With pressure coming, Watson scrambled from the middle of the field down the right side for a 49-yard touchdown, weaving past Bengals players, stopping linebacker Carl Lawson on the run with a stiff-arm and breaking a tackle to find the end zone.
"It's a dream come true," Watson told the NFL Network. "This is what I've been waiting for my whole life, and now is the time. We knew that it was going to be tough, and we had to work our way to the victory. I just want to thank all the guys for playing hard and playing to the fourth quarter. It was awesome."
Head coach Bill O’Brien and the Texans understand that starting Watson at this point in his career isn’t ideal, and while he wasn’t perfect in his first NFL start, the Clemson product at least showed some progress from his Week 1 performance, which is what the Texans are hoping for. And while Watson had the typical rookie ups and downs, he won a game on the road on a short week to stop Houston from falling to 0-2 heading to New England in Week 3.
While Watson's passing game still needs work, he showed that his legs can continue to be an asset for him at the NFL level. The No. 12 overall pick rushed for 67 yards on five carries, setting the Texans' franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
"Go out there be yourself," J.J. Watt told NFL Network when asked for the advice he gave to Watson before the game. "I think you saw that on the 49-yard touchdown run. He's not going to be perfect, he's a rookie. There's going to be tough times throughout the year, but that's what the defense is for, to pull him out of it. If you've got to win a game 10-9 or 13-9 or whatever, you've got to do it."
Houston's air attack was inconsistent -- Watson finished 15-of-24 for 125 yards and saw two would-be interceptions pass through the hands of Bengals defenders -- but the rookie still dealt with a lot of pressure due to the offensive line's continued struggles and receivers who had a hard time creating separation down the field.
"I know I missed some opportunities out there, but that's going to come with time," wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. "This is our first time throwing this many balls since he's been on this team. So just getting that timing down, getting that chemistry and just building."
Going into the game, O’Brien said it was important for the Texans to continue to get the ball to Hopkins. “The ball will be thrown in his direction quite a bit,” O’Brien said, adding that he wished he had targeted Hopkins more in Week 1. Through three quarters, Hopkins had only seven targets and just three catches for 36 yards, most coming from a 25-yard completion in the second quarter. But with the game on the line, Watson tried to find Hopkins, and he finished with seven catches for 73 yards. In Watson's Week 1 debut against Jacksonville, 11 of his 23 pass attempts -- including his first NFL touchdown -- went to Hopkins.
"He's a leader," Hopkins said of Watson. "He was everything we expected. He's the guy we drafted."
Since Watson's arrival in Houston -- and particularly this week -- O'Brien has praised his mobility, saying the rookie quarterback is simply “a playmaker.” Watson still has a lot to improve upon, but he at least showed a glimmer of greatness that gives the Texans hope he can develop into a franchise quarterback.