The Texans won a big game on Sunday, and in the process found a quarterback.
And a play caller.
For the second week in a row, the Texans were explosive and creative on offense in a 57-14 rout of the Tennessee Titans. The win helped them improve to 2-2 and set them up for a big showdown with Kansas City next week.
The Titans also fell to 2-2, and star quarterback Marcus Mariota was injured and missed the second half.
The defense forced five turnovers, but the other side of the ball was the story. How good was the offense? The Texans did not punt until late in the third quarter. They scored on six of their first seven possessions. They outgained Tennessee 446-192. They dominated time of possession, 39:41 to 20:19.
And they scored the most points in a game in the history of the franchise.
Deshaun Watson continues to improve week to week. And he continues to impress. He was almost perfect in this one. Watson was 25 of 34 for 283 yards and four touchdowns before turning it over to Tom Savage late. Watson also rushed for 24 yards and a touchdown. The five TDs tied an NFL rookie record for a quarterback, and he was the first to throw for four and rush for one since Fran Tarkenton in 1961.
Watson’s only hiccup was a bad interception near the end of the half that cost them points. But he did what good players do — bounced back by leading a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a TD pass to Will Fuller, who caught his second TD of the game in his season debut. Watson was sacked just once.
Watson is not just emerging as a solid starting quarterback in the NFL and the future of the franchise, but as a star right now. He is smart. Accurate. Creative. Elusive. He is everything you could want in a quarterback.
He should only get better. As he does, it will only help DeAndre Hopkins, who had a big day himself with 10 catches for 102 yards and a touchdown. He consistently got open, and Watson found him.
But the person who might be benefiting the most from Watson’s emergence is Bill O’Brien.
O’Brien’s offense has been stagnant for his three-plus years here. His play-calling was predictable and boring. It worked to an extent — in that it got them to the playoffs two years in a row. But it was not enough when they got to the postseason. He fired offensive coordinator George Godsey last season, and took over play calling himself. The first two weeks, nothing looked any different than the Godsey era.
But the past two weeks, the offense has been fantastic. O’Brien has made the right play call more often than not. He has taken advantage of Watson’s mobility and creativity.
And the whole group looks different. The Texans had not scored 30 points in a game since the last game of 2015. They have topped that number twice in two weeks. They also went over 400 yards of offense for the second time in two weeks. After years of trotting out Hoyers, Fitzpatricks, Keenums, Savages and Ostrichs, the Texans have a real, bonafide answer at quarterback. They finally got it right at the position.
And O’Brien has not held him back. He has opened up the offense, using misdirection, option plays, bootlegs, throwing on the run, called quarterback draws…and it has worked.
There will be bad games ahead. Setbacks. But there will also be a lot more excitement and improvement. Suddenly, things look so much brighter in Houston.
Yes, the Texans have a real quarterback. And a play-caller who knows how to use him.