FOURTH-DOWN GAMBLE PAYS OFF IN 31-24 WIN

Watson, gutsy Texans get big win over Mahomes, Chiefs in Kansas City

Getty Images

The first Deshaun Watson-Patrick Mahomes battle went to Watson and the Texans in an impressive 31-24 victory. Let's take a look at how it played out.

OFFENSE 

Positives: Carlos Hyde came to play. He pounded the Chiefs - who have been bad against the run all year - for 116 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. As a team they rushed for 194 and averaged 5.0 per carry. Deshaun Watson was not as brilliant as last week, but he had a solid day, other than the two interceptions (see below). He did a lot of damage with his legs, rushing for 44 yards and two touchdowns, and he was not sacked for the second week in a row, a credit to the improving offensive line. He completed 30 of 42 for 280 yards, a touchdown and the two picks (one worked as a punt). When the Texans got the ball back with five minutes left and a seven-point lead, they chewed up clock, running it down to the two-minute warning. They went for it on fourth down, Watson hit DeAndre Hopkins for a first down and the game was over. A ballsy call by Bill O'Brien that paid off, and the Texans ran out the clock.

Negatives: After a career day last week, Will Fuller reverted to the inconsistent player he has been most of his career. He had three drops, two of which could have gone for touchdowns. Fuller can get open, but drops have been a problem throughout his career. Right tackle Titus Howard, who was really improving week to week, suffered what appeared to be a serious leg injury. The line was finally playing well, so this is a big blow. Watson threw the two interceptions, including a bad one in the end zone trying to force the ball to Hopkins. The play before, Hopkins dropped a probable touchdown. Hopkins has not been great this season and that was a bad sequence. Still, Watson can't make that throw. You have to come away with points in that situation. Both guys did make up for it on the fourth down play late in the game. Finally, kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn is a mess. He missed yet another extra point and a field goal. O'Brien chose not to bring him in for a clinching field goal late.

DEFENSE

Positives: They got a rare pick of Patrick Mahomes in the first half, costing the Chiefs points. They also came up with a huge strip sack right before the half, leading to a touchdown. They gave up just seven points in the second half against one of the best offenses in the league. They came up with a huge three and out with just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter, giving the ball back to the offense with a seven-point lead. They held Mahomes to his lowest yardage total of the season (273),.

Negatives: Mahomes and the Chiefs are going to get their points. They punched the Texans in the face right off the bat with big plays and 17 first-half points. The Texans again had too many penalties, mistakes you usually can't make against the Chiefs, but they bounced back strong after the rough start. Bradley Roby was playing well before limping off the field, a serious blow to a struggling secondary. But overall they played well enough to win against a terrific offense.

THE BOTTOM LINE

This was a huge win for the Texans, considering they rarely beat good teams on the road. This is their second such win of the season, and after the Colts beat KC last week, the Texans needed to hold serve. They did in a big way. The coaching staff made great adjustments at halftime, and they overcame some mistakes. The fourth-down call was brilliant.

The secondary was down two corners, yet managed to make enough plays to keep the Chiefs in check in the second half. There is no way around it; this is a huge win.

I have been critical of O'Brien, but he called a first-rate game, engineered a balanced offense, and made a big-time call late in the game to put it away. Too often the Texans depend on the other team messing up at the end of games. This time they grabbed it by the throat and went out and won the football game.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

The Texans should swing for the fences. Composite image by Jack Brame.

With each passing day, the Deshaun drama thickens. It's progressed to Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeting, basically humbling himself to Deshaun.

A city that a few short weeks ago offered up mega star power across the board, has now seen James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and George Springer all depart for a variety of reasons. The impact of Deshaun leaving would be irreversible guaranteeing the Texans resting comfortably in the bottom of the AFC South for the next decade, wallowing in futility.

The saga will only intensify in two weeks should Patrick Mahomes collect another Lombard Trophy. As 2017 draft class contemporaries, Deshaun is comparing his career to #15. Another ring would place Mahomes up 2-0 in that discussion with Watson.

Perhaps the Texans should take a play from the Oilers playbook and inquire on Dabo Swinney. In the pursuit of securing the services of Warren Moon, the Oilers made a power play and secured the services of Moon's former CFL coach, Hugh Campbell. I've attended several luncheons and engagements in which Deshaun served as the keynote speaker. In many of those venues, a short video presentation would include personal greetings and feel good overtures directed to Deshaun from Dabo. The end result was Deshaun lighting up like a Christmas tree. There's a viable relationship in place there.

At the end of the day, Deshaun is a competitor. Losing DeAndre Hopkins was a major loss, but not to the degree that you might think. Deshaun still went out and threw for over 4,000 yards this season, and with a sub-par supporting cast, even pulling guys off of the practice squad in late December contests to fill out the receiving corps. The issue for Watson is trust, and culture. Hence, the recent headlines surrounding the Jets as a future home make very little sense. The Jets in 4 of their last 5 seasons have had double-digit losing seasons. Until the recent resurgence of the Browns, the Jets far and away have held the title of the "laughingstock" of the NFL.

The biggest challenge for the Texans is who could persuade Deshaun to stay? Could team President Jamey Rootes calm down the noise? It certainly won't come from Texans Ring of Honor recipient Andre Johnson. If I were Cal McNair, I would place a call to 105 Sikes Hall in Clemson, SC and ask for Dabo's office. That's as good of a place to start as any other.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome