Knile Davis returned the opening kickoff 106 yards for touchdown and the Chiefs' defense pitched a shutout as Kansas City obliterated the Houston Texans 30-0 in the AFC Wild Card matchup. K.C. now will face the Patriots next Saturday in New England. Here is what you need to know:
1. The NFL keeps lining up opponents and the Chiefs keep knocking them down. Kansas City won their 11th straight game after starting the season 1-5. Defense dominated the day for K.C. until the offense opened up late against a wilting Texans D. The Chiefs forced five turnovers, with four picks and a forced fumble. The defensive line dominated a Duane Brown-less Houston offensive line. With the Texans offense threatening early, defensive end Allen Bailey bull rushed left tackle Chris Clark back into quarterback Brian Hoyer forcing a fumble, which the Chiefs recovered. The play was emblematic of the day for both squads.
2. Brian Hoyer's first career playoff start was disastrous from the jump. The Houston quarterback looked jittery, had zero confidence in his reads and rushed throws. Hoyer threw three interceptions and fumbled in the first half. He became just the second QB since 1991 to have four-plus giveaways in the first half of a playoff game. The last man? Dan Marino in the 1999 Divisional Round at Jacksonville: Two INTs, two lost fumbles in first half. It was Marino's final NFL game.
It didn't get much better in the second half for Hoyer. He threw another pick, continued to make mental errors and should have thrown several more interceptions. Houston fans were left pining for Brandon Weeden. Sad. Clearly, quarterback will be Bill O'Brien's No. 1 priority this offseason.
3. Knile Davis began the postseason with a bang, taking the opening kickoff 106 yards for a touchdown. It marked the second-longest TD return in NFL playoff history and just the fifth in the postseason. It's nothing new for the Texans' special teams to get burned. Houston ranked last in special teams metrics by Football Outsiders. The Chiefs got the early lead thanks to the big return and sat on it.
4. The Chiefs were content to let Hoyer implode early. Kansas City earned just six points off four first-half Houston turnovers. Andy Reid made several conservative calls on third downs, which wasted great field position early on. If not for K.C. playing on eggshells in the first half, this game should have been a blowout much earlier. That won't work moving forward against playoff-caliber quarterbacks.
5. Kansas City suffered a huge blow in the second half when Jeremy Maclin was ruled out with a knee injury. The wideout exited the game with three catches for 29 yards on four targets. Maclin led the Chiefs' pass attack all season, compiling 1,088 yards on 87 receptions and eight touchdown catches. The Chiefs announced after the game that Maclin has a knee strain and will have an MRI on Sunday. Last season, sans Maclin, Alex Smith threw zero touchdowns to receivers. Moving forward the Chiefs' pass attack will be handicapped without its best pass catcher. Albert Wilson will be relied on heavily. Travis Kelce exploded with Maclin out, feasting on eight receptions for 128 yards on Saturday.
6. J.J. Watt was the focus of the Chiefs' offense. The defensive lineman got double-teamed and chipped often -- Maclin even helped block Watt on one early pass play. Reid smartly designed play calls to keep Watt from impacting the game. The Chiefs ran receiver screens, jet sweeps and zone reads to avoid the two-time Defensive Player of the Year wrecking the game. Watt later left the game with a groin injury and did not return. He earned just one tackle on the disastrous day. Whitney Mercilus was the lone bright spot for the Texans Saturday, earning three sacks.
7. All season the Texans' offense has been a combination of smoke-and-mirrors and throws to DeAndre Hopkins. Saturday O'Brien unleashed the biggest smoke show of them all. Down 13-0 late in the first half on 1st and goal, the Texans put defensive lineman J.J. Watt in the Wildcat with nose tackle Vince Wilfork as a lead blocker. The ridiculous run play earned -1 yard. As poor as that play selection seemed, it wasn't as bad as one play later when they let Hoyer throw a pass, which was picked, killing an opportunity for Houston to get in the game.
8. Marcus Peters vs. DeAndre Hopkins was the most anticipated matchup entering the contest. While Hopkins made a couple great snags, the Chiefs secondary collectively kept the game-changing plays in check. Hopkins finished with six receptions for 69 yards on 11 targets.
9. Justin Houston returned after missing five games, but the Chiefs outside linebacker didn't look right. He earned just three tackles and one QB hit. Houston missed several tackles, didn't look explosive and appeared to pull up on several plays. Houston's motor is usually relentless, but we didn't see that in his return. His status is something to monitor heading to the Divisional Round. Tamba Hali, also coming off injury, didn't see much time either, playing just one snap in the third quarter.