For a few minutes, it looked like the Houston Texans were going to have to see what life would be like without quarterback Deshaun Watson.
In the Texans’ 36-7 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Watson was sacked six times and hit hard several more times, including once so hard in the third quarter that he stayed down on the field and was replaced by AJ McCarron for one play.
After that hard hit by Bears linebacker Roquan Smith, Watson's frustration appeared to boil over. He slammed the helmet down hard as he sat on the bench with his towel over his head. Watson did come back into the game on the Texans’ next series.
Watson has been hit hard his whole career, despite the Texans investing significant money and high draft picks into the offensive line in recent years. Watson was sacked 11 times combined in Weeks 13 and 14, including two safeties.
The offensive line has been an area of concern for the Texans since before Watson was drafted and was bad enough after Houston traded left tackle Duane Brown in 2017 that former general manager and coach Bill O'Brien gave up two first-round picks to acquire left tackle Laremy Tunsil before the 2019 season.
There is a lot of work for whoever the next general manager, but fixing the interior of the offensive line has to be high on the list. While Houston is committed to tackles Tunsil and 2019 first-round draft pick Tytus Howard, they will have decisions to make about Zach Fulton and whoever is rotating in at left guard.
QB breakdown: With Brandin Cooks out with a neck injury, Watson was left with Keke Coutee, Chad Hansen and Steven Mitchell as his top three receivers. Watson completed 21 of 30 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown, his second-lowest yardage total of the season.
Coutee caught a touchdown, but he and Hansen could not replicate their breakout games in Week 13, when they each finished with more than 100 receiving yards.
Watson did become the sixth quarterback to record 25 passing touchdowns in three of his first four NFL seasons, joining Peyton Manning, Patrick Mahomes, Dan Marino, Carson Palmer and Russell Wilson. Watson threw 19 in his rookie season that was cut short by a torn ACL after seven games.
Biggest hole in the game plan: In the week leading up to the game, Texans defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver said although the Bears are last in the NFL in rushing attempts, he expected them “to try to commit to the run probably a little bit more than they have been in the past” because of the way Houston has struggled against the run this season.
Chicago did not need to run the ball often, but they did get a big play on the ground. Bears running back David Montgomery ran for an 80-yard touchdown on the Bears’ first offensive play of the game and finished with 111 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.