Although the Texans started 0-3, Watson’s play has improved as the season progressed, and on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, Watson completed 22 of 31 passes for 224 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. He also ran for 30 yards on seven carries.
The Texans never trailed, leading 23-0 at halftime and winning their ninth game in a row.
That victory against the Browns is the focus of the newest episode of the ESPN+ show Detail with Peyton Manning. Here’s a recap of Manning’s breakdown of Watson's film against Cleveland:
Take pride in your fakes
Manning noted that Watson does a good job disguising his handoffs, saying, if a quarterback can do that well, “that can freeze a defense.” Manning said he used to watch film of himself to make sure his handoffs and play fakes looked the same, even making sure he was taking the same number of steps on each play so he was not giving anything away.
“Take pride in your fakes, quarterbacks,” Manning said. “Study yourself. Put a camera where that middle linebacker is playing and film yourself in practice handing it off, faking it to the running back. See if it looks the exact same. Get that perspective and angle from the defense.”
Watson’s free hand
Manning pointed out two plays that had to do with Watson’s free hand: making his play-action fake and his handoff to the running back look the same. On the first play he showed, Manning pointed out that Watson left his free hand off to the side, so the defender knew the quarterback had handed off the ball.
“See how that right hand is kind of loose,” Manning said. “That blitzer on the backside, he knows that Deshaun doesn't have the ball because his right hand is loose. Put that right hand right there on that [No.] 4 on your jersey. Tuck it right there into your stomach. That way, that defender doesn't know who has the ball, and it may freeze him.”
On the second play Manning showed, he pointed out how Watson had his free hand closer to his chest, confusing the defender and forcing him to run at Watson.
Favorite throw of the game
Manning praised a route by DeAndre Hopkins in the first quarter, during which Hopkins caught a 24-yard pass over Browns cornerback T.J. Carrie. Carrie took Hopkins’ helmet off while trying to defend the play.
“The corner is underneath Hopkins, so what does Deshaun do? He throws with a little more air at more of an angle downfield over the defender’s head for a beautiful completion, a great route and catch by Hopkins,” Manning said. “That is big time stuff. You can tell the two of these guys spend a lot of time together, obviously both Clemson Tigers. There’s a bond there. There’s a connection. You see that on the field.”
Throwing into double coverage
Manning cautioned Watson to make sure he’s looking for his receivers in single coverage when his star receiver is being doubled. On the first play he showed, Watson couldn’t find Hopkins for the first down because the receiver had two defenders on him.
“They’re doubling Hopkins here,” Manning said. “He’s a great receiver. He’s earned that double team. We’ve got to recognize that, quarterbacks. Find your singles. Go to that guy.”
Two plays later, Watson saw that Hopkins had two defenders on him and instead found DeAndre Carter for eight yards.
In the fourth quarter on third-and-4, Watson was sacked for a loss of 13 yards. Manning cautioned the young quarterback to just “throw it away” and “take the incompletion” instead of taking an unnecessary sack.
“You have the lead, you want to be careful with the ball. I get it,” Manning said. “Stay there in the pocket while it’s nice and protected. Don’t bail unnecessarily. And if you do get out there, just throw it away and let’s avoid the sack. Let’s take the incompletion.”