KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Following a colossal meltdown Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs -- up by 24 points early in the second quarter before losing 51-31 -- the Houston Texans have some questions. Namely, is this team good enough to take a step forward next season, or do they have to make big changes?
Sunday's loss to the Chiefs was another example of Texans' inconsistency on offense. Although Houston's been able to come back in games this season, including in spectacular fashion against the Buffalo Bills in the wild-card round, it won't be a threat in the playoffs if this issue continues.
Houston finally got off to a fast start. The Texans scored a touchdown on their first possession -- the first time this season with Deshaun Watson at quarterback -- and took advantage of miscues by the Chiefs on special teams.
But instead of reaching the first AFC Championship Game in franchise history and hosting the Tennessee Titans, the Texans allowed the Chiefs to become the first team in NFL history (in the regular season or postseason) to lead at halftime after trailing by 24 or more points.
The Texans had no answers, as Kansas City scored 41 consecutive points and touchdowns on seven straight possessions.
For a team that does not have a first-round pick this offseason, and is likely to spend a lot of money securing Watson and left tackle Laremy Tunsil before the start of the 2020 season, coach Bill O'Brien and the Texans could have some retooling to do.
Do the Texans have the right players around Watson? The Texans must decide if they have the pieces around Watson to allow him and the franchise to take the next step. Houston has receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Kenny Stills under contract, and receiver Will Fuller under a $10.1 million fifth-year option that is guaranteed for injury only.
Houston also must decide what to do at running back: Lamar Miller, who tore his ACL in a preseason game, was on the last year of his contract, and Carlos Hyde, who had the best season of his career, was on a one-year deal. Will the Texans make Duke Johnson their lead back or will they go after another back in the draft or outside free agency?
O-line help needed: After leading the NFL in sacks allowed last season, Houston invested its draft capital into improving its offense line: trading two first-round picks for Tunsil and drafting tackle Tytus Howard in the first round and guard Max Scharping in the second round. Still, Houston allowed 49 sacks in the regular season (eighth in the NFL), and 12 in two playoffs games.
The Texans are likely set at tackle but have a decision to make about right guard Zach Fulton, who is scheduled to make $7 million in each of the next two seasons but would carry no dead money if they cut him this offseason.
Changes in the secondary: Houston made moves during the season (trading for cornerback Gareon Conley and signing cornerback Vernon Hargreaves) to ensure it had some returning help in the secondary. But this group, which likely will not include cornerbacks Bradley Roby or Johnathan Joseph, still needs to improve.
The Texans' secondary struggled in 2019 and that continued against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs on Sunday, allowing the Kansas City quarterback to complete 23 of 35 passes for 321 yards and five touchdowns. Yes, Houston was playing through injuries, but given that the team jumped to a big lead early, the secondary needed to do better.