Chiefs much different team than last time they faced Texans

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Much time has passed since the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans played one another this season. It was so long ago, Charcandrick West played for the Chiefs only on special teams.

“Not one snap on offense,’’ said West, who finished this season as Kansas City’s leading rusher. “It’s a totally different Houston team. And we’re a different team, too.’’

The Chiefs beat the Texans 27-20 on Sept. 13 in Houston, their only victory before they lost five straight games to seemingly ruin their season.

But the Chiefs turned things around again, finishing the season by winning 10 straight games. The last of them came on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium by a score of 23-17 against the Oakland Raiders.

The Chiefs in Houston were led in rushing by Jamaal Charles, who gained 57 yards. Charles tore his ACL a month later in a game against the Chicago Bears and his season was finished.

The Chiefs have since turned to West and Spencer Ware to share the featured back role. Ware didn’t play against the Texans, either. He was on the Chiefs’ practice squad at the time and joined the active roster only after Charles’ injury.

West led the Chiefs with 634 yards but Ware was the leader in rushing touchdowns with six, including a 3-yarder against the Raiders.

Travis Kelce led the Chiefs in receiving in Houston with six catches, 106 yards and two touchdowns. But the yardage and touchdowns were season highs for him and he’s been replaced by Jeremy Maclin as quarterback Alex Smith’s go-to receiver.

Maclin wound up leading the Chiefs in catches (87), receiving yards (1,088) and touchdowns (8). His 25-yard catch from Smith gave the Chiefs their first touchdown against Oakland.

“For sure,’’ Smith said when asked whether the Chiefs were a different team than they were four months ago. “The whole season, kind of figuring out who you are and your strengths, dealing with injuries and overcoming things and all that. We’re both in different spots.’’

Things haven’t changed as much for the Chiefs on defense. Cornerback Sean Smith missed the Texans game because of an NFL suspension, but he long ago returned to the Chiefs lineup and will play in Houston this time.

Linebacker Justin Houston missed the season’s final five games because of a knee injury. But Houston, who forced a fumble that led to a Kansas City touchdown against the Texans in the opener, returned to practice last week and could be available this weekend.