FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Up by two points in the fourth quarter, trying to drive down the field and extend the lead, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson faced a first-and-20. And for a moment, it looked like it was going to be second-and-even-longer.
As Watson dropped back, New England Patriots defensive tackle Malcom Brown broke through the Texans’ offensive line and dove for the rookie quarterback’s ankles. Watson took a step sideways and avoided the sack.
He ran forward, avoiding three more Patriots defenders trying to bring him down, and threw the ball up to running back D'Onta Foreman, who found some open field and ran for 31 yards and a first down.
Watson’s ability to escape the pocket changes the way the Texans are able to play, because they’ve never had a quarterback with his athleticism and mobility. Watson added to his 22-of-33 for 301 yards for two touchdowns and two interceptions with 41 yards on eight carries.
“He’s an exciting player,” head coach Bill O’Brien said following the Texans' 36-33 defeat. “He’s a player that never says die. You’re always in the game with him because he can make plays on his own."
Watson was pressured on 38 percent of his dropbacks on Sunday, but he was able to make plays with his legs. He was 6-of-9 for 112 yards passing outside the pocket, which is the second-most such yards in a game by any quarterback since Russell Wilson threw for 121 yards outside the pocket in Week 14 of 2016, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Watson was under pressure on all six of those completions, and he completed three straight passes outside the pocket in the fourth quarter before his Hail Mary attempt was intercepted to end the game.
“He’s tough, man. When you’re in the secondary, you look back there and it looks like you got him a couple times, and then he breaks out, he goes left, he goes right. He made a lot of plays, and I think it was kind of the next step for him,” Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty said. “He was able to kind of move left and right a little bit and then get his eyes back down field, which puts a lot of pressure on us defensively.
“That guy is going to be a great quarterback. He played really well today and really made it tough for us in certain moments. I mean, he scrambled left one time and threw all the way across his body back to the right, which everyone says you shouldn’t do, and he threw a perfect pass.”
According to ESPN’s Total QBR, Watson has the highest expected points added through rushes of any quarterback this season with seven points. In his first two NFL starts, Watson has run for 108 yards, which is just barely second to starting running back Lamar Miller, who has 117 rushing yards during that span.
"That dude is a slippery quarterback. He was able to work the pocket really well, and when the big plays needed to be made he somehow figured out a way to make them," Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch said. "It was really frustrating as a defensive front just seeing that they had him right in their grasp and not quite being able to finish."