When Texans QB Deshaun Watson got the ball down six with zero timeouts and 50 seconds remaining on Monday night against the Saints, it looked like he was entering an impossible situation. Since scoring a touchdown on their first drive of the second half, the Houston offense had been completely ineffective—turning the ball over once and punting twice as Watson’s offensive line failed to protect him from the Saints rush. In that time, New Orleans made a comeback, and Watson had only a few plays left to drive 75 yards for the presumed win.
Here is that spectacular, two-play drive in its entirety, which not only took just 13 seconds of game time, but also less than a minute of real-world time:
On the first play, Watson provided the desperate Texans a glimmer of hope when he dropped a perfect throw halfway down the field, right over Marshon Lattimore and into the hands of DeAndre Hopkins, who improbably managed to keep full control of the ball with just his left hand as he rolled through the catch. And before you could even think to yourself, Hey, these guys might have a chance!, Watson was blazing a pass to Kenny Stills across the middle for a 37-yard touchdown that had Joe Tessitore screaming, “He did it!” over and over again. With a second chance on the extra point, those two plays put the Texans up 28-27.
A vintage second-half performance from Drew Brees, who took the 37 seconds Watson gave him and maneuvered his team into field-goal range for the victory, snuffed out Watson’s very cool one-two punch that delivered Houston the late lead. But even if it won’t stand out in anyone’s long-term memory, those unlikely plays from Watson were a brilliant cap to a rocky but ultimately very impressive performance—a microcosm of the young QB’s entire career to this point.
Watson, who’s already handled more injuries than he deserves, seemed to battle through pain all night. He went to the medical tent twice in the first half (but didn’t miss a snap) after appearing to injure his back on this running touchdown, and even on that final play you can see him take an enormous hit while he throws. But despite suffering through six sacks—an alarming figure that shows the Texans still haven’t remedied what was a serious problem area last year—Watson did all he could to go into New Orleans and prove he can carry the team to victory with his wild, exuberant quarterbacking.
Watson’s got a thrilling mix of long-range bomb-throwing talent and the ability to extend plays with his feet, combined with some hardcore toughness he’s forced to show more often than the Texans would prefer. All together, on a team that otherwise would be hanging around the fringes of the NFL, Watson’s spontaneous superhumanity can make the Texans a joy to watch. So far in his career, when healthy, Watson has displayed that rarest of sparks possessed by only a few NFL gunslingers—Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, peak Cam Newton all come to mind. And even if a vet like Brees canceled it out on Monday, as long as the Texans can keep Watson upright, that spark should be here to stay.