HOUSTON – It wasn’t that long ago that Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson was in the position Denver’s Drew Lock is in now.
Watson was thrust into the starting role after the season was underway as a rookie in 2017, just as Lock was last week for the Broncos. Watson made his debut in the middle of a game and won his first start the following week. Lock became Denver’s third starter this season following Joe Flacco and Brandon Allen and led the Broncos to a win over the Chargers.
Watson knows how important it is for a quarterback to get that first win on his resumé.
“It’s huge,” Watson said. “It builds a lot of confidence within that locker room, within yourself, and that’s where it has to start, that confidence with yourself knowing that you can play at this level, you can win at this level, because it’s hard to do, especially on a consistent basis. So, yeah, it just changes everything and everyone is in good spirits.”
Lock, a second-round pick in this year’s draft out of Missouri, threw for 134 yards with two touchdowns and an interception on Sunday. Now that he knows he’s the starter, he feels like he can begin to take a more active role as a leader on the team.
“I can just ... start being the face of these guys around here, especially in the huddle,” he said. “Just being able to show them a little bit more of me as a leader. Even out there on the field in the game, not necessarily practice, but even out on the field they saw a little bit of my confidence last week. I’m hoping that we can come out and play extremely well, and hopefully we can keep building confidence for everyone.”
The Texans are also feeling confident after getting their first win over the Patriots since 2010, a 28-22 victory last week. Watson threw three touchdown passes and had his first career TD reception on a trick play, earning his third AFC Offensive Player of the Week award this season.
Though Houston is feeling good after the big win, the Texans know they can’t be overconfident as they chase their fourth AFC South title in five seasons.
“We don’t want to have a letdown,” Watson said. “That’s not the type of guys we have in that locker room, the leadership we have, we’re not going to allow it. Denver is a great 4-8 team, if you want to look at the record, but we don’t look at the record ... you can’t have no letups because you will get embarrassed.”
DOUBLE-THREAT DUKEThe Texans have one of the league’s best pass-catching running backs in Duke Johnson. The fifth-year player has 2,464 yards receiving and 1,671 yards rushing in his career and had a season-high five receptions for 54 yards last week.
Watson said Johnson’s versatility makes things difficult for the defense.
“You have to pick either you’re going dime personnel and have a DB on him or you have to put one of the linebackers on him, and linebackers don’t do too much covering,” he said. “They like to run fit and play zone coverage, they don’t play a lot of man. So, he’s a guy that’s really a receiver playing running back, and he can do a lot of different things that can help us.”
KICKING & SCREAMINGCoach Vic Fangio says he and kicker Brandon McManus are good after his kicker threw a tantrum last week when he wasn’t allowed to try an NFL-record 65-yard field goal just before halftime. McManus was summoned back to the sideline after trotting out for the try, ripped off his helmet and slammed it to the ground.
“At the time, I didn’t know it went on until after the game. He wanted to go out there and try it, and I didn’t think it was the right thing to do at that time,” Fangio said. “Part of the reason – a big part of the reason – was because it’s been proven in the past with other kickers and possibly him, too, that if you take a big swing at one of those early in the game, it could affect your swing later in the game. I’m saying that’s why he made the 52- and the (winning) 53-yarder because he didn’t alter his swing for a 65-yarder. And the air was a little heavier than normal.”
McManus countered after the game: “Does a Hail Mary change the way a quarterback throws the ball?” That drew this retort from Fangio: “There’s proof in his career that it happened to him already.”
AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton contributed to this report.