By Brien O’Donal
Follow me on Twitter @ODonalsVanguard
Earlier this week when I made my NFL picks I counted this one as a close win for the Texans. I expected a pair of stout defenses battling ball control offenses with the Texans doing just enough at home. Much to my surprise this game was never even close. After Deshaun Watson’s performance in New England last week there was optimism that he could really build on something against the Tennessee Titans. He did, the defense built on their effort, and in a big early season divisional game the Texans came out swinging on their way to a dominating 57-14 win.
I can’t remember the last time I saw such a dominant effort on both sides of the ball by the Texans. The offense scored 4 touchdowns and a field on their 1st 5 drives of the game while the Titans only managed 14 points. And that was all before the 1st half ended with the Texans leading 30-14 (Ka’imi Fairbairn missed an extra point making it 30 instead of 31).
The Titans offense looked terrible in the 1st quarter, starting with an interception of Marcus Mariota by the Texans’ safety Andre Hal on the very first drive of the game. They had 2, 3-and-out drives after that while the Texans were now leading 21-0. Mariota ran for his 1st of 2 rushing touchdowns but that was as close at the Titans would get. Andre Hal would get another interception, the defense would continue to dominate and Mariota would leave injured in the 2nd half.
Matt Cassel came in to play quarterback for the Titans in the 3rd quarter, but the game was already out of hand by that point. The Texans’ were just dominating every facet of the game. They led by a wide margin in time of possession, yards, and points.
The reason this all came together so well is the outstanding play of Deshaun Watson. If you thought he looked good last week, you know without a doubt he looked good this week. There are a lot of people, myself included; who are having trouble believing how fast he is putting things together. He made only one mistake in today’s game, an interception. But like any good quarterback, that interception came at a time when the lead was large and he could afford to take a chance near the end zone.
Every one of the first 5 drives for the Texans was methodic and controlled. Even the 4-play 1st drive and the 2-play 5th drive looked completely controlled with good play calls and accurate throws downfield by Watson that resulted in touchdowns. I have been saying all along that in order for the Texans to win games this season they needed to dominate time of possession and be willing to sustain drives as long as possible. This is now the second week in a row they have done that.
The second half was just as good for the Texans as they added an additional 27 points to their lead. Watson threw 2 more touchdown passes and Dylan Cole was able to return the defense’s fourth interception of the game for a touchdown. After his 4th touchdown pass of the game Watson tied the record for most touchdowns in a game by a rookie at 5, including his earlier rushing touchdown in those stats.
A big help against the Titans Sunday was the return of Will Fuller to the lineup after a broken collarbone in the preseason. He finished the day with 4 catches for 35 yards and 2 touchdowns. He provided a great compliment to DeAndre Hopkins who finished the day with 10 receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown. Deshaun Watson finished the day 25 of 34 for 283 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. He also added 4 carries for 24 yards and a touchdown to that stat line. His great play led the Texans to have 169 yards rushing with Lamar Miller leading the way with 19 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown. He also had 4 receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown.
The defense put up gaudy numbers as well; allowing only 195 yards of total offense by the Titans, creating 5 turnovers, getting 2 sacks, and allowing only 14 points. An effort like that is possible when the offense controls the clock and keeps the defense rested. But it takes a lot of pressure up front and players flying all around to make that happen.
If both sides of the ball continue to compliment each other there is a good chance this Texans team exceeds the preseason expectations that were placed on them. They will need that effort next week as they face the Chiefs on Sunday night football which now suddenly looks like it will be one of the best games all season.