The Houston Texans and their first-year quarterback Case Keenum threw a scare into the Chiefs on Sunday, but Kansas City managed to remain unbeaten with a 17-16 victory in front of 74,118 relieved fans at Arrowhead Stadium.
Keenum, playing in his first NFL game, threw for 271 yards and a touchdown. But the Chiefs came up with a couple of big defensive stands and the NFL sack leaders sacked Keenum five times in the second half, including four times in the fourth quarter.
The victory enabled the Chiefs to improve their record to 7-0. Houston, 2-5, lost its fifth straight.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was intercepted by Houston’s Shiloh Keh at the Texans’ 22 with 5:47 to play, giving Houston an opportunity to take the lead, but the defense held.
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Given one more chance to upset the Chiefs, Keenum was sacked by Tamba Hali, who forced a fumble at the goal line that was recovered by Derrick Johnson. Hali finished with 2 1/2 sacks. He has five sacks in the last two games.
The Chiefs, leading 17-16, missed a golden opportunity to score early in the fourth quarter.
Smith hit tight end Anthony Fasano at the Houston goal line, and was so close, coach Andy Reid challenged the spot. But the ruling on the field stood, and after Jamaal Charles was stopped for no gain, Reid elected to go for it on fourth-and-1.
However, Smith’s pass sailed over open tight end Sean McGrath for an incompletion, and Houston took over at its 1.
Keenum bought some field position when he hit rookie DeAndre Hopkins for 35 yards on a catch in which Hopkins got between cornerback Sean Smith and safety Eric Berry. The Chiefs forced Houston to punt but they boxed the Chiefs deep into their own end.
Keenum scrambled and threw a rainbow for 42 yards to Andre Johnson midway through the third quarter, and the Texans turned that into a 47-yard field goal by Randy Bullock that drew Houston to within 17-16 with 4:21 remaining in the third quarter.
The Texans came into the game minus-12 in turnover differential, and the Chiefs were a league-leading plus-12, but Kansas City coughed up the first giveaway when Charles fumbled at his 28 with 11:35 to play in the third quarter.
On the first play, Keenum found tight end Garrett Graham on the sidelines, and after eluding linebacker Justin Houston’s tackle, Graham made it to the 1.
But the Texans were without a running back because of a hamstring injury to Arian Foster and an injury that temporarily forced his backup, Ben Tate, to the sidelines. Graham tried a sneak that gained a couple of feet; and fullback Greg Jones was stopped for a two-yard loss to the 3 by a submarining safety Kendrick Lewis.
Keenum’s back-shoulder throw to DeAndre Hopkins in the corner of the end zone was broken up by Marcus Cooper, and Texans coach Gary Kubiak opted for a 21-yard field goal by Bullock, drawing Houston to within 14-13 with 9:24 to go in the third period.
The Chiefs’ Quintin Demps, a former Texan, returned the ensuing kickoff 57 yards, setting up a 22-yard field goal by Ryan Succop that gave the Chiefs a 17-13 lead with 6:07 to go in the third quarter.
The Chiefs led 14-10 at halftime on a bizarre-looking 5-yard touchdown run by Smith.
The Chiefs drove 97 yards in 15 plays on the drive, converting three third downs. Smith completed eight of nine passes for 79 yards on the drive, hitting Dwayne Bowe for 16 yards on a third-and-four from the Kansas City 9; Donnie Avery for 11 yards on third-and-seven from the 42; and called his own number from the 5.
Smith was running a read option from the 5, but when he stuck the ball out for a running back, it appeared Charles ran the wrong way. Smith then headed upfield and walked into the end zone untouched for the 14-10 lead with 56 seconds left in the half.
Keenum looked anything like a quarterback appearing in his first NFL game. He completed six of his first nine passes for 130 yards, including a 29-yarder in the corner of the end zone to rookie Hopkins, who badly beat Sean Smith for the touchdown.
Late in the first quarter, Keenum hit wide receiver DeVier Posey with a short pass that Posey turned into a 42-yard gain to the Chiefs 34.
That set up the touchdown pass to Hopkins, the Texans’ first-round pick from Clemson, that gave Houston a 10-3 lead on the first play of the second quarter.
Houston got on the board first on a 48-yard field goal by Bullock with 8:12 left in the first quarter.
The Chiefs were in danger of going three-and-out for the second time in two possessions when Smith, on third-and-nine from his 19, found a wide-open Bowe, who got behind Houston safety D.J. Swearinger for 21 yards.
Charles picked up 14 yards on a twisting, turning play through the Texans defensive front, and after Smith threw 11 yards to tight end Fasano, who was playing his first game since week three, Charles took it in from the 1 for a 7-3 lead with 2:43 left in the first quarter.
The touchdown extended Charles’ streak of scoring at least one touchdown in all seven games this season.