Thanks to the New England Patriots, the word deflating has come to have multiple meanings when talking about the NFL. On Sunday, it was the only word to describe the feeling in the hearts and guts of every Houston Texans fan watching Sunday’s 42-34 home loss against the Kansas City Chiefs.

On the opening drive of the game, Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt collapsed to the ground in a heap on a third-and-5 play at the Texans’ 17-yard line, with his leg giving out in a non-contact injury. It was later announced Watt suffered a tibial plateau fracture to his left leg.

Earlier on the same drive, linebacker Whitney Mercilus suffered a chest injury and was ruled out for the game (and probably much longer than that) — adding to that deflating feeling.

Without two of their elite pass rushers, the already banged-up Texans defense was hapless and hopeless against a talent-rich Chiefs offense. And where that defense goes from here will now be the story of the season, for better or for worse.

The Chiefs finished the game with 450 total yards, surrendered just one sack and no turnovers, and successfully converted nine of their 16 third down attempts. The Chiefs dominated time of possession 38:17 to 21:43.

The Chiefs offense made it look easy from the get-go, scoring on their first five possessions of the game — a 15-play, 64-yard field goal drive; an 11-play, 65-yard field goal drive, a nine-play, 62-yard touchdown drive, a short field goal drive following a fumble recovery; and a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive — en route to building a 23-7 halftime lead.

The same Texans offense that posted 57 points last week was mostly held in check in the first half, and although some heroics from rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson made it a one-score deficit early in the fourth quarter, the halftime hole was too deep to dig out of with a depleted defense unable to slow down the Chiefs.

In all likelihood, Watt’s season is finished early in the season for the second consecutive year. What makes this turn of events even more of a gut punch is the fact that Watt has become much more than an athlete to the Houston area — especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, during which Watt spearheaded a fundraising effort that generated more than $37 million in donations for flood victims (after the campaign started with a comparatively modest goal of $200,000).

Watt’s extraordinary ability on the football field and his charisma and good deeds off the field have given him a Superman-like aura for many fans. Now, he’ll be reduced to Clark Kent status watching from the sideline like one of us mere mortals.

And that is just deflating.

James LaCombe: 409-683-5242, james.lacombe@galvnews.com or on Twitter @JamesAtGalvNews

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