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Incompletions: Texans v. Patriots (Always and Forever)

With so much to write and talk about after every game, one person isn’t enough to write about it all, the Masthead joins together and writes about the new normal.

New England Patriots Vs. Houston Texans at NRG Stadium Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

MATT WESTON:

Watching the Houston Texans in 2020 has been a complicated experience. For those who were in the right, it was apparent in 2018 that Bill O’Brien wasn’t the man who could turn the Texans into something more than Divisional Round fodder. Since then, O’Brien only gained more and more power, eventually tearing apart the team from the inside out with insane and petty personnel decisions that, at the same time, will also make the next leadership team’s job even more convoluted and complicated than running a professional football team already is.

Every loss was disappointing and disheartening during this season’s opening 0-4 stretch. Deshaun Watson had a salary cap hit of a little more than $8 million. In Year Four of his rookie contract, this was supposed to be the magnum opus. The Super Bowl type of team Watson should thrive in. A MVP caliber quarterback on his rookie contract is the holy grail, a cheat code, something impossible to screw up. O’Brien, the worst general manager in NFL history, raised his hands in celebration after each one of his lottery ticket numbers was called out, rolled down the window to celebrate, and then a violent wind blew the winning ticket out of his trembling hand.

At the same time, every Houston loss brought us one step closer to lopping off of that great putrescent boil, that malignant sore, that black and wretched spot, that source of all our football pain and misery. It’s devastating Houston wasted the greatest chance this franchise has ever had to win a Lombardi Trophy, but at the same time, these lesions were necessary to suffer through so the future could one day exceed the past.

We paraded into the streets once O’Brien was terminated, but that raucous celebration has come to an end. The champagne has been sucked dry, the confetti is an annoyance that needs to be swept up, and the floor is an alcoholic ice skating rink. Being a Texans fan is a time of purgatory. Win-loss ramifications don’t matter. We are stuck living in today with all our focus on the future.

Houston’s win over the Patriots yesterday exemplified this duality. The win itself was grand and beautiful, although meaningless. After spending an entire decade losing to New England (until last December), every win against the Patriots is something to be celebrated. These rare occasions are joyous, bombastic, and rambunctious. Every J.J. Watt swat, double safety edge blitz, and failed New England run was cause for hot dogs and top shelf beverages to celebrate today.

Yet what really matters is the future. Those plays and things that can be taken from right now and stretched out to next season, when Houston is hopefully an actual football team that plays meaningful games again. This game provided a glimpse into the crystal ball, as well as pinatas and candles.

Deshaun Watson is everything. He’s the quaternity. He turns the third into the fourth and creates mystical experiences. He accounted for all three of Houston’s touchdowns and 95.2% of Houston’s total yards. He did everything, from hitting pin-point passes to the seam, zipping accurate red zone throws, scrambling to turn nothing into something, and of course, stampeding through multiple defenders at the goal line to score. We don’t know when the next great Texans team will arrive, but we do know it will be built entirely around Deshaun Watson. He’s the sun this franchise revolves around.

Below Watson, deep within the subtext, there were other events that may eventually mean something one day, little things that we watch for that may also be located in future days. Jonathan Greenard had a nifty long arm sack. Lonnie Johnson Jr. and Justin Reid attacked the edges playing dual safety blitz—and Reid in general, once again playing at the high level he should be playing at. Excellent Tytus Howard pass sets. Play calling that completely abandoned a miserable run game. Hopefully sunnier days will also provide these sort of plays regularly.

Although we’re stuck pushing the boulder up the hill, lounging through placid and gray days, these seconds, like every second, are beautiful and wonderful, perfect and precious. Wins and losses don’t matter. What matters is enjoying the sunset just because purple and red dancing together is aesthetically pleasing, and at the same time, if you sit there and think long enough, this dwelling may pull out something hidden deep within the folds you were never aware of.

BILL O’BRIEN’S HEART IS HEAVIER THAN THE FEATHER:

L4BLITZER:

I will admit that I was pleasantly surprised with the result of the Texans-Patriots game. In following the flow of this game, you got the sense that this was exactly how the 2020 version of the Texans was supposed to go. To be successful, the strength of the team would be Deshaun Watson spreading the ball around to various receivers, all while using his legs at the appropriate moments to pick up key yards. The defense would give up yards, and it would bend, but not break, and the special teams would be solid, if not spectacular. That was the script and for once, the Texans followed it.

Granted, this is not the New England of old. Cam Newton had his moments, but when New England fell behind and had to get away from the ground game, they lost a critical aspect of their game plan. If they had not trailed by double digits at half, or they had taken the lead at some point in the second half, the running game would have carried the Patriots to victory. Also, the Patriots pass defense, even with the return of Stephon Gilmore, was almost as weak as the Texans’ run defense. However, any win over Darth Belichick is not to be dismissed out of hand. Two straight wins over New England...yeah, we’ll take it.

The Texans’ defense did bend (perhaps too much, given all the long-yardage situations they gave up), but ultimately, they held just enough in the second half to give the team its first non-Jacksonville victory. This perhaps was the best overall performance for the team. However, with injuries to Randall Cobb, Kenny Stills, and P.J. Hall, the win proved costly. It was nice to see the performance today, but also frustrating, as this was what the Texans could have been instead of what they are. Perhaps they can overcome Detroit on Thursday. Aside from a moment of sunshine, the dark clouds still remain over the Texans’ present and immediate future.

RAGE QUIT:

BIGFATDRUNK:

The difference in Deshaun Watson’s play since BOB was fired has been striking, and today was the cherry on the top. After all, Watson was responsible for all but 19 offense yards by the Texans. 19. Wow.

The defense bent but didn’t break all game. What I found to be profoundly interesting (phrasing!) was how much Anthony Weaver was blitzing defensive backs, especially toward the end of the game. After struggling last week, and most of the season, honestly, Justin Reid blowed up. I wonder if he found some inspiration from somewhere somehow.

Rivers McCown, motivator of football players.

GO TEXANS!

MIKE BULLOCK:

2020 is all downhill from here. The Texans have a two-game winning streak over the New England Patriots for the first time since... ever.

Deshaun Watson was 28 of 37 for 344 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air. Then he added 36 rushing yards and a ground TD that was glorious, BTW.

Just like last year’s magnificent win against the Patriots, this one will be the highlight of the season. Even Keke Coutee found himself in the mix. What wasn’t to like about this?

Well, since I asked, the defense still coughed up way too many yards, too easily. The running game (aside from Watson) was putrid and at least once Tim Kelly slammed Duke Johnson into the A-Gap, giving us all Bill O’Brien PTSD flashbacks.

The only thing that matters is the Texans beat the Patriots... for the second time in a row. Romeo Crennel can finally turn the tables on Darth Belichick and say, “Once I was the learner, now I am the master!”

We can all imagine what this offense might look like with Carlos Hyde or a healthy Lamar Miller in the backfield, with a defense more akin to the Texans’ D of old giving them the ball back more often, and visions of Super Bowl glory can dance in our heads for now. Maybe, just maybe, they can string together another one by taking out Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions on Thursday. For now, let’s just revel in the glory of the lone bright spot of the 2020 Texans season. For this game, let’s be thankful.

All hail Deshaun Watson!

WHAT’S UP, KYLE?