At least the Houston Texans didn’t have the biggest collapse in NFL history. Not even the biggest collapse in Houston pro football history.
For any longtime Houston fan who switched allegiances from the Oilers to the Texans, Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs brought back some bad memories.
The Texans became the first team in the 100 seasons of the NFL, regular season or playoffs, to take a 24-point lead in the first half and not even lead the game by halftime. The Chiefs became the first team in NFL postseason history to have seven straight touchdown drives, which means the Texans became the first playoff team to allow seven straight touchdown drives.
It wasn’t exactly the infamous playoff game in which the Houston Oilers blew a 35-3 lead to the Buffalo Bills and lost, but the Texans’ 51-31 loss to the Chiefs was gruesome in its own way. The Chiefs move on to the AFC championship game. They’ll host the Tennessee Titans next Sunday.
The first quarter was like a dream for Houston. The rest was an avalanche of mistakes, from physical errors to coaching ineptitude.
Texans were in control for first quarter
The Texans were on their way to the AFC championship game, until Bill O'Brien foolishly changed his mind and took a field goal on fourth-and-1.
The Texans were in total control of the game at that point. It was 21-0. The Chiefs imploded in the first quarter, with a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and a muffed punt setting up another. Because Kansas City has a great offense it didn’t seem like the game was over, but close. The Texans could have delivered the knockout blow. They backed off.
On fourth-and-short deep in Chiefs territory, the Texans left their offense on the field. That made sense. Then there was a timeout, and O’Brien changed his mind. CBS showed him on the sideline yelling, perhaps at himself for not following through on going for it. The Texans kicked a field goal. And that was the start of the collapse.
The Chiefs got a long kickoff return after that, and the game was never the same. Kansas City was unstoppable for seven straight possessions. Finally the Texans kept the Chiefs out of the end zone on the eighth drive, giving up just a field goal. Part of the comeback was the Chiefs stopping a Texans fake punt in Houston territory on a great tackle by safety Daniel Sorensen. The fake punt call itself was fine, but surely didn’t align with the decision to kick a field goal on fourth down and a foot to go. The Chiefs scored a touchdown after that, then the Texans fumbled the ensuing kickoff.
You won’t see many games turn around so quickly and decisively.
Houston made some history by giving up the lead before halftime, and not the kind of history you want to be remembered for. The Chiefs’ comeback ties for the fourth largest comeback win in NFL playoff history.
Chiefs play almost perfect football for three quarters
The Texans had help in blowing their 24-point lead.
The Chiefs played incredible football from the second quarter on. Tight end Travis Kelce shook off an early third-down drop to take over the game, with three touchdowns in the second quarter. Patrick Mahomes joined Doug Williams as the only quarterbacks in NFL playoff history to throw four touchdowns in one quarter. The defense clamped down on Deshaun Watson and the Texans offense. The Chiefs outscored a playoff team 51-7 over three quarters after their horrendous start. It was an impressive performance.
Still, it’s really hard to lead a game by 24 points and end up getting blown out, and the Texans somehow pulled it off. According to CBS, the Chiefs were the first team in playoff history to win by 20 points after trailing by at least 20 points. For all the talk about the Chiefs’ heartbreak through the years, Houston has never been to a Super Bowl. The Oilers couldn’t do it. The Texans haven’t done it. The Texans haven’t even made a conference championship game. They certainly had a good shot on Sunday.
The Chiefs move on, with a golden opportunity to go to their first Super Bowl since the 1969 season. The Texans go home for the offseason, wondering how a 24-0 lead could turn into such a nightmare.
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