It was a dark and ominous night in Houston, the silver moonlight peering over the crest of that steep and foreboding structure that is NRG Stadium. A storm brews outside, and a presence stirs in the dark below. Deshaun Watson, coming off a brutal loss in the season’s inaugural game, is awoken by the sharp cracking of lightning and a voice on the wind, “NRG Stadium…Practice Drills…Watson….” Practice? Now? The home opener is just a few days away. Maybe Bill O’Brien wanted a final few reps before game time. Watson rose from bed, got dressed, and out the door and into the night he went.
The rain was harsh and unforgiving. Sharp as needles those droplets were as they pounded against his windshield. Watson peered at his phone to see if any storm warnings had been broadcasted, but saw no such thing. His vessel peels across the crossing waves, his upsetting occupation the only soul daring the violent weather. The encroaching fog swarms his surroundings, visibility scant as commanding was the storm. Deshaun was now traversing purely by memory, hoping a sense of habit could sail him to solace. Darkness subsumed him; nowhere to turn, the storm booming so angrily even a moment’s peace is impossible and in its wake lies only confusion and anxiety. Deshaun’s head spins. He is lost and exists exactly nowhere. He closes his eyes and tries to collect himself. His eyes open to find he is directly in front of that overbearing metal mountain. Purely dumbfounded but seeking not to dwell on such strange events, he enters NRG Stadium. A dark, strangely shaped cloud absorbs the stadium as Deshaun enters its maw.
Deshaun rushes inside and slams the door as the wind fights tooth and nail to infest the inner sanctum of the Texans’ home field. He faces those familiar hallways expecting commotion and light, only to fine absolute silence. Soulless and empty, the pitch black ventricles wind into the void. Deshaun begins to exhale, but hesitates as a gust of mysterious origin rushes through the silent halls, dared by none to be disturbed. The darkness of the passageways is nothing like he’s ever seen before, only the faint reflections of light from an unknown source bouncing off cold metal can Deshaun realize his vulnerable circumstances. Shifting through the shapeless deep, his hands guide him counter-clockwise around the concrete walls towards what appears to be a faint glow down the hallways. As he approaches, Deshaun realizes the light is coming from the main field. The sharp floodlights were the only source of light in the entire stadium, and at center stood a pacing Bill O’Brien, isolated in a field of green.
“Uh, hey Coach,” mumbled Deshaun.
“Oh, finally you’re here,” barked O’Brien. “I’ve been waiting for a good while now.”
“Why did you want to do some drills so late?”
“Felt we had a few more plays that needed polishing for the Ravens game. Wanted to run you through some third down scenarios again.”
“Third and eight, Ravens are showing man coverage. Not much time in the pocket. What do you do?”
“Just try and get it to Nuk.”
“Ha, yeah. Well, not anymore.”
“Did you forget, Deshaun? He’s gone. Brought in Cooks and Cobb to be new weapons. Remember?”
“Oh, yeah. Sorry, got used to having him around…I guess a quick pass to Cobb or wide receiver screen to Fuller would clean things up.”
O’Brien sends Watson through a few more scenarios he believes likely to occur, each more grave than the last. Third and fifteen, fourth and goal, score a touchdown within a minute. These are situations Deshaun is prepared for, but none any quarterback would like to be expecting on Sunday. Maybe it was O’Brien trying to prepare his passer for such dire straits, but why now? A floodlight flickers.
“Hey, Coach...what’s this about? These scenarios are important, but we’ve gone through most of them before, and I’m curious why you wanted to see them so abruptly.”
“Well, to be honest, Deshaun...I’m worried about our defense. I’m worried they might have a rough start, especially against the Ravens. I wanted to see how you reacted to getting put in these stressful situations all of a sudden.”
“I see. Well, I’m ready to throw the ball all over the place, coach.” He hesitates. “I…I know you like to establish the run, but I’m excited to show the Ravens how fast we can score...Hey, did you see that storm going on out there?”
The floodlights shudder. Complete darkness ensnares Watson, an unnerving feeling crawls under his skin. The gust of wind is heard again.
“Do you question my means of assembling an offense? You are at least fond of my player management, aren’t you? All of my moves have been made with you in mind.”
“I...I can’t answer that question honestly, Coach.”
Lightning crashes with a bellowing thump felt deep within Watson’s stomach. “Hark! Hark, ye!” Watson feels harsh currents swirl around him; a draft rushes through his heart and nearly throws him off balance. The metal giant groans against the storm and its skeleton whispers dark secrets. Thousands of silent eyes beset upon him, Deshaun stares into the abyss in front of him. Those dwelling in the veil of darkness stare back.
“Hark, ye gods and ye demons! May you be smote with such fervor and such resolve that you be spared such suffering through sheer might of impact!” Bill O’Brien had vanished, his voice now echoing throughout NRG. “May the Houston football gods strike you dead where you stand! May those bastard gods under our churning waves ascend in such foul manner that their search of retribution may be found in the ashes of your soul!”
The floodlights blast on, and Watson is in the middle of a contest against the Ravens. Just over five minutes left in the second quarter, with the Texans down 13-7 and looking to even things up before halftime. Completely bewildered, Watson scrambles to his right and throws a short pass to Keke Coutee, who immediately gets absorbed by Ravens’ linebackers. Fumble! Watson’s heart sinks and he twists to try and close the gap, but his fate is sealed. The fumble is returned by L.J. Fort for a touchdown.
Watson closes his eyes, and now he’s in Pittsburgh. The Texans are hanging onto a one point lead in the fourth quarter and looking to score again. Fearful of a similar series of events against the Ravens, Watson elects to fire deep. Intercepted! “May they climb from their gridiron graves and smother this mouth with such passion that he may be bloated and drowned in the hazy foam of turnovers!”
The voices consume him. Watson is unable to hear his own thoughts. Deshaun closes his eyes, and he is now at the five yard line. Fourth and goal, game on the line against the Vikings, the ball enters Deshaun’s hands. This is what O’Brien was training him for. Tosses it to Will Fuller, and...touchdown! Success is found in the corner of the end zone! “May those undulating waves of turf swallow your spirit and consume your heroics as if all were not to be! Not to be on such desecrated grounds where he who blasphemes is doomed to suffer!”
The play is reviewed, and it is ruled an incomplete pass. The Texans lose on the final play, and the season is on the ropes. The lights shudder again, and Deshaun is left in complete darkness.
“But O’Brien was fired after that loss! And we won the next game!”
“Hark! Curse ye to eternal damnation! He knows not what he speaks! We may be gone, but our embers linger forevermore!”
Watson rushes back towards the passageway he entered, turns the corner, and is greeted by Kevin Byard. Standing in the middle of Nissan Stadium, Deshaun must now call the coin toss to determine if the Texans will get the ball in overtime. Heads or Tails. He calls tails….and…it’s heads. The Titans get the ball and win the game. The Texans’ season is over.
When you lose the toss knowing Derrick Henry is getting the ball pic.twitter.com/JtGq3LzZLB— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) October 18, 2020
“May you be forever cursed on the turf you as so foolishly desecrate the overlord of Houston Texans football! Even in our banishment, we shall be shadow you! Never will you escape the ever extending finger that beckons such weary souls to our sanctum. Endless our haunt will be until you have been swallowed and forgotten, all that defines Deshaun Watson eaten by our curse!”
Watson finds the exit of NRG Stadium, chilled winds and darkness enveloping everything around him. Lightning crashes in the distance, and for a moment, Deshaun can perceive the entrance halls and gift shops that adorn the walls. Battle red, they were not, but hues of soft blue and white. Jersey numbers 1 and 34 dot the landscape, and flags that yell, “Luv ya, blue!” This wasn’t NRG Stadium. This was the Astrodome! Deshaun gazes back towards the field, seeing every single seat occupied by skeletons adorned with Oilers jerseys, the AstroTurf swallowed by a wave of blood. Bill O’Brien’s voice morphs into Bud Adams’, booming, “Doomed forever you will be in Houston! He who has challenged the unchallengeable, and for that, you shall never again see the light of day!”
Deshaun sprints out the exit as the ground begins to shake violently. The tempest raises its foul voice and curses him one final time as he sprints from the scene. The Astrodome collapses spectacularly, entombing all in its wake. Watson leaps for cover, and as he hits the concrete floor, his eyes open and he is launched from his slumber.
It was all a dream. Deshaun gazes out the window. The sun is shining, with no dark clouds in sight. The Astrodome still stands, and there are no Oilers jerseys to be seen. Watson sits up and gets out of bed, ready to begin another day of Houston football without Bud Adams and Bill O’Brien. But, as he rises, Deshaun hears one final whisper, “Beware…Easterby…”
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