KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)The Houston Texans got what they wanted from David Johnson and the rest of their newcomers in their debuts.
They just didn’t get enough from their defense.
Johnson answered all those critics of the blockbuster trade that sent wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals in March with a 19-yard touchdown run in the first quarter Thursday night. He wound up with 77 yards rushing and caught three passes for another 32 yards in a 34-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks, who has been struggling with a quad injury, each added a pair of receptions. Deshaun Watson – armed with his new $160 million, four-year extension – threw a touchdown pass and ran for a score before the socially distanced crowd of about 17,000 fans that sounded much louder inside Arrowhead Stadium.
”I thought Deshaun played hard,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. ”He played well. He played tough. He kept fighting and he got us in the game there at the end, but it was a little too late.”
Watson may have gotten most of the attention, but it was Johnson that earned the best reviews. O’Brien was pleased at the way he not only ran the ball and caught it out of the backfield, but also the way he was able to play seemingly every down once Duke Johnson left in the second half with a leg injury.
In fact, David Johnson looked a lot like the guy who ran for more than 1,200 yards with the Cardinals in 2016 rather than the guy who managed just 345 yards over nine starts during an injury plagued season a year ago.
”I thought just from the sideline he played well,” O’Brien said. ”He ran hard. He’s a good player – he’s a very good player – and he did a lot of things well, a lot of things we can build on. He ran well, he caught passes out of the backfield well. There are a lot of things to build on there.”
It took a series for the Houston offense to get going, but it showed how dynamic it can be by going 80 yards for a score later in the first quarter. But it also went through a long mid-game malaise that allowed the Chiefs to turn a 7-0 deficit into a 31-7 lead before Watson threw a late touchdown pass and scampered into the end zone for another score.
”We’ve just got to get guys in the rhythm and chemistry,” Watson said. ”First live action with some new pieces so we’ve just got to continue to keep growing and learning and watch the film and correct mistakes. Those guys are coming along.”
The defense is another matter.
After holding the Chiefs to a punt on their initial possession, the Texans gave up three straight scoring drives to end the first half. They coughed up another touchdown to start the second half, and that forced them to begin pushing the ball downfield, rather than feeding Johnson and their productive ground game.
”We didn’t play well enough to win,” the Texans’ J.J. Watt said. ”We didn’t stop the run. We had trouble getting off the field. You can’t give up 17-play drives. We have to go off field. The simple act of putting yourself in better positions on third down by stopping the run and getting off the field once you’re on third down. Sounds very simple, but you have to execute.”
At one point, it brought back horrid memories for Houston of the divisional round of the playoffs. In that game, the Texans raced to a 24-0 lead before they were outscored 51-7 the rest of the way by an offense that seemed downright unstoppable.
”The guys fought. At the end, we were able to score a couple of touchdowns there (but) it was too little, too late,” O’Brien said. ”So there’s a there’s some things to build on, but we got a long way to go here, obviously, and we’ve got to get going and we have to improve very quickly. ”