 1979, the longest such streak in the NFL.
But to call this a completely lost season for the Texans would be a mistake as well.
Watson won his first playoff game, coming back from a 16-0 deficit. Houston retooled on the fly in many ways with O’Brien adding contributors in Kenny Stills, Carlos Hyde and Laremy Tunsil.
“I think they have a good team going over there,” Tyrann Mathieu who moves on game from the Super Bowl with the Chiefs after playing for the Texans last season. “They have a young team. I thought they played well.”
With Watson, Houston should be back in many more of these games. That does not make the blown lead, the priceless opportunity kicked away, any easier to take.
“We should’ve won,” Texans cornerback Bradley Roby says. “We didn’t. It’s sucks because I played here many times. I don’t know any team that’s been up on (the Chiefs) 24-0.”
The Texans have to live with that. They’ll do it with Bill O’Brien coaching his seventh season on Kirby Drive. They’ll do it with Watson having learned more. They’ll do it with the toughest receiver in the NFL.
Change just for change’s sake makes about as much sense as blowing a 24-0 lead.