HOUSTON (AP) — Deshaun Watson’s stellar play has given the Houston Texans their first winning streak of the season.
Watson threw for 318 yards and tied a season high with four touchdown passes to help the Texans beat the Lions 41-25 on Thanksgiving for their second straight win. Watson has two straight 300-yard games and has thrown 15 TD passes without an interception in the past six games.
“Deshaun is a tremendous athlete, a good leader, got good weapons that he can use whenever he chooses to,” interim coach Romeo Crennel said. “And he spreads the ball around many times. And then you’ve got to give some credit to the guys up front here. Those guys, if they give him time, he’s able to make plays.”
Watson ranks third in the NFL with 3,201 yards passing and his 68.9% completion rate is sixth.
His leadership has also been important as the Texans try to make the most out of this tough season. Houston opened the season 0-4 before coach Bill O’Brien was fired but has gone 4-3 since then in large part because of Watson’s steady play.
He’s remained upbeat and optimistic even as the team has struggled and is focused on helping Houston finish the season strong.
“We’ve just got to keep that momentum, this energy going and, we’ve got to make sure that we remember these moments in these times after a win because it feels really, really good,” Watson said. “So we don’t want to feel that the losing atmosphere in that locker room, we want to keep being positive, keep going out there and keep stacking (wins).”
Watson's job will be more difficult for the rest of the season after star receiver Will Fuller announced Monday that he had been suspended for six games for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Fuller announced the suspension on Instagram on Monday, saying that it was from a medication he was prescribed that he believed to be permitted, but that was banned under the league’s policy.
He has been Houston's best receiver in the first season since DeAndre Hopkins was traded to Arizona and had a career-high 879 yards receiving and eight touchdowns this year. He was coming off his best game of the season, with 171 yards receiving and two scores against the Lions.
The suspension leaves Houston's receiving group rather thin after veteran Kenny Stills was released last week and with Randall Cobb on the injured list with a toe injury. Cobb ranks third on the team with 441 yards receiving.
Fuller's suspension leaves Brandin Cooks, who has 719 yards receiving, as Watson's top remaining target.
Houston’s defense has been much better against the run in the past two games after giving up 231 yards rushing in a loss to the Browns on Nov. 15. The Texans allowed 109 yards rushing against the Lions after limiting the Patriots to just 86. But they’re still looking to do more in a season where they rank 31st by giving up 154.7 yards rushing a game.
“Guys are beginning to gain more confidence in what they’re able to do and how they’re going about it,” Crennel said. “Hopefully, we’ll keep improving as we wind down the season.”
WHAT NEEDS HELP
While the run defense has gotten better, Houston’s running game continues to be the biggest weakness on the team. The Texans managed just 77 yards rushing on Thursday with 24 coming from Watson’s scrambling. Houston has had 100 yards rushing just three times this season and ranks 31st in the NFL with 83.9 yards rushing a game.
ILB Tyrell Adams is a former practice squad player who has developed into one of Houston’s best linebackers this season. The undrafted free agent tied the franchise record for most tackles in a game with a career-high 17 against the Lions. He also forced two fumbles in the win to become just the fourth player since 1994 with at least 17 tackles and two forced fumbles in a game.
RB Duke Johnson continues to struggle while filling in for injured running back David Johnson. He had just 37 yards rushing against the Lions in his third start since Johnson was injured.
Crennel said Johnson could return this week after missing three games since getting a concussion.
13 — Numerous Detroit fans donated $13 each to Watson’s foundation as a thank you to the Texans for beating the Lions and hastening coach Matt Patricia’s firing, according to NFL.com. The $13 donation was a nod to Patricia’s 13-29 record with the Lions. Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn were fired on Saturday after the team's terrible performance against the Texans.
The Texans will look for their third straight win on Sunday when they face AFC South foe Indianapolis in the first of two meetings in three weeks with the Colts.
The Colts rank fifth in the NFL in total defense and will be a test for Watson and an offense that has performed well in the past two games as Houston has piled up 68 points.
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