HOUSTON — We all got a little bit of an anatomy lesson on Sunday night. And the Texans’ defense was the teacher.
J.J. Watt has a tibial plateau fracture in his left leg, while Whitney Mercilus tore his pectoral muscle. The pair of devastating injuries to two of the most important leaders of the Houston defense were the lowlights of a 42-35 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I feel terrible for the guy,” head coach Bill O’Brien said of Watt’s injury. “But just knowing him and knowing the type of guy that he is, he’s an amazing human being. He will work extremely hard to be back, to be back to play for this football team. I know that.”
Watt fought to hold back tears as he was helped off the field and the NBC broadcast followed him as he got in an ambulance and went to the hospital. A tibial plateau fracture happens at the top of the knee just above the shinbone.
With two defensive stars out, rookie linebacker Zach Cunningham tied for first on the team with a career-high nine tackles — four solo — and a forced fumble, the first forced fumble of his young career.
“I understand all the hard work that goes into the offseason, training camp and everything you do throughout the week to prepare yourself for the game,” cornerback Johnathan Joseph said. “Anytime you lose any player, especially a player of J.J.’s stature is always tough, but you got to continue to move on because the game doesn’t stop for anyone.”
A team originally built on its defense will now look to its young offense to carry the load. And for the second straight week, the young offense showed up, but not until the second half.
The Texans have scored five or more touchdowns in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history, and Houston is the only team in the NFL with at least five touchdowns in back-to-back games this season.
Deshaun Watson finished 16-of-31 passing for 261 yards and five touchdowns.
He is the first rookie quarterback in NFL history with five total touchdowns in back-to-back games and joins Robert Griffin III as the only other rookie to throw at least four touchdowns in back-to-back games.
“I think every game is a learning experience for him and I think he’s an excellent young quarterback and I thought he kept competing right to the end,” O’Brien said. “He’s a great kid. He’s a lot of fun to coach. He’s obviously got a great future.”
DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller were incredibly efficient, catching six passes for five touchdowns. Hopkins is now in sole possession of fifth place on the all-time list with 28 touchdowns.
After the pair of injuries in the first quarter, Kansas City scored 20 points in the second quarter to take a 23-7 lead at the break.
The Texans fought back in the third with a touchdown and converted a two-point conversion and got a 48-yard touchdown receiver by Fuller. But the Chiefs put the game out of reach with a touchdown on a jet sweep by De’Anthony Thomas and an 82-yard punt return by Tyreek Hill in the fourth quarter.
“We played a good team,” Hopkins said. “A team like that, you can’t make any mistakes because they’re a good team. They’re undefeated for a reason. So, you have to give your hats off to the Chiefs.”
Houston wraps up a three-game homestand when it hosts the winless Cleveland Browns next Sunday at noon.
“There’s a lot of guys in this room that don’t quit and we showed that tonight,” rookie running back D’Onta Forman said. “Nobody gave up, everybody fought to the end and you got to respect that. We played a good team tonight, and we’d like to come in here and get a win. To fight to the end like that, you see what type of players you have in the locker room.”