For a quarter, it looked as if this would be the weekend of stunning playoff upsets.
Houston intended to go for it, at least at first, keeping the offense on the field before mass confusion forced O'Brien to call a timeout. The extra time afforded O'Brien a moment to reconsider, which resulted in him settling for a Ka'imi Fairbairn field goal to go ahead 24-0.
A 24-0 lead is a healthy advantage on the road in the postseason -- if your defense can make it stand. Houston's defense did the opposite, allowing the Chiefs to score four straight touchdowns in the second quarter and ultimately outscore the Texans 51-7 in the rest of the game, wiping out Houston's lead before halftime and knocking the Texans down so forcefully, they failed to recover.
"I felt like I had a first down there and when I didn't, I just felt like we didn't have a great play there for the fourth down at that point and time," O'Brien explained afterward, also adding he'd considered challenging the spot of the ball. "So, I felt like it was better to kick the three but that's a very fair question. I felt like it was just better to kick the field goal there."
The second-quarter field goal was immediately condemned as playing it too safe, but an aggressive call also hurt O'Brien's squad. After settling for the field goal on the previous possession, O'Brien tried to catch Kansas City off guard on fourth-and-4 from Houston's own 31 by running a fake punt. The direct snap to Justin Reid resulted in a 2-yard pickup, two yards short of the line to gain thanks to an excellent tackle made by Daniel Sorensen.
O'Brien explained afterward he was simply trying to "manufacture some points" against a team known for producing plenty of them.
"I definitely thought that we were gonna have to score more than 24," the coach said. "Yeah. I did. I think that they're, obviously, a very explosive team. And it just didn't work out."
"Yeah, I think these games, games are momentum, momentum swings," O'Brien said. "We had momentum at that point, just felt like we were gonna try to make a play there and it just didn't work."
While the Texans scored the first few wins within the Divisional Round contest, they came out of it as losers by a substantial margin. They'll have an entire offseason to review whether they should've done something differently on those two key downs.