HOUSTON - The Kansas City Chiefs had fashioned such a dominating defense during the regular season, particularly over the course of the 10-game winning streak they carried into the playoffs, that even the slightest bit of unexpected scoring would likely serve them well on Saturday.
Chiefs return specialist Knile Davis provided those points with haste.
Davis levied a seismic blow on the opening kickoff and the Kansas City Chiefs defense dominated throughout in a 30-0 victory over the miscue-prone Houston Texans in an AFC wild-card game at NRG Stadium. Kansas City advances to play at New England next Saturday.
Davis returned the opening kick 106 yards for a touchdown before the Chiefs harassed Houston quarterback Brian Hoyer into four first-half turnovers, effectively negating the Texans' repeated attempts to rally.
Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos added a pair of 49-yard field goals in the first half before Kansas City finally collapsed the Texans' fatigued defense with two second-half touchdowns. The Chiefs snapped an eight-game postseason losing skid dating back to the 1993 season while handing the Texans their first home postseason loss in franchise history.
"I didn't feel it (the pressure), but I know how important it is too," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of ending the prolonged postseason drought. "You get to the playoffs and in that first round if things don't go well, that rips your heart out a little bit. I understand. I've been on both sides of it. So I'm happy for the Hunt family and the fans of Kansas City."
Hoyer endured a nightmarish performance, fumbling to end a promising Texans drive late in the first half before throwing the second of his four interceptions on second-and-goal at the Chiefs 3-yard line.
That interception came one play after Houston opted for a direct snap to defensive end J.J. Watt, a bizarre call that resulted in a 1-yard loss.
Trailing 13-0, Hoyer followed by hitting Chiefs linebacker Josh Mauga squarely in the hands. With 7:18 left in the first quarter, Hoyer threw a pass intended for Nate Washington that was picked off by Chiefs safety Eric Berry. Chiefs cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Sean Smith added interceptions in the second and fourth quarters, respectively.
"I picked the wrong time to have the worst game," said Hoyer, who finished 15 of 34 for 136 yards. "It's tough. Own up to it and learn from it. Embarrassing.
"Have to learn from your mistakes. Have to look in the mirror. Trust me, no one will be more critical of this than I will."
The Chiefs mustered just 136 yards in the first half, but with the Hoyer imploding, Houston finally succumbed defensively. Kansas City covered 94 yards in 11 plays late in the third quarter, with wide receiver Chris Conley snagging a 9-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith for a 20-0 lead at the 4:35 mark. Running back Spencer Ware capped an eight-play, 71-yard drive with a 5-yard run for a 27-0 lead early in the fourth.
"That's not what we expected," said Watt, who departed with a groin injury in the third quarter and did not return. "That's not how we expected to play. That is just not the way it was supposed to go."
The Texans totaled only 226 yards with running back Alfred Blue gaining 49 five plays before the Mauga interception. The Chiefs limited standout Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins to six receptions for 69 yards and limited Houston to six possessions of fewer than 10 yards.
"Those were our goals coming into today," Berry said. "Obviously we came out and played a great game but it's about getting better every week, capitalizing on other teams' mistakes and limiting ours."
NOTES: Chiefs RB Knile Davis' 106-yard return for a touchdown on the opening kickoff was the second-longest kickoff return in NFL postseason history. ... When Texans LB Brian Cushing recorded an interception in the first quarter, it marked the first in the postseason career of Chiefs QB Alex Smith, a span of 120 pass attempts. ... Texans QB Brian Hoyer is the first quarterback with four turnovers in one half of a playoff game since Eli Manning of the New York Giants in 2005. ... Chiefs WR Jeremy Maclin was lost to a knee injury in the third quarter. ... Chiefs RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif departed with a concussion in the first half. ... Texans DE J.J. Watt was lost to a groin injury in the third quarter.