Deshaun Watson showed up in his first NFL start. From his snazzy bowtie to his game-turning scramble, he did it all his style.
The rookie ran for 49 yards for a touchdown in his first NFL start and led the Houston Texans’ depleted offence to a late clinching field goal in a 13-9 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night.
“I was just trying to make a play, I found a hole and broke away,” Watson said.
Yes, it was that easy.
Watson showed up in a black tuxedo for his first NFL start — it was his 22nd birthday, no less — and showed the flash that helped him lead Clemson to a national title. He avoided the rush and ran 49 yards for a 10-3 lead late in the first half, dashing past befuddled defenders.
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“The first start on my birthday was pretty emotional,” said Watson, wearing a Texans T-shirt to his postgame media availability.
“It wasn’t prefect, [but] he did some good things,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “There’s a lot to learn from.”
Bengals struggle once again
The Texans (1-1) got the most out of their depleted offence, and then let their defence do the rest. The Bengals (0-2) have failed to score a touchdown in their two games to open a season for the first time in their 50 seasons.
The Bengals are the first team since the 1939 Eagles to open a season with two home games and fail to get in the end zone, according to information from the Elias Sports Bureau shared by ESPN.
“I am shocked,” coach Marvin Lewis said.
Watson led a 13-play drive that set up Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 42-yard field goal with 1:56 left. The Bengals got the ball, but turned it over near midfield on a fourth-down completion. After a punt, they ran one more play with 2 seconds left that didn’t get far.
Cincinnati lost to the Ravens 20-0 at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, the first time in their history that they opened the season blanked at home. Andy Dalton threw four interceptions and lost a fumble.
The Bengals managed only three field goals by Randy Bullock on Thursday. Dalton fell to 1-6 career against the Texans, including a pair of playoff losses. He was 20 of 35 for 224 yards with three sacks.
“Very surprised,” receiver A.J. Green said. “We practice well, but when it comes to the game, we’re out of character. I don’t know what we’re doing out there.”
Watson directed an offence missing three tight ends because of concussions, along with receiver Will Fuller V and guard Jeff Allen. The Texans kept it simple, and Watson avoided the game-turning mistake despite heavy pressure from the Bengals.
Watson was 15 of 24 for 125 yards with three sacks and no interceptions. He ran five times for 67 yards. Watson became the first rookie quarterback to win his first start on the road in a prime-time game since the Eagles’ Joe Webb in 2010, according to Elias.
The Bengals became the first team that opened the season with five scoreless quarters since the 2009 Rams, who went 1-15.
They thought they finally had a touchdown when Tyler Eifert caught a pass from Dalton in the end zone in the third quarter — the videoboard broke into a touchdown song — but the tight end had stepped out of bounds before making the catch, nullifying it. Cincinnati settled for its third field goal.