HOUSTON -- After the Houston Texans lost star defensive end J.J. Watt for the season last weekend, coach Bill O’Brien pointed out that regardless of what happens on defense, the team always will be in games this season because of rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Watson’s 15 passing touchdowns are the most by a rookie quarterback through six games since the NFL-AFL merger, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Last season, Texans quarterbacks Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage threw a combined 15 touchdown passes in 16 games.
"It's pretty cool," Watson said of his record. "I should have had more. I missed some opportunities. But if you look at the big picture and kind of see the things I'm doing, it goes all to the support cast and the people that push me."
Watson was 17-of-29 for 225 yards, with the three TDs and an interception that was returned for a touchdown. He had a passer rating of 103.4. Watson spread the ball around; no receiver had more than three catches. Wide receiver Will Fuller led the Texans with 62 receiving yards on two catches, but he also dropped a long pass from Watson midway through the fourth quarter.
O'Brien said while Watson has developed at an impressive pace, he thinks the rookie quarterback probably is bothered by the plays he didn't make, especially in the second half.
"He's a very intelligent guy and he's really never satisfied," O'Brien said. "I'm not even sure how happy he is right now. I know he's happy the team won, but the interception, those type of things ... I know he'll be in there tomorrow early trying to get better. That's the type of mentality that he has. He's a great guy to coach, just a really special kid. I think he'll only get better and better."
Watson’s first touchdown came near the end of the first quarter when he found Fuller down the right sideline. The speedy receiver was wide open, and caught his fifth touchdown in three games. Watson has four passing touchdowns of at least 20 air yards, the most in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
"[Fuller] just takes the top off," Watson said. "You have to respect that as a defense, so he's going to have a safety that plays deep or he's going to take two guys with him and it's going to create an opening in the defense. So being able to have a guy like that that can stretch the defense out and open up the underneath routes is big."
Watson’s second touchdown was a shovel pass to wide receiver Braxton Miller, who flipped into the end zone for the score. Miller was active for the first time since Week 3 after being a healthy scratch for two consecutive games. Watson later found wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who had two catches for 19 yards, in the end zone for a 3-yard score in the third quarter.
The Texans simply have never had a rookie quarterback anywhere near as productive as Watson. Prior to Watson, Houston’s rookie quarterbacks had 12 touchdown passes combined between David Carr (nine) and T.J. Yates (three).
The Texans sit at 3-3 heading into their bye week, but Watson and the offense have shown that they can consistently put up points. With help from a pick-six by cornerback Johnathan Joseph and a safety, the Texans have set a franchise record with 30 or more points in four straight games.
"Every time we step on the field, we want to score," Hopkins said. "If we don’t, then we’re disappointed. We don’t settle for three.
"We know with the ball in 4’s [Watson’s] hands, anything’s possible."