By Brien O’Donal
Follow me on Twitter @ODonalsVanguard
The Texans have now completed 4 games of their season and have a 2-2 record. There are a lot of people who thought the Texans might be 3-1 at this point but a week 1 surprise put that to rest. Despite the hiccup, the Texans have performed well and it looks like they will only get better from here. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves and start saying they end the season with the best record, but there is a possibility that they can get over the 9-7 hump. It all rests on the shoulders of one man; DeShaun Watson. There will be a lot said about him over the course of the season, and rightfully so; but if he can continue to improve then the entire team should improve as well.
The Texans led off the season at home against a Jacksonville Jaguars team that has been notoriously bad the last few years. The difference this year has been the improvement of their defense. They have spent a lot of money and very high draft picks acquiring talent there and it showcased itself in the first game en route to a 29-7 win. The Texans offensive line looked extremely porous and led to 10 sacks of the quarterback. The bright side of this game was the introduction of Watson in the second half after Tom Savage couldn’t get anything done. Watson got a touchdown, but the lead was already too large to overcome. After this game it looked like it would be a long season.
Their opponent in week 2 also suffered a humiliating defeat in week 1, the Cincinnati Bengals. After a Sunday opener for both teams, this Thursday night game was ugly. Both teams had issues in week 1 and the short rest did nothing to help. The Texans were able to scrap their way to a 13-9 win, largely due to an impressive 42-yard touchdown run by Watson. The Bengals struggled all game and started the season without a touchdown in consecutive weeks. The Texans were now 1-1 and faced the Patriots on the road in week 3, where many people expected a crushing defeat.
Surprise, surprise! Week 3 in New England was a nail-biting shootout that looked like it would go the Texans way. It took Tom Brady throwing another miracle touchdown pass with 26 seconds left on the clock for the Patriots to pull it out. Watson and O’Brien are still working out their kinks so the clock was mismanaged and the attempt to get in field goal range for the tie was missed. The Texans walked away with a 36-33 loss but a lot to be optimistic about. The defense pressured Brady all day and only a few coverage lapses resulted in a close score. The defense even got points when Jadeveon Clowney returned a fumble for a touchdown in the 2nd quarter. Offensively, Watson threw for 301 yards and 2 touchdowns and moved the ball well for most of the game. This was exciting for the Texans because over the last few years, it has been the offense that has held them back. With sure signs of improvement, it would be necessary to keep the momentum going when facing divisional foe the Tennessee Titans at home in week 4.
If fans were upbeat about the offense with DeShaun Watson after the Patriots game, they reached a fever pitch at home the following week. The Texans took control of the game against the Titans right from the start. They had 21 points before the Titans got on the board. They never looked back and finished with a franchise record 57 points. Watson led a methodical offense on his way to 5 total touchdowns (4 passing,1 rushing); which tied the NFL record for a rookie. The outstanding performance on both sides of the ball in this game built on the week 3 performance in New England and the steady improvement overall.
In four games this season the Texans look far different that they did in the preseason. Watson under center has made the horrible offensive line look mediocre and his poise and accuracy have given the entire team some legitimacy. It’s still early and there will be some bumps along the way, but right now a 10-6 or better record is not out of the question.
But in order for that to happen, head coach Bill O’Brien has to continue to replicate the formula for their success in the last 2 games; run the ball and control the clock. Winning time of possession and getting solid yards on the ground has helped keep Watson in tempo and allowed him to make safe throws down the field to keep the drive alive. Watson has made solid decisions with the ball and hasn’t tried to do too much, as rookies often tend to do. There have been some turnovers and the offense hasn’t been perfect, but they have helped rest the defense and put them in manageable situations. That has allowed the defense to be aggressive and their playmakers have done a lot of that. They could have won in New England, but sometimes Brady is just going to Brady.
The next four games will really show the ups and downs this team will have to go through. They will be at home against the Chiefs in week 5, and the Browns in week 6 before a week 7 bye. They will then visit the Seahawks in week 8 before coming home again for another divisional game against the Colts in week 9. There is a possibility they go 2-2 again, putting them at 4-4 for the year. It will take good play on both sides of the ball to beat the Chiefs and Seahawks as those teams have good defenses and could stifle Watson. The Chiefs have offensive firepower and only a complete game will get a Texans win. A good defensive effort against a weak Seahawks offense could be the difference there. The Browns and Colts shouldn’t pose much of a problem, but if the Colts have Andrew Luck back on the field that game is suddenly different.
We will just have to continue to watch the games unfold and look for more improvement. Watson looks the part of a franchise quarterback and that is the biggest missing piece of the Texans offense. If he is legit, then the Texans might have a shot at a special season.