Texans up for challenge of facing Chiefs in divisional round

NFL
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HOUSTON (AP)The Houston Texans overcame a 16-point deficit to get a 22-19 overtime win against the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the playoffs.

Now they move on to face Kansas City, where they’ll look for a win to reach the AFC championship game for the first time in franchise history. Sunday will be Houston’s fourth trip to the divisional round and second under coach Bill O’Brien.

They last reached this round in the 2016 season when they were eliminated by the New England Patriots in a 34-16 loss. The Texans were also defeated by the Patriots in the second round in the 2012 season and lost to the Ravens in their first trip to that round in the 2011 season.

”These guys understand the opportunity in front of them and they understand what it’s going to take in Arrowhead Stadium against a great football team,” O’Brien said. ”They’re very appreciative of the opportunity and they’re going to do everything they can to try to take advantage of it.”

Houston trailed 16-0 in the third quarter before scoring 19 straight points to take the lead in the fourth quarter on Saturday. The Bills tied it with a late field goal to force overtime.

Deshaun Watson avoided two sacks to make a remarkable play that resulted in a 34-yard completion that set up the winning field goal in overtime.

That Houdini-like escape was just the latest in a career where Watson has shown a knack for making highlight-reel plays. But as good as that one was, O’Brien believes a play Watson made against Oakland earlier this season when he took a cleat to the face before throwing a touchdown pass was better.

”I’m very lucky,” O’Brien said. ”I’ve seen some incredible plays and that was an incredible play. But I think that when you get kicked in the eye and you still are able to complete a touchdown pass, I’m not sure that you can surpass that.”

WHAT’S WORKING

Watson’s play on Saturday was the catalyst in Houston’s comeback. The third-year quarterback threw for 247 yards and a touchdown and ran for 55 yards and another score in the win. Most importantly, Watson didn’t turn the ball over after throwing five interceptions combined in his previous three games.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Houston must improve its pass protection after Watson was sacked seven times and hit 12 other times against Buffalo.

”We’ve got to do a better job at that,” O’Brien said.

But O’Brien was quick to point out that the problems are not just the fault of the offensive line.

”There’s a lot of keys to that,” O’Brien said. ”At the end of the day it comes down to communication, everybody being on the same page, how they see the defense … everybody’s involved, Deshaun’s involved, the line’s involved, the receivers, the tight ends, the backs.”

STOCK UP

Outside linebacker Jacob Martin had his best game of the season on Saturday. Martin, who was part of the trade that sent 2014 top overall pick Jadeveon Clowney to Seattle, had a sack, two quarterback hits and recovered a fumble against the Bills.

STOCK DOWN

WR Keke Coutee was active on Saturday but was the only player aside from backup quarterback A.J. McCarron who didn’t play. Coutee, who had 110 yards receiving with a touchdown in Houston’s playoff game last season, has fallen out of favor this season and his playing time has diminished despite receiver Will Fuller dealing with injuries.

INJURED

Fuller missed his second straight game with a groin injury, but O’Brien said he’s improving and could return this week. … CB Johnathan Joseph missed Saturday’s game with a hamstring injury and is listed day to day this week.

KEY NUMBER

0 – DeAndre Hopkins didn’t have a reception in the first half on Saturday for the first time since Week 16 of the 2017 season. He bounced back in the second half to finish with six catches for 90 yards.

NEXT STEPS

The Texans must find a way to better protect Watson and get off to a better start against the Chiefs after their terrible first half against the Bills.

Houston’s defense should get a boost in J.J. Watt’s second game back after missing eight games with a torn pectoral muscle which required surgery. Watt played about 50 snaps on Saturday and had a sack. O’Brien said he’ll consult with Watt to see how he’s feeling and hopes that he can play a bit more this week.

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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