HOUSTON — Mario Williams smiled broadly, clutched his football and breezed into the room.
After a year of carrying the burden of Houston’s seemingly inexplicable decision to draft him, the 6-foot-7 player seemed to stand a little taller when it was time to talk about Sunday’s game.
Last year’s top pick finally had his breakout game, returning a fumble for a touchdown and finishing with five tackles, including two sacks to help the Houston Texans to a 20-3 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
“There’s so much more,” Williams said. “Not just me, as a defense. There’s a lot of things we did, and a lot we could do better. Today was just a start. Hopefully, we can keep going that way.”
It was Houston’s first win in an opener since 2003 and is the first time in franchise history the team has won three games in a row, dating to last year.
The Texans led 10-0 when Jamar Fletcher knocked the ball out of Kris Wilson’s hands and Williams recovered it. The defensive end got up and rumbled 38 yards for the touchdown. He kept the ball from that play and held onto it long after the game had ended.
DeMeco Ryans jumped on Williams to congratulate him after the score. It was a change from last season, when Williams endured endless criticism in part because the Texans passed on Reggie Bush and Vince Young to get him. Kansas City challenged the ruling of a fumble, but the call was upheld.
Asked if a game like this helps take pressure off him, Williams didn’t address it.
“I don’t really feel like I’m under any pressure,” he said. “When you look at it, the pressure applied from critics and media and whatever, I’m always behind anyway. I was drafted No. 1, but I was never really whoever else you might try to compare me to.”
Williams also got a hearty laugh when someone pointed out that he has more touchdowns than Bush this year.
“I didn’t think about that,” Williams said. “There you go.”
Matt Schaub had a successful, if a bit inconsistent, debut. He was 16-of-22 for 225 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Both of Williams’ sacks came after halftime, the second a 6-yard loss on second down inside the 20 that forced the Chiefs to settle for a field goal. Justin Medlock’s 27-yarder made it 17-3 in the third.
Coach Gary Kubiak said the sack “did a lot for the team” and the coaching staff expected a big game from Williams because he had his best practice as a Texans player on Thursday.
“This game is about confidence,” Kubiak said. “When you’re a player and a couple of good things go your way, you start to get a lot of confidence. I would expect him to feel really good coming out of this one moving forward.”
The Chiefs offense helped Houston’s effort with a slew of errors. Kansas City fumbled three times, losing two of them, missed a short field goal, and Damon Huard threw two interceptions. In addition, Chiefs receivers dropped a number of passes.
“You can’t turn the ball over four times on the road and expect to have a chance,” coach Herm Edwards said.
Even with Larry Johnson back on the field, the offensive problems continued after a preseason in which the Chiefs scored just two touchdowns. Johnson finished with 10 carries for 43 yards.
Huard’s first interception came just before halftime when Von Hutchins drilled Jeff Webb, who tipped the ball to Dunta Robinson. First-round pick Dwayne Bowe dropped a couple of passes but had a nifty 25-yard catch that set up Kansas City’s only score.
Bowe said he was a bit “jittery” before the game but a halftime pep talk from Edwards calmed him down. Huard was 22-of-33 for 168 yards.
The Texans’ offense wasn’t particularly impressive, considering the interception, a fumble by the normally steady Andre Johnson and more of the protection problems which have plagued the team. Schaub was sacked two times and hurried plenty more. He was impressive in flashes, however.
Schaub found Andre Johnson up the middle for a 77-yard touchdown reception that was the longest of Johnson’s career and made it 10-0 midway through the second quarter. Johnson, who had seven catches for 142 yards, tiptoed out of an arm tackle by a diving Bernard Pollard and jogged into the end zone.
The backup to Michael Vick for three years in Atlanta, Schaub also avoided the rush to find rookie Jacoby Jones for a 26-yard gain in the first quarter. He engineered a nice drive after Medlock missed a 30-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter, but the Texans came away empty-handed when Jarrad Page intercepted an ill-advised throw into the end zone.
Eddie Drummond fumbled a punt which Houston’s Charlie Anderson recovered in the second quarter, and the Texans cashed in with a 26-yard field goal by Kris Brown to make it 3-0.
Brown added a 28-yarder in the fourth quarter.