Thanks to Deshaun Watson’s Leadership, the Houston Texans Lose with Dignity

On the heels of an inspiring offensive performance against the New England Patriots, the Kool-Aid that was being served up until the performance against the Kansas City Chiefs was that the Texans were only a Quarterback away from winning a Super Bowl Championship. The narrative was that the defense led by JJ Watt was already in place. And then the unthinkable happened; J.J. Watt and fellow impactful defensive lineman Whitney Mercilus both exited the game early after suffering season-ending injuries. Watt fractured his tibia and Mercilus tore his pectoral muscle. This marks the second consecutive year that Watt’s season has been cut short due to a devastating injury. Mercilus, who led the Texans with 7.5 sacks and four fumble recoveries last season, will be sorely missed on the field.

Texans offense struggled in the 1st half of the game, only running 25 plays in comparison to Kansas City’s 46. The biggest cheer from the NRG stadium crowd occurred when news of the Green Bay Packers defeating the Dallas Cowboys flashed onto the screen. Ouch. Even still, what can be said of rookie QB Deshaun Watson is that he didn’t let the score or lack of energy intimidate him. He told the media post-game that his mindset is to “Just keep fighting. Keep the energy. Keep the leadership up with the guys. The game is never over until the 4th quarter and the clock is 0.0…” So Watson kept fighting, ending the night with 31 rushing yards, 261 yards passing, 16 of 31, throwing 5 TD, and a clutch TD-saving tackle of Chris Jones after D’Onta Foreman fumbled the ball. It’s no wonder Watson earned league honors nabbing the AFC Offensive Player of the Week award following his Tennessee Titans performance. After Sunday night’s game, he has now set a single-season rookie franchise record for touchdown passes (12).

As the weeks go on, it is clear that Watson is finding a rhythm with his offensive line role players DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Lamar Miller, Bruce Ellington, and D’Onta Foreman. Against Kansas City he primarily targeted, his fellow Clemson Tiger alum, Hopkins and Fuller for his primetime passes and TDs. Hopkins said of Watson’s leadership, “We were down however much we were down, and he was sitting on the sideline rallying guys up, telling us we need to go out here and work on something or let’s try to score every time we touch the ball.”

Watson, who is accustomed to a big stage, proved once again that he can handle the pressure and keep his composure. It might be too early to say, but his composure and readiness for a comeback in a pocket full of chaos is reminiscent of Tom Brady. The Texans are no longer a team led by defense and it looks like Watson is prepared to keep the offensive fires burning with his unique skill set. At one point, Watson was able to put the ball in his left hand to avoid the strip sack from Rakeem Nunez-Roches.

“When you have a guy like that, and look, I know he’s only a 22-year-old rookie, [but] I think our team needs to understand that and to understand that you’ve got this guy under center and at shotgun out there playing for you, you’ve got a chance in every single game,” O’Brien told the media. “No doubt about it.”

So there it is. With Watson in the driver’s seat, there’s always a chance.