KANSAS CITY, Mo. – There's a good argument to be had over what's been more valuable to the Kansas City Chiefs' perfect start, running back Jamaal Charles or their stingy defense.
The truth is it's taken both of them to pile up the wins.
Charles joined some exclusive company with 123 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown on Sunday, while the Chiefs' defense forced a turnover in the final minutes to preserve a 17-16 win over the Houston Texans and keep their unblemished record intact.
"Our offense played well. They kept us in the game," said the Chiefs' Tamba Hali, who stripped Houston quarterback Case Keenum of the ball to wrap up the win. "We played complementary football, and as long as that's going on, we can always keep up our part of the bargain."
Charles ran for 86 yards and also had 37 yards receiving, joining O.J. Simpson as the only players in NFL history with at least 100 yards and a touchdown from scrimmage in each of the first seven games of a season. Simpson did it in the first nine games in 1975.
"It's great getting records and making things happen, but I'm just glad this team is 7-0," Charles said. "I'm happy to be up there with some of the great players. That's why I play this game. To be one of the best running backs."
The Chiefs are quickly staking their claim as one of the best defenses.
They held the Texans to a field goal despite facing first-and-goal at the 1-yard line early in the second half. They were also relentless in pursuing Keenum throughout the fourth quarter, keeping the Texans (2-5) from putting together a potential go-ahead drive.
"When they can pin their ears back, they're very, very difficult," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "They came and got us pretty good there late in the game. I'm proud of my team's effort, but I'm just very disappointed in the result."
The result is Houston's first five-game skid since Nov. 6-Dec. 11, 2005, and a very costly loss. Running back Arian Foster left with a hamstring injury and did not return, and linebacker Brian Cushing sustained a potentially serious left knee injury.
"It's a tough situation for him," said Foster, who hopes to be back soon. "Injuries are part of the game. He's going to come back strong and be ready for next year."
As the Chiefs press on with their unbeaten start, and the Texans try to end their slide, here are five things to keep in mind:
SACKS A-PLENTY: Hali had 2½ sacks on the day, and the Chiefs had five as a team. That gives them 36 on the season, keeping them on pace to break the NFL record of 72 set by the '84 Bears. "Sacks are great," Hali said, "but the Ws are huge."
KEENUM CAN PLAY: It's unclear how long Houston starter Matt Schaub will be out with ankle and foot injuries, but Keenum filled in well against Kansas City. He threw for 271 yards and a touchdown, and didn't make any major mistakes until his fumble near the end of the game. "That was a big stage, obviously, and a really good football team," Keenum said. "I learned that it's those small, one or two plays here and there that make a difference.
SEEING RED: Chiefs coach Andy Reid unsuccessfully challenged the spot on a catch by tight end Anthony Fasano in the second half. Fasano was ruled down at the 1-yard line and Reid thought he'd scored a touchdown, and his opinion hadn't changed after the game. The Chiefs wound up coming away with nothing when Alex Smith threw incomplete on fourth down.
HEAVY HEARTS: Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips decided to coach on Sunday, two days after his father, former Oilers coach Bum Phillips, died at the age of 90. The Texans performed well for him, too, holding Charles in check and allowing just 231 yards passing. "I tried to do the best I could do," Wade Phillips said, "and I thought our players tried to do the same thing."
PLAYOFFS OR BUST: After winning just twice last year, the Chiefs have put themselves squarely in playoff contention. In the Super Bowl era, 31 previous teams started 7-0 and all of them made the playoffs. Fifteen of them made the Super Bowl and nine of them won it all. "We're more together this year," Chiefs safety Kendrick Lewis said. "We're pulling for one common goal, and that goal is to win the Super Bowl."
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