The 21 points scored by the Houston Texans in the first quarter of the Divisional Round were a franchise record. They added three more points early in the second quarter to build a 24-point lead. The Kansas City Chiefs did offense nothing to match that effort early on.
It was a stunning start to a game that almost everyone — including the entire SB Nation panel — picked the Chiefs to win easily.
Then, even faster than it was built, the Texans’ huge lead disappeared. Kansas City scored four touchdowns in the second quarter to turn a 24-point deficit into a halftime lead. The scoring didn’t stop there. Altogether, the Chiefs scored touchdowns on seven straight possessions to outrace Houston and eventually come away with a 51-31 win.
It was one hell of a roller coaster.
The Texans jumped out to a huge lead early
On the first drive of the game, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson connected with Kenny Stills, who was absolutely wide open, for a 54-yard touchdown.
That's the way to start!@deshaunwatson to @KSTiLLS for the 54-yard TD!#HOUvsKC pic.twitter.com/980QafHf9p— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) January 12, 2020
Then when the Chiefs’ first offensive drive stalled, the Texans added to their lead with a special teams touchdown on a blocked punt.
.@keke_mingo blocked it!@Lonnie30johnson returns it for SIX!#HOUvsKC pic.twitter.com/OQjS4pHgxL— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) January 12, 2020
When the Kansas City defense finally started to settle in and forced a Texans punt, even that didn’t go well for the Chiefs.
It's muffed and @KeionCrossen recovers!#HOUvsKC pic.twitter.com/CqQ2c5df7N— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) January 12, 2020
The Texans took advantage of the opportunity afforded to them by the muffed punt and extended their lead to three touchdowns.
Turning the turnover into a touchdown!@DarrenFells | #HOUvsKC pic.twitter.com/VRfBP7nCOU— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) January 12, 2020
Just like that, the Texans had their most prolific first quarter ever and the Chiefs were in a gigantic hole.
Houston built that lead largely on the back of players acquired via risky trades in the offseason. Barkevious Mingo, who blocked the punt that was returned for a touchdown, came in the trade that moved Jadeveon Clowney to the Seahawks. Stills was part of the trade that sent two first-round picks to the Dolphins and included offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. Even Keion Crossen, who recovered the muffed punt, was scooped up in a low-risk trade with the Patriots in August.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs’ usually potent offense disappointed early. An offense that had just four drops in the last six games of the regular season combined had four in the first quarter. Travis Kelce and Demarcus Robinson each had drops on third down that would’ve extended drives. The fourth drop — Robinson’s second of the game — brought down a chorus of boos from the Arrowhead Stadium crowd.
You can hear the boos at Arrowhead. pic.twitter.com/zSEZT22Tha— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) January 12, 2020
Those drops don’t even include the muffed punt by Mecole Hardman, a rookie who earned Pro Bowl honors for his return abilities. The Texans added to that lead early in the second quarter with a field goal that stretched the score to 24-0.
Then the Chiefs came roaring back with a vengeance
That field goal may have been better for Kansas City than Houston, though. The Texans opted against trying to convert a fourth-and-one deep in Chiefs territory and settled for a 31-yard field goal.
Instead of riding momentum, that conservative call opened the door and the Chiefs finally found a rhythm immediately thereafter when Hardman broke free on a 58-yard kickoff return. That play provided a spark and set up a 17-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes to Damien Williams.
Just what we needed pic.twitter.com/fHFRO3E9CC— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 12, 2020
Finally the Chiefs were on the board. For some reason, the Texans — still ahead 17 points — thought it was a good time to try a fake punt. It was not.
January 12, 2020
The failed fake afforded Kansas City another easy scoring opportunity. That turned into another Chiefs touchdown when Mahomes found Kelce for a 5-yard touchdown.
WE'RE NOT OUT OF THIS pic.twitter.com/1nPm0ZyuyR— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 12, 2020
And things just continued to get worse for the Texans when the ensuing kickoff was fumbled straight into the arms of the Chiefs’ Darwin Thompson.
I have aged many moons in the last 10 minutes. pic.twitter.com/DvK2BI3lL3— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) January 12, 2020
That mistake set up another short touchdown pass from Mahomes to Kelce, this time from 6 yards.
ONE. POSSESSION. GAME. pic.twitter.com/nAuEFXmJmQ— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 12, 2020
While Houston couldn’t score on its next drive, it at least managed to pin the Chiefs deep. But Mahomes led Kansas City down the field on an eight-play, 90-yard drive that was punctuated with Kelce’s third touchdown reception of the half.
THE LEAD IS OURS! pic.twitter.com/wP8twefm8B— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 12, 2020
Mahomes just barely managed to stay behind the line of scrimmage, making it a legal touchdown.
The Texans drove into field goal range in the final minute of the half, but Ka’imi Fairbairn missed the 51-yard try.
Whew. Did you get all that? The Chiefs took a 28-24 lead into halftime, putting them in the comeback record books.
Houston/Kansas City is the first game in NFL history, regular or postseason, where a team led by more than 21 points after the first quarter and trailed at halftime.— Football Perspective (@fbgchase) January 12, 2020
After all that, there was still another 30 minutes of football left. But the second half wasn’t quite the same back-and-forth affair.
The Chiefs scored a touchdown the first three times they touched the ball in the second half and kicked a chip-shot field goal to cross 50 points. While Watson had a rushing touchdown late in the third quarter, it wasn’t enough to keep up with the Chiefs’ scoring avalanche. Kansas City finished the game with an absurd 51-7 run to blowout the Texans.
It was so much scoring the Chiefs ran out of touchdown fireworks.
Oh my god the Chiefs ran out of TD fireworks pic.twitter.com/Q8nMvmmkQJ— Aaron Reiss (@aaronjreiss) January 12, 2020
The Titans will now travel to Kansas City for the AFC Championship, and that should be a matchup between two entertaining teams. Good luck topping the wildness of the Chiefs’ Divisional Round win, though.