Three & Out: Takeaways from the Houston Texans’ 13-9 Win Over the Cincinnati Bengals

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson made his first NFL start—and won—on his 22nd birthday, while Andy Dalton and the Bengals failed to score a touchdown for the second week in a row.
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1. On his 22nd birthday, Deshaun Watson made his first NFL start and won, 13-9, despite having to find his way early. He completed just two passes over Houston’s first three drives, earning just one first down. But with a minute to go in the first half, the Clemson product showed why he went No. 12 overall in this year’s draft. Just one snap after he took an 11-yard sack, Watson escaped the pocket, scrambled right, and weaved his way 49 yards before cutting back toward midfield and waltzing into the end zone. That put the Texans up, 10-3, and ended up being the only touchdown of the night. 

For the most part, Bill O’Brien kept things conservative with Watson, partially because of Houston’s continued offensive line struggles. Geno Atkins was routinely in Watson’s face, even as the Texans often kept extra blockers in for protection. And on two critical third-and-short situations late in the game, Houston was unable to maintain possession, as D’Onta Foreman was stuffed behind the line both times. The blockers played well enough to escape with a badly needed road win to get the season back on track, but Watson won’t thrive until the big guys in front of him do the same. He finished with just 125 passing yards (along with 67 rushing).

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2.Andy Dalton had a chance to silence his critics—at least temporarily—when he dropped back on a third-and-six late in the fourth quarter. Instead, he threw a ball too low for Brandon LaFell, invigorating the home crowd’s boos. Dalton finished 20-of-35 for 224 yards. Cincinnati is now the first team since the 1939 Eagles to open a season without scoring a touchdown in its first two games. And it won’t get any easier; the Bengals now head to Green Bay.

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3. Houston continued to be ravaged by injuries on Thursday. Four days after three tight ends went out in the opener, the Texans’ two top corners were knocked out against Cincinnati: Johnathan Joseph left with a shoulder injury and Kevin Johnson sustained a left knee injury. Despite losing those guys, the Houston defense bounced back from a toothless (and sackless) Week 1. With Brian Cushing suspended, Benardrick McKinney tallied two sacks and Kareem Jackson forced a first-quarter fumble that Jadeveon Clowney ran back 49 yards (holding the ball with one hand like LeSean McCoy!). That set up Houston’s first points of the game. J.J. Watt had a fairly quiet game statistically but flushed Andy Dalton out of the pocket on a late third-down. On the very next play, Dalton badly overthrew a receiver on the Bengals’ last real shot to keep the ball moving and score.

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