Thanks to a 'game manager' effort from Watson, Texans are in first place in the AFC South after 20-7 win over Jaguars
A month ago, the Texans were 0-3, with little hope of a turnaround. They were playing terrible football on defense, struggling with turnovers on offense and getting Deshaun Watson killed.
Today, they are alone in first place in a suddenly weak AFC South.
The Texans were better at the most important position on Sunday, and the end result was a 20-7 Houston victory over Jacksonville. It was a good example of what Bill O’Brien likes to refer to as “complementary football.” Special teams pinned the Jaguars deep. The defense forced two fumbles and caused the Jaguars to change quarterbacks.
The maligned offensive line opened up enough running lanes for the Texans to rush for 141 yards and only allowed one sack of Deshaun Watson.
More importantly, Watson protected the football. His numbers weren’t great - 12 of 24 for 139 yards and a touchdown - but most critically, no interceptions.
The Texans were conservative on offense against a tough Jaguars defense, but they could afford to be, because the Texans defense came to play. Jaguars QB Blake Bortles was yanked after going just 6 of 12 for 61 yards and two critical fumbles on attempted scrambles. He was replaced by Cody Kessler, who was much more effective, going 21 of 30 for 156 yards and a touchdown but also an interception.
But a big difference in the game was Watson, who managed to get a victory when he was not at his best. He played the role of game manager, and it was what the Texans needed on a day like this. He was effective when his team had chances, and the Jaguars QBs were not.
Watson did some little things to help with the win. He threw the ball away on several occasions rather than take sacks or risk interceptions. He was more mobile than last week, and rushed for 13 yards on seven carries (two were kneel downs at the end of the game). He played hurt again.
He was not dynamic, but he did not make mistakes, either. With the way the Texans were running the ball, and as solid as the defense was, that was what was needed. The Texans won the turnover battle 3-0, including a late pick by Tyrann Mathieu. They sacked Kessler four times in the second half, two by Jadeveon Clowney. With a 20-0 lead, there was little reason to take chances with Watson, who helped lead two TD drives on short fields.
With the complimentary performance on special teams and defense and Miller's running, they just needed Watson to protect the ball. He did exactly that. It might not be sexy, but it was very effective. Watson and the offense were 50 percent on third down (8 of 16) and two of three in the red zone, an area where they have struggled all year.
The Texans had control for almost the entire game, and the end result was a fourth straight win.
They are now 4-3 in the AFC South, a game ahead of the 3-4 Jaguars and Titans and two ahead of the 2-5 Colts. They have won four in a row but not been impressive doing it. They were gifted a win by the Colts and were outplayed by the Bills and managed to beat them thanks to ineffective quarterback play on the Buffalo side late in the game. But they earned the wins over Dallas and Jacksonville, and the defense has looked great for the last three weeks. They will have a quick turnaround with the Dolphins coming in on Thursday, and will need another big effort.
Things can obviously change fast, but as of today, the Texans are in first place, and they did it without a big game from Watson.
None of that would have seemed possible just a month ago. But here they are, and the season suddenly has taken on a new look.