Chiefs inactive list: WR Sammy Watkins, LT Eric Fisher, DT Chris Jones, LB Anthony Hitchens, LG Andrew Wylie, LB Dorian O'Daniel and OL Greg Senat
Texans inactive list: QB Alex McGough, WR Kenny Stills, CB Johnathan Joseph, RB Taiwan Jones, ILB Tyrell Admans, C/G Greg Mancz and TE Logan Paulsen
Tyreek Hill will return to the lineup this week, but it remains unknown if the Chiefs will keep him on a snap count. His return makes it more difficult for teams to play the physical man-to-man coverages the Chiefs have faced in recent weeks. The Texans favor zone coverages, but that didn't stop the Colts from playing man last week. With Hill on the field, the Texans can't afford to play the same single-high safety look the Colts used last week.
Hitchens out with a groin injury means Ben Niemann starrts at inside linebacker as the defensive play caller. Rookie Khalen Saunders looks likely to start at defensive tackle for Chris Jones alongside Derrick Nnadi with newcomer Terrell McClain as a backup. Another draft pick, Nick Allegretti, is active for the first time and will see some action.
Hill appears ready to start, but again it remains uncertain if the Chiefs have him on a snap count. The offensive line ran through warm ups with Cam Erving at left tackle and Martinas Rankin at left guard for the injured Eric Fisher and Andrew Wylie. That would leave Stefen Wisniewski and Nick Allegretti coming off the bench if needed.
Defensively Khalen Saunders looks likely to get his first regular-season start at tackle. Ben Niemann will in for Anthony Hitchens, but otherwise the defensive starting lineup looks the same.
First quarter, 14:48
Chiefs started backed up inside their own 10 thanks to another blocking penalty on special teams — continue to be too many mistakes on special teams. Chiefs used a naked quarterback boot right to setup a deep shot immediately to Tyreek Hill. Clearly the Chiefs want to set the tone by forcing the Texans to play zone and guard Hill with a safety over the top.
First quarter, 11:42
Hill erases any doubt about his injured shoulder, leaping over two defenders for a 46-yard touchdown pass. The Chiefs nearly torpedoed the drive with four penalties for 34 yards. The Chiefs picked up all their yards through the air — Patrick Mahomes had 116 yards passing on the 91-yard touchdown drive due tot he penalties.
Hill's return is clearly giving the Chiefs the lift they need in the vertical passing game to loosen up defenses.
First quarter, 11:31
Frank Clark comes up with the big play, punching the ball from the hands of running back Carlos Hyde and recovering at the Houston 18 on the Texans' opening offensive play. Huge play for the defense, which has struggled to stop the run, generating a turnover.
First quarter, 10:19
The Chiefs caught some breaks earlier, but had one go against them on the Texans' second drive of the game. DeAndre Hopkins appeared to fumble the ball at the end of a short reception, which the Chiefs scooped up and returned for a touchdown. But officials ruled Hopkins' forward progress had been stopped, and that call cannot be challenge. Had the officials allowed the play to proceed and rule the Chiefs recovered a fumble, the replay official could have reviewed the call.
First quarter, 5:46
Texans get on the board to cut the Chiefs' lead to 10-3, but the Kansas City defense is showing signs of life. Frank Clark and Alex Okafor have effectively set the edge, keeping Deshaun Watson from breaking contain and making plays outside the pocket. On Watson's one designed run, Kendall Fuller kept the play going outside and forced a short 2-yard gain.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is also mixing in and disguising blitzes early, trying to keep Watson on his toes. Watson is just 4-of-7 passing early for 27 yards, and the Chiefs have put their hands on a couple of ball, with Tyrann Mathieu and Jordan Lucas missing interceptions. The Chiefs forced a fumble on the Texans' first carry of the game, but since then the Texans have rushed for 22 yards on their last four carries. The run defense remains an area of concern.
First quarter, 1:28
Hill is proving in his return that his presence makes a crucial different in this Chiefs offense. Kansas City has scored on their first three possessions in building a 17-3 lead. Hill has three catches for 66 yards an and a touchdown. The Chiefs continue dealing with an absurd number of penalties on offense, but so far they have overcome that deficiency with a ridiculously efficient offense, averaging 10.9 yards per play. Mahomes is 8-of-14 for 168 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter.
Aside from the penalties, pass protection does a remain a concern on offense. The Chiefs still stubbornly refuse to bring in help from a tight end chipping on either side, and the Chiefs continue to struggle when facing four-man fronts. When the Texans bring an extra rusher, Mahomes has been forced to get the ball out quickly. But he shows no signs of the left ankle issue affecting his mobility.
Second quarter, 10:56
Chiefs seem to be picking on old friend Phillip Gaines. Two straight passes on this drive have gone his direction, both to the Mecole Hardman on different sides of the field. Gaines also had coverage on the touchdown to Hill. The Chiefs know Gaines well from his four seasons with the Chiefs from 2014-2017.
Second quarter, 8:42
Brewing controversy as Mahomes throws his first interception of the season. Mahomes appeared to believe he had a free play because Texans cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. tackled tight end Travis Kelce. The officials initial called pass interference on Johnson, then reserved the call, saying the contact occurred while the ball was in the air toward a different receiver and was not pass interference. The interception stands, and the Texans take over at their 20 following a touchback.
Second quarter, 0:16
The Chiefs get a turnover to snuff out a Texans drive, then give the ball right back on their own doorstep. Charles Omenihu knocked the ball out of the hand of Mahomes and Benardrick McKinney recovers at the 3-yard line. Watson scrambles into the end zone, and the gift touchdown puts the Texans up 23-17.
Halftime: Texans 23, Chiefs 17
Keys to the second half
Better protection for Mahomes
Thus far Mahomes has been able to move in the pocket, but the Chiefs continue to show little ability to handle a four-man rush, and anytime the Texans bring more than that, it's a problem. The lack of protection led in part to both of Kansas City's first-half turnovers. The Chiefs continue to remain reluctant to provide help on the left side with Erving and Rankin filling in for Fisher and Wylie.
Stop the run
It's a broken record, but other than forcing a turnover on Hyde's first run of the game, the Chiefs have done little to slow down their former teammate. Hyde has 12 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown since the opening fumble.
Challenge Texans' receivers
Watson relied on a short passing game to get the Texans' offense moving in the second quarter, and he's completed 15-of-24 passing for 139 yards and a touchdown. If the Texans continue to work to their receivers and tight ends in the short passing game while rushing for more than 5 yards per clip, that spells trouble for the Chiefs.
Third quarter, 6:30
Chiefs retake the lead 24-23 with a 10-play, 64-yard drive capped off with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes to Hill on third-and-3. Hill now with five catches for 80 yards and two scores, while Mahomes is 18-of-30 passing for 277 yards and three scores. Neither team showing an ability to slow down the opposing offense, this looking more and more likely the last time to possess the ball may win.
Third quarter, :09
Charvarius Ward came up a huge interception against DeAndre Hopkins, going up with one hand to bring it down and keep Chiefs on top 24-23. That's the second regular-season interception of his career.
Fourth quarter, 14:08
Couple of pass interference and defensive holding calls go against the Chiefs early in the quarter. A non-call of defensive pass interference against Travis Kelce ends the Chiefs drive, but Dustin Colquitt pins the Texans deep after a 68-yard punt. The Texans then benefit from a defensive holding call against Morris Claiborne that from the press box appeared less egregious than the PI no-call against Kelce.
Fourth quarter, 7:14
CB Kendall Fuller is questionable to return with a thumb injury. Sixth-round draft pick Rashad Fenton has entered the game as the slot corner when the Chiefs go to substitution packages.
Fourth quarter, 6:17
Texans complete a 12-play, 93-yard drive with 1-yard run by Watson. Watson then connects with DeAndre Hopkins on the two-point conversion to put Houston ahead 31-24.
The Texans have not punted today. Their nine possessions have resulted in four touchdowns, a field goal, three turnovers and a missed field goal. This will be just the Chiefs third possession of the second half.
Second-half time of possession another huge issue for Chiefs today. Texans have held the ball for 19:03 of the second half, the Chiefs just 5:54.