Chiefs vs. Texans: Alex Smith's Performance Highlights Biggest Takeaways

The biggest takeaways from the Chiefs 27-20 win over the Texans

The excitement was palpable at NRG stadium in Houston, Texas on Sunday morning.

The Kansas City Chiefs were ready from the moment they first stepped off the bus.

While preseason games are a good tune-up for the regular season, there was just something different about the atmosphere surrounding even the pregame warmups.

There was rookie first-round pick Marcus Peters, who was spotted dancing and screaming to the music blaring throughout the stadium, a level of emotion not regularly seen from the young, quiet playmaker. His presence would soon be felt.

At the same time, running backs coach Eric Bieniemy was giving a passion-filled speech to his group before they went through individual drills.

Yet some of the players still managed, even with all of that excitement of getting ready for their first game, to greet the members of Chiefs Kingdom gathered along the sideline to watch them warm up.

Running back Jamaal Charles and linebacker Derrick Johnson stopped to sign autographs and take pictures with the fans just hoping to get a chance to meet a couple of future Chiefs legends, while Eric Berry stopped to greet a fan who had made a special sign for him.

It's a special group of players on this team.

Luckily for Chiefs Kingdom, they're also pretty good at football.

They looked ready during the pregame warmups and that carried over to the field as the Chiefs came right out of the gate and started throwing punches in what was billed to be a defensive back-and-forth between the two teams.

In the first half alone, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith finished 15 of 20 for 193 yards and 3 touchdowns.

That's not altogether a bad line for an entire game, let alone one half.

"I thought he did a good job," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of Smith's performance. "He made so many big plays and big throws, but I've got to do a better job with him in that second half with getting him in a better position."

One of Smith's favorite targets on the day was tight end Travis Kelce, who grabbed 2 big touchdowns early before sealing the game with a couple of big receptions late in the game.

"He was on the money all day," Kelce said of Smith. "Everything was in range."

Kelce finished the game with a team-high 6 receptions for 106 yards and 2 touchdowns.

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One of those touchdowns was a 42-yard grab that saw Kelce catch the ball about 15 yards down the left sideline before turning up field and seeing nobody within about 20 yards of him.

"That's game planning," Kelce said of that play call after the game. "That's coach Reid dialing up the right plays at the right time. My hats off to him. I appreciate him for what he does."

Smith credits the guys up front for giving him enough protection.

"Any time you're asking play-action pass, seven-step drop, on the road versus that defensive line, that's asking a lot," Smith explained. "They were able to get us the score. [Travis] Kelce and the guys outside getting the route done and he was pretty wide open, but those guys up front were allowing it to happen."

Late in the game and facing a third-and-6 from their own 24-yard line, Smith once again found Kelce, who caught the ball shy of the first down marker, but ducked under the would-be tackle of the Texans defensive back and powered up field for the first down.

It was a critical play in a big time situation.

"He's been that kind of player since he's been here," Smith said of Kelce after the game. "He has that ability in him, especially for a tight end, a guy that big to be able to make plays with the ball in his hands.

"That was a big one there to be able to eat up some more clock, and it forced the Texans to burn their timeouts."

In what was supposed to be a defensive back-and-forth slugfest according to some, the Chiefs offense came out with some fireworks and opened the eyes of those same people who didn't expect this kind of performance, particularly early in the game.

"When [Smith] is playing lights out and the offensive line is blocking like they were today, we're a pretty solid football team," Kelce said after the game.

That offensive line, which was facing arguably one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL, had another change to an already mixed up group from what was expected coming into the Sunday's matchup.

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Projected starting right tackle Eric Fisher, who has been dealing with a high ankle sprain since he was rolled up on at training camp back on August 17, wasn't able to start after trying to give it a go.

This meant fifth-year player Jah Reid, who spent the first four years of his career with the Baltimore Ravens and signed with the Chiefs just last week, would start at right tackle in his place.

"For being here for such a short period of time, I mean you've got to take your hat off to him for getting in there and playing the way he did," Reid said after the game.

Reid joined left tackle Donald Stephenson, left guard Ben Grubbs, center Mitch Morse and right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif as an entirely new offensive line than the Chiefs ever had last year.

In fact, Reid, Grubbs and Morse weren't even with the Chiefs last season.

"It speaks a lot about him," Morse said of Jah Reid after the game in the locker room. "He didn't just show up today, he put in so many hours, actually I don't know if he slept at all. The guy was in here super early in the morning with coach and here super late.

"He put in a lot of work to be in the position to get in today. He was going against into a really good group and that speaks volumes of who he is."

Morse, who was seen all over the place with the quick Chiefs passing attack, which often times were cleverly-designed screen passes, displayed the athleticism most often talked about when describing his physical abilities.

He enjoyed his first NFL start in the middle of the Chiefs offensive line.

"It was infectious," Morse explained. "Just the camaraderie out there and the fight. It's something you could get used to. We have some things that we have to clean up in the second half, but this team is headed in the right direction.

"It's just great to be a part of it."

As an offensive line aficionado, coach Reid takes a special notice to the guys up front putting the work in that makes the offense function.

"I think in general they did a good job," he explained. "I do want to see the tape. That is a good defensive front seven. I thought our guys for the most part did a good job, but we've got to keep getting better. 

"That's the challenge now because every game you play now teams have tape on you."

One player that teams have plenty of tape on but he still keeps making plays is veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson, who finished the game with a team-high 8 tackles, two of which were for loss, 1 sack and a pass defensed.

"It was wonderful," Johnson said of getting back on the field for the first time in a regular season game since his injury in Week 1 of last season. "I missed a lot of football and so I was just talking to myself, 'Hey, finish the game. We'll get better than we were last year.'

"As long as we got the win, that's what I'm most proud of."

It was kind of poetic for Johnson, who with those 8 tackles passed Art Still for second on the Chiefs all-time list with 993, to return to the field in his home state of Texas and look like his old self again.

"It meant a lot," Johnson said of that connection. "I'm a Texas guy, so it was a home game for me. I had all of my family in the stands. The best part about it was that we got the win."

Another memorable performance came from someone making his first NFL start in first-round pick Marcus Peters, who all throughout training camp and preseason practices had been picking off passes and making the kind of plays that warranted his selection as the Chiefs No. 1 draft pick in 2015.

Well, that playmaking ability transferred over to the game field in a big way on Sunday afternoon.

On the Texans first play from scrimmage, Peters picked off quarterback Brian Hoyer as he undercut a route from his spot at left cornerback and was able to secure the catch as he dove forward for the ball.

His play set up the Chiefs first touchdown of the game, an Alex Smith 10-yard strike to Kelce that gave the Chiefs a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.

After the game, Peters said he kept the ball.

"We got it tucked away," he said. "I'm going to give it to my pops so we can put it back at my high school."

It wasn't a perfect night for Peters, but his first NFL play will be a memorable one.

"It's a dream come true to be playing on this level and it's even more of a blessing to be on this great team."

After having just 6 interceptions as a team last season, the Chiefs brought Peters in hoping he'd make the kind of game-changing plays we saw on Sunday afternoon.

Photos from the Chiefs week one matchup against the Texans

But it wasn't the only takeaway by the Chiefs defense.

Linebacker Justin Houston got the strip-sack of Hoyer late in the second quarter with the Chiefs holding a 20-6 lead.  

"That's our goal as a defense," Houston explained after the game. "When we get the turnover, we put our offense in great field position."

Those 2 takeaways both turned into touchdowns as the offense put this one into the end zone just four plays later when Smith hit Jamaal Charles for the 7-yard touchdown.

"When you get those situations – we had good field position, got the couple of turnovers in the red zone and we were able to capitalize.

"I think in the end that was kind of the difference."

The Chiefs won the game 27-20 and now quickly turn their focus to the Denver Broncos, whom they will host at Arrowhead Stadium in just four days on Thursday Night Football.

"As soon as I can get out of this press conference, we'll get rolling," Reid said with a smile after the game of the quick turnaround for the Broncos. "It's important how we handle it as coaches. It's important how we handle it as players. When given an opportunity to rest, you rest. Get off your feet and take care of business.  "We've got to get ready. We have a great opponent coming in and I think there will be a couple of people at Arrowhead so it should be exciting."

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