HOUSTON (AP) — Once again Deshaun Watson starred in prime time, and on this occasion it helped the Houston Texans to their first win over the Patriots since 2010.
"I can't say enough about his willingness to improve, his work ethic, his resiliency," coach Bill O'Brien said. "The biggest thing about Deshaun is that he's the same guy every day, just a very consistent person."
Watson threw three touchdown passes and grabbed his first career TD reception on a nifty trick play that gave Houston a 28-22 win over New England to help former Patriots assistant O'Brien get his first victory against his former boss Bill Belichick in six tries.
Watson improved to 6-2 with 21 touchdown passes and just three interceptions in night games.
But Watson and the Texans won't take long to celebrate the victory as they look to build on that success and try and win their fourth AFC South title in five seasons.
"You have to learn from what you did well and learn from what you didn't do well and you've got to turn the page quickly to the next opponent," O'Brien said. "Because if you don't you're going to be in trouble."
Watson did a great job in spreading the ball around against New England and completed passes to seven different players. He threw at least three touchdown passes for the fifth time this season, which is tied for most in the NFL.
Watson connected with tight end Darren Fells on a 13-yard touchdown pass to leave him tied for most TD receptions by a tight end this season with seven, which is a franchise record.
He also got running back Duke Johnson involved in the passing game and he finished with five receptions for 54 yards. Johnson was one of two running backs the Texans added in August after Lamar Miller sustained a season-ending knee injury in a preseason game.
"Duke has made some plays for us this year," O'Brien said. "I think that Duke has improved every week as far as what we're asking him to do and what his role in the game is."
Houston's secondary has improved since the early part of the season thanks to three first-round picks that the team has added. Bradley Roby, a first-round pick 2014, had an interception that led to the team's first touchdown Sunday and added a sack in his return after missing five games with a hamstring injury.
The group has also gotten a boost from the addition of Gareon Conley, a first-round pick in 2017 who was traded from Oakland in October, and Vernon Hargreaves, chosen in the first round in 2016, and added by Houston after his release from Tampa Bay last month.
"Those guys have come in, they've done well, they've tried to do the things that we're asking them to do," O'Brien said. "(Roby) had a pretty good game last night, made a big play there that got us going. His interception got us going ... but those guys have played well, so it's been good."
WHAT NEEDS HELP
While Watson has Houston's passing game going strong, the Texans need to work and get their running game back on track. The Texans managed just 52 yards rushing against New England for their second-lowest total this season.
Houston nose tackle D.J. Reader set career highs with seven tackles and four quarterback hits on Sunday night. It was his fifth career game with two or more quarterback hits and the performance gave him nine this season, which ties his career high. Reader, who is in his fourth season, also had a tackle for loss against the Patriots to give him a career-best six this season.
WR Keke Coutee was inactive for the second straight game despite being healthy. The move came after the second-year pro played two weeks ago after being active but not playing in the previous two games. Coutee, who has struggled with injuries in his short career, has 16 receptions for 179 yards this season.
O'Brien said Conley, who sat out Sunday with a hip injury, could return this week. ... O'Brien refused to confirm or deny a report that said DE J.J. Watt, who had pectoral surgery, could return for the postseason. "I'm not going to get into all those things," he said. "There's a lot of all that stuff that was out there. I don't know where that comes from."
3 — The Texans didn't commit a turnover for the third time this season and are 3-0 in those games.
As well as Watson has been playing, he'll need to continue to improve if the Texans hope to wrap up the division title. Tennessee is one game behind Houston in second place in the division with both matchups against the Titans coming in the final three weeks of the season.