Making an impact

Texans finally find a quarterback — and a play caller — in 57-14 rout of Titans

Deshaun Watson celebrates a big day against the Tennessee Titans with teammates Bruce Ellington (12) and Lamar Miller (26). Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Texans won a big game on Sunday, and in the process found a quarterback.

And a play caller.

For the second week in a row, the Texans were explosive and creative on offense in a 57-14 rout of the Tennessee Titans. The win helped them improve to 2-2 and set them up for a big showdown with Kansas City next week.

The Titans also fell to 2-2, and star quarterback Marcus Mariota was injured and missed the second half.

The defense forced five turnovers, but the other side of the ball was the story. How good was the offense? The Texans did not punt until late in the third quarter. They scored on six of their first seven possessions. They outgained Tennessee 446-192. They dominated time of possession, 39:41to 20:19.

And they scored the most points in a game in the history of the franchise.

Deshaun Watson continues to improve week to week. And he continues to impress. He was almost perfect in this one. Watson was 25 of 34 for 283 yards and four touchdowns before turning it over to Tom Savage late. Watson also rushed for 24 yards and a touchdown. The five TDs tied an NFL rookie record for a quarterback, and he was the first to throw for four and rush for one since Fran Tarkenton in 1961.

Watson’s only hiccup was a bad interception near the end of the half that cost them points. But he did what good players do — bounced back by leading a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a TD pass to Will Fuller, who caught his second TD of the game in his season debut. Watson was sacked just once.

Watson is not just emerging as a solid starting quarterback in the NFL and the future of the franchise, but as a star right now. He is smart. Accurate. Creative. Elusive. He is everything you could want in a quarterback.

He should only get better. As he does, it will only help DeAndre Hopkins, who had a big day himself with 10 catches for 102 yards and a touchdown. He consistently got open, and Watson found him.

But the person who might be benefitting the most from Watson’s emergence is Bill O’Brien.

O’Brien’s offense has been stagnant for his three-plus years here. His play-calling was predictable and boring. It worked to an extent — in that it got them to the playoffs two years in a row. But it was not enough when they got to the postseason. He fired offensive coordinator George Godsey last season, and took over play calling himself. The first two weeks, nothing looked any different than the Godsey era.

But the past two weeks, the offense has been fantastic. O’Brien has made the right play call more often than not. He has taken advantage of Watson’s mobility and creativity.

And the whole group looks different. The Texans had not scored 30 points in a game since the last game of 2015. They have topped that number twice in two weeks. They also went over 400 yards of offense for the second time in two weeks. After years of trotting out Hoyers, Fitzpatricks, Keenums, Savages and Ostrichs, the Texans have a real, bonafide answer at quarterback. They finally got it right at the position.

And O’Brien has not held him back. He has opened up the offense, using misdirection, option plays, bootlegs, throwing on the run, called quarterback draws…and it has worked.

There will be bad games ahead. Setbacks. But there will also be a lot more excitement and improvement. Suddenly, things look so much brighter in Houston.

Yes, the Texans have a real quarterback. And a play-caller who knows how to use him.

Finally.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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