There was a moment towards the end of the second half of the Texans' come from behind 24-21 win against the Raiders where Houston fans were staring at the game in abject horror. They had already gotten the almost annual news that JJ Watt was likely gone for the season and they were faced with a head down, not moving Deshaun Watson in the middle of the field. Watson had performed another Houdini escape and TD throw while in the grasp and then went down and was just staying down in an odd position.
We later found out that he "only" had been kicked in the eye. There is only one place on my body where I would choose getting kicked in the eye over. But finding out that he was OK and that he returned for the final run-the-clock out drive was a super relief to the crowd.
So what if JJ is gone again for the season. So what if Jadeveon Clowney plays elsewhere and cannot take over the mantle as the Texans main defender. So what if Larami Tunsil went down during the game with a shoulder injury. So what if fellow o-linemen Tytus Howard and Roderick Johnson are hurting. So what if most of the secondary has to wear name tags to introduce themselves with Johnathan Joseph, Tashaun Gipson and Bradley Roby battling injuries. So what if Will Fuller is like Ferris Bueller's friend's father's sports car - too precious and fragile to take out for a spin. So what if the Texans have to overcome their coach's tendency to be predictable on play calls and going for one instead of two when they were down by two beginning the fourth quarter.
Who cares about all that? We have magician, shaman, escape artist Deshaun Watson.
Sometimes it feels like Texan fans who criticize Watson for the mistakes he makes (and yes he makes mistakes) are not aware of how extraordinary a player he is for such an inexperienced player. Every game they flash up stats about him that are best ever through first XX games, how he has scored a TD (legs or arm) in every game so far in his playing career, which is the most ever by far and on and on.
Every week he makes at least one magical play, at least one - how did he do that moment. And more than this, he gives the Texans a chance every time out there. He is a leader, he is clutch and the Texans are always in the game if he is in the game.
There will be a lot of talk about the Texans "replacing" JJ Watt with a combination of two or three players. Don't be fooled by this. They will most likely replace him with a more wide open offense under Deshaun Watson.
There are quite a few pluses in a game that the Texans really needed to put in the win column:
- Putting this in the win column. The offense and defense were kind of blah through a big chunk of the game, but they held in there and came back when it was so needed
- Deshaun Watson - 27 for 39 - 279 yds - 3 TDs and no turnovers
- Deshaun's best old friend - DeAndre Hopkins 11 catches for 109 yds and many first down conversions
- Deshaun's best new friend - Supposed blocking TE Darren Fells - who had 6 catches for 58 yards and 2 TDs and who made a couple other critical snags along the way including a huge first down on the last drive
- Duke Johnson/Carlos Hyde - Johnson did nothing in the run game, but caught 3 passes including the first TD. Hyde had to make some of his own holes in taking 19 carries for 83 yds
- Zach Cunningham led the team with 8 tackles, had a pass defense and a tackle for loss
- Gareon Conley had 2 pass defenses (and yes he was the guy trailing Tyrell Williams on a long TD) but Jeez he played a lot for a guy who just got here
- Whitney Mercilus had 2 tackles for loss
- Brian Anger had 4 punts with a 51.8 yd average and only gave up 3 yards in returns
- Ka'imi Fairbarin was perfect (yes his last extra point tried to spin right) with 2 FGs and 3 XPs
- The team imposed their will and ran the clock out after taking possession with 4 minutes left
- Even though the Texans totally dominated the clock (36 - 24 mins) they only won by 3 pts
- Even though the Texans totally dominated the first downs (29-15) they only won by 3 pts
- They forced no turnovers (truth in advertising - the Raiders only forced one fumble that the Texans recovered)
- They had no sacks on the day - get used to this in the post AWattalyptic period
- They got down 8 points at home to a middle of the road Raiders squad
- Coach BOB had us puzzling again as he did not go for two when he was two down at the beginning of the 4th quarter
- The Texans allowed two huge pass plays (65 yds to Hunter Renfrow and 46 yds to Tyrell Williams) that helped the Raiders lead this game 3/4 of the way through
It was a bit of an odd game. No turnovers, but lots of mistakes as the Texans had 7 penalties for 50 yds and were sacked 3 times, while the Raiders were not sacked but gave the Texans lots of life with 11 penalties for 100 yds including a huge holding penalty that derailed their last drive.
The Texans head to London for the first time to play the (Will travel for bucks) Jaguars. They will see if they can gin up enough offense against the Jags tough D to offset the JJ loss.