Just like that, the Texans are no longer J.J. Watt’s team. Their AFC playoff fate in 2017 is fully in the hands and legs of Deshaun Watson now.
For the second straight year, Watt will see his season cut short by a major injury. That means Watson, quickly warmed up as a red-hot rookie, needs to keep quarterbacking that way to give Houston hope over the final 12 weeks.
It was heartbreaking for Houston fans to see Watt meet misfortune early in Sunday night’s 42-34 home loss to Kansas City. But having Watson as the new fresh “face of the franchise” is a considerable consolation.
Before Watt went down with a fractured tibia — along with fellow edge rusher Whitney Mercilus to a torn pectoral — there was a defense-first narrative in place. It went like this: Now that Watson had sparked the offense, the Texans had a real chance to get to the Super Bowl because of their defense.
The reality is, outside of the dominant Watt, the strength of the Texans’ defense was overblown. Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney weren’t making as many big plays as their big names and highlights might suggest. The Texans’ overall numbers going into Week 5 were pretty good, but outside of the one-dimensional prolific passing Patriots, they hadn’t seen an attack as dangerous and complete as that of the Chiefs. They can struggle to stop the run on the second level, and they have pass coverage holes on the back end.
Exit Watt, exit Mercilus, and there goes any real chance of stopping the Alex Smith and Kareem Hunt machine.
That is, except for Watson trying his best to outscore them.
Even though it took a last-gasp TD pass followed by a two-point conversion from Watson to make it a one-possession game on the final scoreboard, he’s the reason the Texans even made the Chiefs sweat. On top of his second consecutive monster game (16-of-31, 261 yards passing, 5 TDs, 119.8 rating, 31 rushing yards, one TD-saving tackle), he kept up the Texans’ energy when it could have been completely drained without Watt.
The Texans are 2-3, one game behind upstart Jacksonville for the AFC South lead, tied for second with Tennessee. The difference was the decision not to start Watson from the get-go over Tom Savage, which cost Houston the home and season opener against the Jaguars.
That was a game in which Watt and the rest of the defense had little impact, but Watson could have had he not come in cold in the second half with his team already facing a 19-0 halftime hole. Since, Watson beat the Bengals with one big run and beat the Titans with a ton of big passes. He fell just short in helping Houston beat New England and Kansas City.
As great as Watt is, he could do only so much to carry the team given the nature of his position. He can be double-teamed at times and contained in bigger games against top opponents. His best attributes can be neutralized when a team is running well inside and doesn’t have to drop back to pass often vs. his pursuit.
Watson touches the ball on every offensive play and always is a run-pass option. He’s playing the game much like Russell Wilson and Michael Vick did early in their careers. He’s doing whatever it takes, always looking for the home runs, while defenses don’t know what to expect because he’s not always doing it by the playbook — and there’s not too much film on him yet.
The Texans don’t have a very good offensive line, but they have fine lead skill players in DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and Bruce Ellington at wideout, and Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman at running back. Watson has lifted all those players, zoned in most with Hopkins and Fuller, who accounted for all of his TD strikes against the Chiefs.
Even with Watt being the best defensive player in the game, the Texans were stuck at a 9-7 ceiling under coach Bill O’Brien. As weird as it sounds, anything happening to Watson on Sunday would have been the more devastating injury.
Watt has done a lot to brighten lives in Houston with his relief efforts where it counts, and he remains a team MVP even though he won’t see the field again for a while. Watson didn’t waste time picking up on that community spirit off the field with the donation of his first NFL paycheck to help Texans employees affected adversely by Hurricane Harvey.
Now Watson is being looked to as the only source for the ultimate pick-me-up on the field. No, there’s no more No. 99 for 2017. But with No. 4 at the forefront playing better than anyone could have imagined, the Texans have a lot more than hope — they have somebody who gives them a chance to win every game.
Credits : Sporting News