Kansas City, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - Alex Smith threw for 240 yards while rushing for a touchdown, and the Kansas City defense stood tall once again to keep the Chiefs unbeaten with Sunday's 17-16 victory over a game Houston Texans squad.
The Chiefs limited an injury-plagued Houston offense to a pair of Randy Bullock field goals while sacking fill-in quarterback Case Keenum five times over the final two quarters to make a 14-10 halftime lead stand up and improve the NFL's first-half surprise to 7-0 on the season.
Smith finished an efficient 23-of-34 with an interception, while Jamaal Charles churned out 86 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries in the win.
"It feels real good," Charles said of being 7-0. "I'm just blessed that we win games and that we continue to win and that we have a defense that fights and saves the offense, but we've still got to play consistently and keep on putting points on the board so our defense doesn't have to do that every week."
Keenum, elevated from the third string to a starter's role with Matt Schaub sidelined by a sprained ankle, did perform fairly well in his first NFL action, and Houston (2-5) gave the Chiefs all they could handle despite losing running back Arian Foster and linebacker Brian Cushing to injuries during the game.
Keenum fired a 29-yard touchdown pass to rookie DeAndre Hopkins in the second quarter and accumulated 271 yards on 15-of-25 passing with no interceptions, but lost a fumble on a sack by Tamba Hali with under two minutes to play that ultimately dealt the disappointing Texans a fifth consecutive defeat.
The Chiefs trailed 10-7 and were backed up at their own 3-yard line midway through the second quarter, but Smith deftly orchestrated a massive 15-play, 97-yard drive to change the momentum. The heady quarterback hit on 8-of-9 throws over the length of the series, including a pair of third-down completions that kept the chains moving, and improvised a botched handoff with Charles into a 5-yard touchdown run that sent Kansas City in front with just under a minute left in the half.
Kansas City stayed ahead with a defensive stand early in the third quarter. A 27-yard connection from Keenum to Garrett Graham gave Houston a 1st-and-goal from the one, but the Chiefs stuffed two run plays and cornerback Marcus Cooper broke up a pass for Hopkins in the end zone to force Bullock's 21-yard field that brought the Texans within 14-13.
Smith delivered another big play on the ensuing possession, evading pressure and scrambling for 23 yards to the Houston 20 on 3rd-and-7 to set up Ryan Succop's 22-yard field goal that increased the margin to four points.
Keenum's 42-yard heave to Andre Johnson after escaping a rush quickly got the Texans back in scoring range, but head coach Gary Kubiak again passed up a chance to go for it on 4th-and-1 in favor of Bullock, who drilled a 47-yard try through to cut the deficit to 17-16 with 4:21 remaining in the third quarter.
It remained a one-point game courtesy of a goal-line stand from Houston early in the fourth, with Charles stopped on third down from the one and Sean McGrath failing to stay in bounds on Smith's fourth-down fade pass. Shiloh Keo's interception of Smith in Houston territory with 5:47 to go halted another Kansas City scoring chance, but the Chiefs' defense stiffened down the stretch.
Hali came through unblocked and sacked Keenum on third down to induce a punt with just over four minutes left, then knifed through the line again on the Texans' next drive and stripped the ball from Keenum, with the Chiefs' Derrick Johnson pouncing on the ball at the Houston one with 1:34 remaining.
"I'm really disappointed and frustrated," Keenum said. "I thought our team played really hard there towards the end. We put the offense in a position and me in a position to go down and win the game, and we didn't. I didn't make the plays there at the end."
Smith followed with three kneel-downs to run out the clock.
Even facing one of the NFL's fiercest defenses and most hostile environments, Keenum didn't look out of place in his debut. The onetime practice-squad member hit Johnson for a pair of completions on Houston's opening drive, the last of which put Bullock in range to knock home a 48-yard field goal that gave the Texans a 3-0 edge near the halfway stage of the first quarter.
Smith countered by an engineering an 11-play, 82-yard sequence in which he completed 4-of-5 passes, including an 11-yard strike to Anthony Fasano that placed the ball on the Houston one. Charles punched it in on the following play for a 7-3 Kansas City lead.
Keenum impressed on his next series as well, finding DeVier Posey over the middle that the big receiver broke off for a 42-yard gain into Kansas City territory and later hitting Hopkins in stride on a deep route for a 29-yard touchdown that put the Texans back in front early in the second quarter.
Hali finished with 2 1/2 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles ... Foster departed with a hamstring injury on Houston's first drive, while Cushing was carted to the locker room with an injury to his lower left leg midway through the third quarter ... The Chiefs have now held the opposition to 17 points or less in all seven games this season ... Fasano returned from a four-game absence caused by a sprained ankle and recorded four catches for 27 yards ... The Texans were making just their second-ever visit to Arrowhead Stadium, having previously posted a 24-21 win there during the 2004 season.