HOUSTON — Down 16 points at halftime — with three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt sidelined for the season by a tibial plateau fracture incurred on the Chiefs’ first drive — may have been the best case scenario for a Houston team trying to dethrone undefeated Kansas City.
Especially given Deshaun Watson’s first-half plummet to Earth during Sunday night’s 42-34 loss at NRG Stadium.
Houston (2-3, 1-1 in AFC South) entered the game on the heels of a 57-14 blowout of Tennessee on the road and Kansas City (5-0, 2-0 in AFC South) entered the game on a short week and a 29-20 near loss to Washington on Monday Night Football at Arrowhead Stadium.
Despite bottling electric starter Kareem Hunt to 25 yards on 14 carries with a Watt-less defense, Alex Smith shredded Houston for more first-half yards (204) than the Texans had in total yards (146).
Smith finished 18-for-24 with 207 yards and two scores in the first half. Fifth-year defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and the Chiefs held Watson to seven points and 60 yards on 4-for-12 passing in the first two quarters. Houston’s only touchdown of the first half came via a 6-yard pass to Deandre Hopkins with 1:49 left in the second quarter.
THE ALMOST COMEBACK
Two minutes into the third quarter, Kansas City had outpaced Houston in first downs 20 to 8. Watson’s 4th and 1, must-convert touchdown — a 9-yard drag route toward the Texans sideline — flipped the proverbial script.
Houston and its rifle-armed rookie drove the length of the field — 9 plays and 70 yards in total — erased Kairo Santos’ field goal a series earlier and drew the Texans within a pair of field goals with Watson’s 48-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown strike to Fuller.
A 10-yard touchdown reception, a De’Anthony Thomas, an 82-yard Tyreek Hill kick return, and a Texan three-and-out sandwiched in between, though, stopped Houston’s surge cold its tracks.
Smith’s final line, 29-for-37 with 324 yards and three scores, marked his seventh career 300-plus yard game. Watson finished 16-of-31 for 261 yards and a rookie-record tying five touchdowns — four in the second half.
Hopkins (4 rec, 52 yds) had three and Fuller (2 rec, 57 yds) had two for Houston. Hunt, who had a resurgent second half, finished with 107 yards on 29 carries for Kansas City.
WATT OUT FOR SEASON
According to Dr. Robert LaPrade, a complex knee and sports medicine specialist in the Vail, Colorado area, a minimum of six weeks is usually necessary to allow tibial plateau fractures to completely heal so that there is no risk of a reinjury.
NFL Network national insider Ian Rapoport confirmed fans fears in the third quarter:
#Texans JJ Watt, who the team just announced has a tibial plateau fracture, is out for the season, source said. Another year ended on IR.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 9, 2017
In those fractures in which there is a larger disruption of the bone, the athlete may need to be non-weight bearing for six weeks and then will need time to recover from the atrophy of not walking on that extremity prior to returning to activities. In those circumstances, it can 12 weeks or longer to return to activities.
Watt will likely be tagged with a season-ending injured reserve designation, his second straight year on the IR. He missed 13 games in 2016 after back surgery.
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