Culture / Sporting Life

Deshaun Watson Defies Doubters, Proves Superheroes Really do Exist in Great Sack Escape for the Ages

J.J. Watt's Iron Will, Bill O'Brien's Running Joy and NFL Greats Wowed — Inside the Happy Mayhem of Houston Moving on to Kansas City

BY // 01.05.20

Deshaun Watson could make an atheist at a Bill Maher show believe. The Texans quarterback could convert a vegan in a slaughterhouse into a rabid meat eater. If you did not recognize the power of No. 4 before, there is no way to deny it now.

From football dead to moving on to Kansas City. From sacked and buried to the play of the year.

Two Bills have their hands all over Watson, two Bills (safety Siran Neal and linebacker Matt Milano) have him in their grasp on the deciding play of overtime. Then, he’s gone. With a spin move that would make the most devoted Madden video game fanatic faint with envy, Watson slips away. Neal brings himself to the ground certain he’ll drag the Houston Texans franchise quarterback down there with him.

He doesn’t. Watson is still standing, still scrambling, avoiding two more charging Bills defenders and firing a pass upfield to little-used (one catch all season) tailback Taiwan Jones for 34 yards. Ball at the Buffalo 10-yard line. Walkoff field goal set up.

“He’s Houdini,” Texans wideout DeAndre Hopkins says after Texans 22, Bills 19 and one of the wildest playoff scenes you’ll ever see. “He’s Houdini. He’s always got an amazing play in him.”

Texans linebacker Zach Cunningham puts it more succinctly — and bluntly.


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“That’s one crazy ass play,” he says, shaking his head in wonder.

In an epic playoff game that had a little bit of everything, including the incredible comeback story of J.J. Watt, Deshaun Watson leaves everyone gasping at a moment for the ages.

“All we needed was a spark,” Watt says afterwards. “You add Deshaun Watson to a spark, and you’re going to have one hell of a fire.”

It turns out that Watchmen got it a little wrong. There may be one more real superhero left on Earth after Doctor Manhattan.

If Watson is on your side, all coaching, offensive line and football execution sins can be forgiven. The Texans commit a boatload of these offenses. Including falling down 16-0, making NRG Stadium feel almost like South Buffalo. Including giving up seven sacks, turning Watson into a living piñata at times.

But they’re still moving on in the NFL playoffs. Because they have Deshaun Watson in the fourth quarter and overtime. And the Bills have Josh Allen.

Watson completes his last eight passes of regulation for 111 yards with a touchdown throw, a two-point conversion and a rushing touchdown in which he drags two Bills into the end zone for good measure. Who’s making fun of Clemson coach Dabo Swinney for calling Watson the football version of Michael Jordan now?

“The play he made at the end of the game, no one makes that play,” Watt says. “The guy is unbelievable.”

Watson turns even Texans coach Bill O’Brien into something of a nut. There is O’Brien flinging off his headset after Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 28-yard field goal goes through the outright with 3:20 left in the first overtime period, looking for somebody to hug.

This is clearly the biggest win of O’Brien’s six season run on Kirby Drive, one that shows the never-give-up ethos he’s instilled in this flawed, heart-filled team carries over to the playoffs as well.

“You guys got heart, man,” O’Brien tells the Texans in the locker room. “You’ve got resiliency. You’ve got what it takes.”

The Texans could have packed it in down 16-0. In fact, at least half the stadium probably expected them to do just that.

Instead, Watt makes the type of play that he’s always made in these first round playoff games (see Pick-6, Cincinnati), absolutely pulverizing Allen on a third quarter sack that threatens to blow the needlessly closed roof of NRG Stadium right off.

“For him to come back from injury and have a great stellar play down there just juiced everybody up,” Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus says, leaning against the front wall in the Texans locker room, his black eye paint and uniform still on.

These Texans are elated, exhilarated and exhausted all at the same time. That’s what a playoff game that stretches deep into a fifth quarter does to you.

“I’m tired — I’m not going to lie,” Cunningham says. “That was some game.”

Won by one defeat-defying quarterback. It turns out that Watchmen got it a little wrong. There may be one more real superhero left on Earth after Doctor Manhattan.

Watson left NFL stars, past and present, slack jawed and Twitter floored. “Deshaun Watson is the truth!” Reggie Bush, the former USC Heisman winner, tweeted.

“Somebody had to be great,” Watson tells ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters on the field in the immediate chaos of the game — after seeking out Allen for a QB hug first. “Why not me?”

Maybe because no quarterback is supposed to be able to make that escape from two hellbent charging defensive players.

Deshaun Watson’s Play for the Ages — and Composure For All Time

Watson flexes his biceps after the play that steals the game. Then, he talks about it in his extended postgame press conference like he knew he was going to do it all along.

Even with the miserable Texans start — and all the angst along the way — this is one of the most memorable Houston postseason moments of recent memory in any sport. Right up there with some of the Astros’ epic walkoffs and October comebacks.

Watt’s unlikely return — and game-shifting sack — and Watson’s great escape ensure that. This win does not guarantee anything next Sunday afternoon in Kansas City (the Chiefs are arguably playing better than even the Ravens right now). But the Texans are still alive, still within reach of the first AFC Championship Game appearance in franchise history.

“I talked to the guys before the game, 20 teams are at home, 12 are in it,” Watt says of the playoff field. “Now we move on and obviously there’s less teams in it. I can’t do the math that quick. I think it’s eight.”

It is — including three others in the AFC that the Texans have a reasonable chance at beating (yes, even Baltimore should it come to that).

As long as Watson is still on his feet — and everyone’s seen how hard it is to knock him down — Houston has a real shot.

This is a quarterback who makes all the right plays. Before the game that meant leaving new Beats wireless headphones in every offensive player’s locker along with a little note. “Let’s Be Great Today,” it read along with the number four. Watson isn’t just stealing playoff games, he’s motivating the Texans’ entire offense, refusing to let anything hold them back even when Will Fuller is once again MIA.

“Breaking the tackles, I knew I was going to do that honestly,” Watson says with a little grin. “I just knew I wasn’t going down. That’s just my mentality. You’re going to have to force me to the ground.”

The Bills could not when it matters most. This is Deshaun Watson. There are three-legged puppies and shirtless firefighters who have worse Internet approval ratings at this point.

Who would ever dare doubt Deshaun Watson now?

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