MORAL VIC­TORY WILL BE STEP BACK

To progress as they would like, Tex­ans have to fol­low up their rout of Ti­tans with an up­set of the un­beaten Chiefs

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - COMMENTARY - JENNY DIAL CREECH jenny.creech@chron.com twit­ter.com/jen­ny­di­al­creech

It’s easy to be high on the Tex­ans af­ter last week. Fifty-seven points. Bro­ken records. Clear im­prove­ment. Good foot­ball. As well as things went in their 57-14 vic­tory over the Ten­nessee Ti­tans last Sun­day at NRG Sta­dium, it doesn’t mat­ter.

Not when 4-0 Kansas City comes here for “Sun­day Night Foot­ball.”

The Tex­ans have looked bet­ter each week.

Rookie quar­ter­back De­shaun Wat­son is set­tling in.

The de­fense is re­turn­ing to last sea­son’s form.

The of­fense is bet­ter than any the Tex­ans have had in years.

But a loss Sun­day would drop them to 2-3.

Those 57 points … none of them carry over to this week.

Sun­day night’s game is a big op­por­tu­nity. There’s rea­son for op­ti­mism. Last week’s win was the most com­plete the Tex­ans have looked.

From start to fin­ish, they were co­he­sive. They put to­gether solid drives, made timely stops and forced turnovers.

Af­ter the game, the Tex­ans were happy with what they had done, pleased with their per­for­mances, ex­cited about the vic­tory.

By Mon­day morn­ing, it was be­hind them. As it should have been. “I mean, we’re 2-2,” J.J. Watt said. “Let’s not get ahead of our­selves here. It’s not like we’re the ones that are 4-0, so we’ve got to be a lit­tle bit tem­pered with that.”

As en­cour­ag­ing as the dom­i­nant vic­tory was last week, a vic­tory by any mar­gin Sun­day would be more im­pres­sive. Dy­namic on of­fense

The Chiefs are the only un­de­feated team in the NFL. They’re No. 2 in the league in to­tal of­fense, av­er­ag­ing 405.2 yards per game. They’re No. 1 in rush­ing yards with an av­er­age of 163.5 yards per game.

When go­ing up against an of­fense that ex­plo­sive, the Tex­ans have to bring their best de­fense. The way they played last week was a start.

The de­fense was rested against Ten­nessee be­cause the of­fense was on the field so much.

The de­fense will have to be strong early to hold off the Chiefs. Kansas City will try to es­tab­lish the run early, which the Chiefs have been ex­tremely ef­fi­cient in do­ing. They have lost just one fum­ble this sea­son.

“They’re not jump­ing off, they’re not mak­ing a lot of penal­ties and they’re not turn­ing the ball over,” Tex­ans de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mike Vraebel said of the Chiefs. “That’s a good recipe for suc­cess in this league.”

The de­fense needs to limit the Chiefs’ of­fense; the Tex­ans need to con­tinue im­prov­ing of­fen­sively.

Since the start of the sea­son, the Tex­ans have looked bet­ter on of­fense each game.

Af­ter a rough start in Week 1, they found some foot­ing in Week 2 against the Ben­gals in a 13-9 win. Wat­son im­prov­ing

By Week 3, Wat­son was much more com­fort­able. He started show­ing off his unique skill set more, mov­ing in the pocket, elud­ing tack­les, mak­ing de­ci­sions on the fly.

The of­fen­sive line has im­proved more than any part of the team since the first week.

By Week 3, its pass pro­tec­tion was much bet­ter and the young quar­ter­back had time to re­act on sev­eral plays.

The re­sult: Wat­son gained con­fi­dence on ev­ery snap. In turn, he found more re­ceivers, worked out of tough sit­u­a­tions and be­came tougher for op­pos­ing de­fenses to fig­ure out.

Last week, the of­fense took it a step fur­ther.

In ad­di­tion to what it had ac­com­plished against the Pa­tri­ots de­spite a 36-33 loss in Week 3, the Tex­ans put to­gether their best rush­ing per­for­mance of the sea­son against the Ti­tans, gain­ing 175 yards. Still, if they are beaten Sun­day, they’ll have a los­ing record. Ti­tans game a bench­mark

When it’s all said and done, im­prove­ment counts for noth­ing if it doesn’t come with vic­to­ries.

They have 12 games left this sea­son, a long way to go if they want to make a jump this year.

Last week gave a taste of what these Tex­ans can ac­com­plish.

It will be for­got­ten in an in­stant if the Tex­ans can’t fol­low up with a win over Kansas City.

A strong per­for­mance, a close call, a moral vic­tory won’t be enough. The Tex­ans need to win. They scored 57 points last week. They start with zero Sun­day night against a team that av­er­ages more than 30 points per game.

If the Tex­ans truly want to prove they can be a top-tier team, they’ll need to put on a good show that ends with a W.

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