"Throw the Ball, Deshaun!"

Jayson Braddock on Dec. 17, 2018

The hottest phrase in Houston sports right now is: “Throw the ball, Deshaun!” Fans and media alike are all just clamoring for Deshaun Watson to get rid of the ball instead of taking sacks.

This new phrase is so hot, it has now surpassed Texans’ fans and media’s early season hot phrase leader: “Just take the sack, Deshaun.” Let's take a look at the 2018 Texans’ “hot phrase” counter:

Texans Hot Phrase Counter*

1) “Throw the ball, Deshaun” --- 7,324,091 and counting

2) “Just take the sack, Deshaun” --- 6,999,872

3) “Bill O’Brien is …..when leading at halftime” --- 6,782,110 and rolling

*Editor’s Note: Data tabulation source is Jayson Braddock’s numerical gut feeling.

You may be puzzled looking at the counter. How could the same media and fans who screamed daily for Deshaun to just take the sack and protect the football, come back in the same season and now want Watson to just throw it away?

Do they know that the Texans are the first team to start 0-3 and then go on and win 9 games straight? Do they not realize how hard it is to win 10 of 11 games in the NFL? They have to know that Watson has completely changed the way he played mid-season, again, to protect the football.

Watson is 13-7 in his career with the Houston Texans. After one of the best statistical 6-game stretches for a rookie (starts), he tore his ACL. Watson went 3-3 during his six starts as a rookie. In his three losses as a rookie, his team put up 33 points in Foxboro, followed by 34 at home against the Chiefs, and finally, 38 in a loss in Seattle.

The ACL Watson tore was the opposite knee from the one he tore in college. He spent the entire offseason rehabbing. On top of that, Bill O’Brien decided to change the playbook for his second year star quarterback, while he was returning from the injury.

Watson looked unidentifiable in a Week One loss to the Patriots. He quickly started to find his form in a Week Two loss that saw him throw for 310 yards and two touchdowns. The next three games, Watson attempted to take the team on his back by passing for 375 yards or more in each game. The Texans started to find their winning way as Watson rounded back into form and found a grasp for the new offense. Yet Watson had thrown at least one interception in every game and the Texans were still only 2-3. The close win against the Bills was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Watson had another two interceptions in that game and Nathan Peterman was the latest fluke-y opposing player / coach to bail the Texans out.

It appeared that the Texans, realizing that the defense and running game were starting to play sustainable, winning football, knew that they needed to play to their strengths and win the turnover battle and they could beat anyone. That next week in Jacksonville, it appeared that Watson and the Texans started a conscious trend: protect the football and only throw when you need to and it’s safe to do so. Let the running game and defense win games, and if they need you to make a throw or run, they know they have that in reserve.

Watson didn’t attempt more than 24 pass attempts in any of the next five games, throwing for exactly 24 pass attempts in four of those five games. Since that Jacksonville game, Watson has thrown for 15 touchdowns and has limited his interceptions to just two, both of which came in Washington. Watson has also run for 233 yards on 42 carries (5.4 yards per carry) and a touchdown during that stretch.

A Tale of Two Seasons

(2018 Games 1-6)

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(2018 Games 7-14)

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The Texans’ keys to the regular season:

1) Win;

2) Stay healthy;

3) Run the ball;

4) Bend / Don’t Break defense; and

5) Don’t turn the ball over.

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When the Texans make it to the playoffs, you’ll see a different offense, defense, and most importantly, a different Deshaun Watson in elimination games. The Texans have won 10 of their last 11 games without showing too many wrinkles and while limiting the hits on Watson.

Henry Anderson recorded three sacks on Deshaun Watson this past Saturday. Going into this game, Anderson had six sacks for his entire career, a career that spans over four seasons and 42 games played, before Saturday. The Texans only ran 53 offensive plays and still gave up six sacks, three of which came to a guy who had never had more than three sacks in a season before Saturday’s game.

Higher Level of Criticism

Watson, in his 20th career start, receives more criticism than warranted, from a fan base that has never had a franchise quarterback, unless you go back to the last franchise that played football in the city of Houston. The Houston Oilers had Steve McNair, Warren Moon, Dan Pastorini, etc. The Texans have had David Carr, Matt Schaub, Ryan Mallett, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, and Brock Osweiler.

I spent Sunday watching future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger make similar mistakes to what Watson had done earlier this season, but corrected.

In a similar play to a pressure Watson drew, Rodgers took an A-gap blitz from the safety; he attempted to make him miss to buy time for his receivers to open up in their route. Watson too, took a sack from the Jets’ stellar safety Jamal Adams in his game this weekend. It was zero coverage and “everyone could see it coming,” but why did Watson take the sack? “He can’t see the blitz.” Or, “He holds the ball too long.”

Against the Steelers the following day, Tom Brady took pressure and tried to fling the ball up towards the sideline to give his big target a chance or it’ll probably go out of bounds. Joe Haden made a stellar play on the ball. Unlike the Texans, the Patriots lost and fell out of the two seed. After Watson’s sack, the Texans kicker, Ka’imi Fairbairn, booted through another field goal.

Fairbairn was 5-5 on field goals and 2-2 on extra points in the win against the Jets. Since missing two field goals against Washington, Fairbairn has made 12 of his last 12 field goals and is 11-11 on extra points. Fairbairn was 5-5 on field goals in the win over the Browns, as well as the Jets win.

Watson’s Day in New Jersey

● Deshaun Watson lost his running back in this game: Lamar Miller left with an injury.

● Will Fuller is on injured reserve.

● Keke Coutee couldn’t play.

● Demaryius Thomas still isn’t completely up to speed.

● Texans hide offensive tackles with scheme and fewer pass attempts.

● Watson throws for 294 yards & 2 TDs on 22 of 28 passing, despite only 53 plays.

● Had a QB rating of 134.2.

● Won on the road in December.

● Led all rushers with 4 carries for 26 yards.

● His running backs totaled 12 carries for 14 yards.

● His defense allowed Sam Darnold his first ever multi-TD game w/ 0 INTs.

● Down on the road with 5 minutes to go.

● Went 6-7 for 70 yards and the go-ahead TD in 2 minutes and 15 seconds.

Only Patrick Mahomes (114.8) and Philip Rivers (112.4) have a higher QB rating in the AFC than the Texans’ Deshaun Watson (103.2.) Mahomes and Rivers are also the only two quarterbacks in the AFC with a better record than Watson’s 10-4 this season.

Deshaun Watson Refresher

Watson has torn ACLs in both knees over the last five years, including, most recently tearing his ACL just thirteen months ago.

Watson plays with the two worst offensive tackles in the NFL. So much so that the Texans limit Watson’s regular season pass attempts to keep him healthy. They also get creative with blocking to give their tackles help.

Watson has played 7 games with Will Fuller. He’s played 6 games with Keke Coutee. And 6 games with Demaryius Thomas.

Watson has gone through multiple changes in the offense.

Watson has adapted his playing style in-season to limit turnovers.

Watson won on the road with no running back and no offensive line.

Final

Houston, sit back and let Deshaun Watson be great. Yes, he will hold the ball and take a sack in the regular season to limit opportunities at turnovers. Just using this change mid-season and not for a full season has already led to the Texans skyrocketing up the ranks in turnover margin in the NFL.

Watson has ridden buses, taken hits, changed his style, and done whatever else it took to win 10 of the last 11 games. You are watching greatness.

R.E.L.A.X. Deshaun’s got you.

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