In the best game of this NFL season on Sunday, Deshaun Watson was the best player on the field.
Watson’s Texans lost in Seattle, and we have a tendency to judge quarterbacks by wins and losses. But Watson was such an incredible player in that loss to the Seahawks that I think he’s more than just the favorite for rookie of the year. He might be the league MVP.
Think that’s an overstatement? Then you need to think more about just how putrid the Texans’ offense was before Watson came along. Last year, the Texans’ offense was so bad that this offseason they sent a second-round pick to Cleveland just to get the Browns to take Brock Osweiler off their hands. In Week One this year, when Tom Savage started at quarterback, the Texans were such a disaster that Savage was benched for Watson at halftime.
And what have the Texans done since Watson took the helm? Just been the best offense in football over the last five weeks. Houston has scored 33, 57, 34, 33 and 38 points in its last five games. That’s by far the most of any team in the league. Last year the Texans never scored more than 27 points in a game — not once all season.
Watson is the first rookie in NFL history to throw at least three touchdown passes in four consecutive games, and his 16 touchdowns over the last four games are the most that any rookie has ever had in any four-game stretch. Watson’s 19 passing touchdowns are the most any player has ever had in his first seven NFL games — and remember, of Watson’s first seven games, he came off the bench at halftime in the first, and he was starting for the first time on a short work week in the second.
Yes, the Texans are 3-4. But that’s not on Watson. Houston has major holes, with a mess of an offensive line, an injury-plagued defense and bad special teams. What it also has is the most exciting young talent to enter the NFL this year, and maybe in many years.
Here are my other thoughts from Sunday:
When will defensive players learn? It still amazes me how many defensive players don’t understand that if you catch a game-winning interception you need to go down, not try to return it. Yesterday it was Saints defensive back Marshon Lattimore, who clinched the win with an interception and instead of going down, tried to return it in traffic. That is not smart, and by the time you’re in the NFL, you should know better.
Facemasking should be reviewable. There was an absolutely ridiculous facemasking call against the Saints on Sunday, and replays clearly showed that no penalty had been committed. If Sean Payton were allowed to challenge it, he surely would have. But the NFL only allows a few penalties to be challenged, and facemasking isn’t one of them. And that’s dumb: It’s probably the penalty that would be easiest to fix with instant replay.
Dean Blandino needs work. When FOX hired Mike Pereira away from the league’s officiating office to have him explain refereeing, it was a great step in football television analysis. Unfortunately, it was also apparently a one-time occurrence. Because Mike Carey tried to do the same thing on CBS and was an abject failure, and now Blandino is trying to do it on FOX and can’t get the job done. He’s so wishy-washy that he sometimes won’t even say during a replay review if he thinks the ruling on the field was right or wrong, and when he disagrees with the replay review — as he did with Bears tight end Zach Miller‘s overturned touchdown catch yesterday — we never know if he’s right or the NFL’s replay office is right. Blandino has a lot of work to do if he’s ever going to add value to a broadcast the way Pereira does.
Maybe Christian McCaffrey should be a wide receiver. McCaffrey, the Panthers’ rookie running back, is having a very good season catching the ball. With five catches for 49 yards in yesterday’s win over the buccaneers, McCaffrey now has 49 catches for 378 yards in just half a season. McCaffrey is on pace for 98 catches, which would be an NFL rookie record for a running back. Unfortunately, McCaffrey also had just four carries for three yards yesterday, and on the season he now had 48 carries for 117 yards, a pathetic average of 2.4 yards a carry.
The Colts’ problems go much deeper than Andrew Luck‘s injury. Indianapolis dropped to 2-6 with a loss to Cincinnati yesterday, and it wasn’t the fault of fill-in quarterback Jacoby Brissett at all. Brissett completed 25 of 39 passes for 233 yards, with two touchdowns, despite getting terrible protection up front and some ugly dropped passes. The Colts just have an awful roster across the board. They might be better than 2-6 if Luck were healthy, but they wouldn’t be much better.
So much for the Bills tanking. When the Bills traded Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby in August, people said they weren’t even trying to win this year. Now they’re 5-2 and look like a playoff team. The whole “tanking” thing is overdone. There are teams that build for the future, and the Bills are one of them — they’ve done a nice job of stockpiling picks in next year’s draft. But NFL teams want to win every time they take the field. The Bills are playing winning football.