KANSAS CITY — As if Case Keenum didn't have enough obstacles standing in his way in his first career NFL start, another huge one materialized early in the first quarter.
Arian Foster — the Pro Bowl tailback Keenum figured to lean on most of the day — limped to the sidelines with a hamstring injury. And Foster was quickly ruled out for the rest of the game with the leg troubles that dogged him all week in practice.
No. 23's final line? Four carries for 11 yards.
Not bad for an undrafted third stringer who isn't supposed to have a big arm.
No matter. With Foster gone, Keenum followed his first career NFL drive (which resulted in a 48-yard Ryan Bullock field goal) with an even better second one. Try a five-play, 81-yard touchdown drive.
The score came courtesy of a 29-yard strike to rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the corner of the end zone. Keenum put plenty of air under the ball and it settled cleanly into the hands of Hopkins, who had plenty of separation between himself and a Chiefs cornerback.
It wasn't a 50-yard bomb, but it was an example of the vertical passing game that the Texans have lacked most of this season. Which is one of the things that intrigued Texans coach Gary Kubiak about Keenum.
Earlier in the drive, Keenum completed a short pass to DeVier Posey and the second-year receiver turned it into a 42-yard gain by turning on the speed.
Keenum would start the game 6 of 9 for 130 yards, one touchdown and a gaudy 146.8 quarterback rating through three possessions. Not bad for an undrafted third stringer who isn't supposed to have a big arm.
On the last play of the first half, the former University of Houston star showed just how off those reports on his arm may be, flinging a Hail Mary pass into the end zone from the 41-yard line that more than got there and just missed being caught by veteran Texans lifeline Andre Johnson.
"He's very confident in himself," CBS lead broadcaster Jim Nantz told CultureMap before the game. "I just have a feeling he's going to play well."