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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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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