On the night of his 22nd birthday, Deshaun Watson piloted the Houston Texans to a win against the Bengals in Cincinnati. An ugly, offensively-challenged 13-9 win that served as the latest example of Thursday night football’s inability to provide competent and aesthetically pleasing play.
Watson scored the game’s only touchdown on a thrilling 49-yard scramble on 3rd-and-15 shortly before halftime. There are few quarterbacks capable of such elusive, game-breaking ground gains.
He completed 15 of 24 passes for 125 yards in addition to his 67 rushing yards. Watson, the ninth different Texan to start at quarterback since 2014, was a significant upgrade over Tom Savage. There are also some data points out there suggesting he may not be worthy of being viewed as a savior.
Watson has led Houston to 20 points in six quarters of play, a major improvement over Savage’s two pointless periods, but far from explosive. With sacks and rush attempts added to passes, Watson has 61 plays for 262 yards, an average of 4.3 yards per play. Again, that includes the 49-yard scrambled from Thursday night. The Texans have only 208 net passing yards, the lowest total through two weeks since the 2010 Buffalo Bills (178).
The rookie quarterback has avoided the dreaded game manager tag due to his athleticism and big arm. But the stats suggest he’s micromanaging. Thirty-five rookies have thrown at least 30 passes in the first two games of a season since 1990. Watson’s 34th in yards per attempt, ahead of only Kyle Boller.
One play — and it was a fantastic one — may have Texans fans and NFL observers at large thinking they saw something they didn’t. Watson, coming hot on the heels of widespread quarterback failure, did what he was supposed to do and showed signs of life.
But let’s pump the breaks just a little bit here. The stats are more instructive than the brief eye test. And they suggest the Texans’ offense is far from a juggernaut. Outside of DeAndre Hopkins, Watson doesn’t have a ton of above-average weapons at his disposal.
Last night’s birthday party is being branded as a coming-out party. The reality is that Watson only peeked out of a somewhat conservative, unremarkable shell a few times. He’s a long way from bursting out violently a la Robert Griffin III, who set the NFL on fire.