Here’s a closer look at Watson's first NFL start, which resulted in a 13-9 win:
Deshaun Watson is warming up before what is expected to be his first career NFL start.
On his 22nd birthday, Deshaun Watson takes the field for his first NFL start.
Deshaun Watson is the 9th different starting QB for the Texans under Bill O'Brien (since 2014). That's tied for the most starting QBs in that time.
Deshaun Watson's first series of the game was a three-and-out after incomplete passes on second and third down. It appeared his throw to DeAndre Hopkins was a little low, and his throw to Braxton Miller was high.
One thing the Texans are watching with DeShaun Watson tonight is the way he handles the Bengals' pressure packages. The coaches want to see how Watson adjusts the protection pre-snap and whether he can take advantage when the Bengals don't blitz. Watson is a work in progress who's starting mainly because the Texans' offensive line woes convinced them they need more mobility at QB in order to succeed right now. So the team's evaluation of him is that of a young player still developing. Important to remember.
Deshaun Watson and the Texans' offense don't have a first down after two series, and Houston elected not to have him throw the football on 3rd & 5.
Through two drives, an early thought on Deshaun Watson: Of his three pass attempts (1 of 3), all of them weren't at the level of accuracy he would have liked. That lack of accuracy also showed up in the Patriots-Texans Week 2 preseason game in which Tom Savage had outplayed him.
Deshaun Watson's pass intended for DeAndre Hopkins is almost picked off and had the potential to go the other way for a touchdown.
Another thing Houston coaches are watching with Watson: Does his mobility help them convert in the red zone? Didn't help there, and actually after escaping the sack he made a dangerous throw that could have taken three points away. Again, work in progress, and the group around him is obviously a mess too, though D'Onta Foreman is impressive.
In his first two NFL games, Deshaun Watson has thrown one interception, had one nullified by a penalty and has had two dropped.
The Texans' fifth possession showed why the organization wasn't in a hurry to start DeShaun Watson early this season. The Bengals just handed him a clinic in NFL defense. Adam Jones deflected a pass that would have been completed 10 out of 10 times in college, and then the Bengals' defense thoroughly confused Watson with a fake double-A gap blitz on third down. This, unfortunately, wil be a process.
What a play from Deshaun Watson, who stiff-armed a lineman to run for a 49-yard touchdown. He found some space up the middle and had his biggest play of the game.
To repeat: The reason DeShaun Watson is playing, in spite of not being all the way ready, is that the Texans thought his mobility gave them the best chance to win with their offensive line in poor shape. And there it is.
However things turn out for Deshaun Watson and the Texans, Watson's response to taking that big hit from Geno Atkins will resonate. Watson's toughness to absorb that hit, and then respond the way he did, is going to win him big-time respect among Texans players.
Deshaun Watson's 49-yard scramble touchdown is the longest since Week 13 in 2015 when Marcus Mariota ran for a 87-yard touchdown.
There's that mobility that Deshaun Watson showed at Clemson: 16 (of 38) games with at least 50 rushing yards, 26 total rushing touchdowns. It's also what brings him into the fantasy conversation at this stage of his career, because it's the mobile quarterbacks who bring elevated statistical floors while they adapt to the pro game. Against (much) weaker defenses than this, Watson might yet matter as a matchups play in 2017.
The Bengals dropped into a deep Cover 2 look on Deshaun Watson's TD run. That allowed Watson to step up in the pocket and find room to run in the open field. Speed and vision to get the ball into the end zone.
Flashback: When I went into the Texans' locker room after their Week 2 preseason game against the Patriots, Deshaun Watson had a temporary locker in the middle of the room with the team's other rookies and undrafted players. That was a reminder that even though he is the QB of the future (and present, as it turns out), he wasn't getting any preferential treatment.
Deshaun Watson's 49-yard TD run was the longest rush by a QB in Texans history, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Previous long was 36 yards by David Carr in 2003 vs the Falcons.
The Texans’ passing game picked up where it left off in Week 1 as rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson spent most of the first half having to escape pressure and did not look comfortable in the pocket. He’s been sacked three times by the Bengals’ front seven, as the Texans’ offensive line continues to struggle. His big play of the half was a 49-yard scramble up the middle for a touchdown that nearly doubled the Texans’ rushing yards in the half.
The Texans aren't doing DeShaun Watson any favors with their play-calling. A few more first-down pass plays would help. Otherwise, they're putting him in position to throw when the Bengals know he has to, most recently on second-and-10 and third-and-10. That's extra difficult for a rookie.
From Elias: Deshaun Watson's 49-yard touchdown run in the 2nd quarter tonight is the longest by a quarterback in his first NFL start all-time.
Give DeShaun Watson credit: He knows who his best receiver is and he's throwing to him at every opportunity. This Watson-DeAndre Hopkins connection is pretty locked in the fourth quarter.
Deshaun Watson's 49-yard TD run in the second quarter, and then his 11-yard scramble to set up a 42-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter, were huge plays that he made with his feet to earn his first career NFL win. With the Texans' o-line having struggled in the opener, Watson's mobility was critical to the Texans' first win.
Bill O'Brien likes to use the word poised to describe quarterback Deshaun Watson, and while the rookie didn't have a ton of success in the passing game -- he finished 15-of-24 for 125 yards -- he did just enough to lead the Texans to a win on a short week on the road. The Texans pulled out a 13-9 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals and avoided falling to 0-2 heading into a game in New England in Week 3. Watson did show off his mobility with a 49-yard touchdown run in the second quarter where he scrambled up the middle and then down the right sideline for the score. The rookie still has a lot of room to grow, but Thursday night's victory was a big step in the right direction.
Big picture, you have to be impressed with Watson. Obviously a lot more work to do, and some ugly moments await. But he showed toughness throughout, made the one game-breaking play with his legs and made smart decisions from the pocket in the critical part of the game. Plenty on which to build.
Deshaun Watson to NFL Network: "It's a dream come true. This is what I've been waiting for my whole life and now is the time. We knew it was going to be tough. Every game in the NFL is 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."
What advice did J.J. Watt give Deshaun Watson before the game? In a postgame interview on NFL Network, Watt relayed, "Just be yourself. I think you saw that on the 49-yard touchdown run. I mean, that's what he gives you. He's not going to be perfect. He's a rookie. There are going to be tough times throughout the year, but that's what the defense is for. If they get into a tough spot, we're there to try to pull them out of it…"