On an afternoon when late Houston Texans founder Robert McNair was inducted into the franchise’s Hall of Honor, the Texans’ offense delivered an appropriate tribute.
After scoring a combined 23 points in their first two home games of the season, the Texans’ offense put up 47 points and 592 total yards in a 53-32 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 6 at NRG Stadium.
The win put Houston at 3-2 heading into their next game at Kansas City on Oct. 13. Atlanta fell to 1-3.
After a dismal showing Sept. 29 in a 16-10 loss to Carolina, quarterback Deshaun Watson was brilliant one week later, completing 28 of 33 passes for 426 yards and five touchdowns, most of that production going to receiver Will Fuller V, who also had an outstanding game.
“He really did an awesome job of managing the offense,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said of his signal-caller. “Whoever sends the play in sends the play in, and he runs the show out there. He did a good job of really managing the formations and personnel groupings and plays. He had a great day.”
According to ESPN, Watson is just the third player since 1950 to have 400 passing yards, five touchdowns and a perfect (158.3) passer rating in a game.
“It’s pretty cool,” Watson said. “Just try to get better each and every week, try to build on that and try to do it consistently. The great ones can do those things consistently, and that’s where we are. So, there’s always room to improve but, yeah, that stat is pretty crazy.”
Watson is also the first player to pass for at least 400 yards and five touchdowns with five-or-fewer incompletions in a single game.
Averaging 46 receiving yards per game this season entering the Falcons game, Fuller had a career-best outing, catching 14 passes (out of 16 targets) for 216 yards and three touchdowns.
Watson said the mentality is to get the receivers the ball and let them make plays. He accomplished that. It also was by opportunity, as the Falcons’ defense doubled DeAndre Hopkins, which left everyone else in one-on-one matchups.
“Playing with Hop, like I always say, is easy,” Fuller said. “He gets a lot of coverages thrown his way. And I feel like that’s why they brought me here, to help him out. Just run my route to win every play. Some plays, I call eye contact with Deshaun. I knew he was coming my way.”
The Texans averaged 8.8 yards per play and punted once. They played with tempo, which O’Brien credited to being able to gain positive yards early during drives.
Watson completed passes to seven different Texans. For just the second time in his career, he was not sacked, as the offensive line protected better and Watson seemed more conscious to made decisions quicker and get rid of the ball earlier.
Hopkins caught seven balls for 88 yards. Fuller and tight end Darren Fells each had two touchdown catches. The run game produced 166 yards at 4.9 yards per carry.
“It just shows the potential this offense has,” Fells said. “We have weapons everywhere in the backfield with both Duke (Johnson) and Carlos (Hyde). And then obviously, you’ve got Will (Fuller), in my opinion the two best receivers that money can buy (with Hopkins). It just shows exactly what the offense can do when we are firing on all cylinders.”
Fuller said he has not had that good of a game since high school, when he had 276 yards in a game.
“We feel like every week is a good matchup for our receivers,” Fuller said. “Me, Kenny (Stills), Hop and Keke (Coutee), we feel we can take over a game at any point. I had a good game today, but it could’ve been anybody out there.”
O’Brien said last week was an important one in the organization’s history. McNair is the second individual to be inducted into the Ring of Honor, along with former receiver Andre Johnson.
“It’s important,” O’Brien said. “It’s been stated so many times how much (McNair) meant to this city, all the people that work here, how much the McNair family has contributed to so many parts of this city, and culturally, educationally, medically, what they’ve done for this city. So it was important to go out there and play well, which I think these guys did.”
Trailing 17-16 at halftime, the Texans outscored the Falcons 17-0 in the third quarter to break away.
“The defense fed off the offense,” defensive back Tashaun Gipson said. “The offense came off firing on all cylinders. I think that we progressively continued to just settle down and just play football. I think that we just settled down and realized we can play with anybody. We didn’t shy away from the game. We played man. We played zone. We switched it up. Obviously got pressure on J.J. (Watt), he was able to get sacks. (Justin) Reid was able to get sacks. And we just settled down and played football. When the offense put up points, the opportunity is going to come on defense.”
Atlanta had one first down and was outgained 224-42 in total yards in the third quarter.
Takeaway streak still alive
With 39 seconds left in the game, Gipson intercepted Matt Ryan and returned it 79 yards for a touchdown.
The play extended the Texans’ current NFL-best streak to 18 consecutive games with a takeaway.
Texans kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn missed two extra points. Both times, he missed wide left.
“Yeah, we’ve got to get better,” O’Brien said. “That will be a big topic of getting better. That’s what we’ve got to do, we’ve got to get better.”