In his third NFL start, Watson threw for four touchdowns and ran for another as the Houston Texans scored a franchise-record 57 points, beating the Titans by 43. Watson was 25-of-34 for 283 yards and also threw an interception. The Texans got off to a quick start with a touchdown on each of their first three possessions and never let up, scoring 20 points in the fourth quarter.
When Watson thinks back to that game, he said he remembers how much fun he and the offense had. Though he had an impressive game the week prior against the New England Patriots last season, it was the offensive explosion in Week 4 that was truly Watson's coming-out party.
"It was a fun game. It was a fun week," Watson said. "We were just all on the same page. We were just clicking. ... We just went out there and left it all out on the field."
That was not the case in Sunday's 27-20 loss to the Patriots, when Watson said he had a low energy level and wasn't on the same page with his receivers. Watson finished 17-of-34 for 176 yards with a touchdown and an interception after getting off to a slow start. On the Texans' first offensive possession, Watson fumbled while attempting to hand it off to running back Lamar Miller. Houston scored only six points in the first half and ended the game 2-of-5 in the red zone.
"Whenever something bad happened or something didn't go our way, [I wasn't] able to pull everyone up," Watson said. "Everyone [was] just going back to the bench and sitting down and not saying a word."
"[I need to be] able to keep encouraging people and have a smile on my face and have fun with the game. And that's something we didn't really do. We didn't have too much fun. We were too focused on the things that didn't go our way instead of trying to find some positives."
Wide receiver Bruce Ellington said in that game last season against the Titans, the offense was "playing free," which is what he'd like to see from Houston the rest of this season. With performances like last season against Tennessee under their belt, the Texans' Week 1 showing in New England was all the more frustrating.
The Texans should get some help on Sunday in Tennessee, as coach Bill O'Brien said he is hopeful wide receiver Will Fuller, who missed the season opener with a hamstring injury, will return. Fuller had a big game last season against Tennessee in his return from a broken collarbone, catching two touchdown passes from Watson.
Without Fuller last week, the Patriots were able to key in on fellow wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins had eight catches for 78 yards, but he wasn’t able to make an impact down the field without another vertical threat, such as Fuller, playing with him.
"Everybody knows Will [Fuller] can run, so when the wheels are on, you better get in your backpedal, because if not, it's going to be a touchdown," Ellington said. "[He adds] another deep threat to our offense and opens up everybody else. With him being a deep threat, you can't really double-team Hopkins."
Added Hopkins: "He can stretch the field. Will has undeniable speed that nobody can guard. So, for him to be out there and able to stretch the field, that helps out this offense a lot."
Last season in Watson's six starts, the Texans averaged 34.7 points per game. Without him, the offense averaged 13 points per game. In the four games Watson and Fuller played together, Fuller caught seven touchdown passes.
The Texans had a game to forget against the AFC champion Patriots in Week 1, but if Watson can get Houston's offense back to rolling the way it was a year ago in a blowout win, that feeling of "what could be" can return to the Texans' locker room.
The Texans obviously won't panic if they come back from Tennessee with a loss, but this is an important game. Houston can't afford an 0-2 start and falling into a hole in the division this early on.
"In your mind as a coach, you understand that you have to continue to improve," Texans quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan said. "There's more we can do. We're just scratching the surface. We can't regress in any way.
"That's always the pressure that hits you right after a game. You've got a few minutes of enjoying it and then you're watching the tape and you're looking at a bunch of stuff that you can correct. It's a combination always of excitement and what can be, but more importantly, what we have to do to get it to what it can be."