Culture / Sporting Life

Texans Take a Swipe at National Doubters, Give Cal McNair the Game Ball in Genuinely Sweet Football Night

Deshaun Watson’s Footsteps are Gaining on the Kansas City Chiefs

BY // 11.27.18

It’s 10-0 Titans just five minutes and 39 seconds into Monday Night Football, and not a Texan is stirring — or stressing. No one’s finger pointing. And in a league where sideline spats are becoming almost as common as Kardashian feuds, this is more than significant.

“Even though we were down 10-0, everybody was calm,” Texans receiver Demaryius Thomas says. “Nobody was pointing fingers at each other. We just knew what we had to do to make it better… it was just smooth like that.

“When you’ve got a team that’s yelling on the sidelines, it’s tough.”

This Texans team doesn’t do tirades — or finger pointing. Instead, it just wins. It’s a franchise record eight straight now on a night when Texans coach Bill O’Brien presents Cal McNair, the son of the man who brought NFL football back to Houston, with the game ball in the locker room.

These Texans are not the New Orleans Saints or the LA Rams or the Kansas City Chiefs. They’re not a juggernaut that jumps off anyone’s high-def TV screen. You could watch these Texans in 3D and still think they’re a little flat.

But they sure find ways to win. Again and again — and again and again.

“I guess, you know,” veteran Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph shoots back when someone asks if this might be the victory that finally gets this Houston team some national respect. “But we may have to win 12 or 13 games.”

The Texans only rip off 27 unanswered points on this night, turning that early 10-0 hole into a 34-17 ESPN coming out party. There is no doubt that O’Brien giving Cal McNair the game ball in front of the entire team is the most touching moment of this night.

But the near spooky calm on the Houston sideline after Titans 10, Texans 0 goes up on the giant NRG Stadium scoreboards is the most instructive one.

“Sometimes you can be on a team and hear, ‘Oh, here this goes again,’ ” Joseph says of the early deficit. “Not really literally hear it, but you can sense it. You can feel it. Never really had that feeling today. There was never a doubt in my mind we were going to win this ballgame today.”

These Texans do not have an Odell Beckham questioning play calling or an Antonio Brown throwing a fit. They just fall in line and keeping playing, keep fighting. In many ways, this is the perfect Bob McNair molded team, for better or for worse.

McNair always wanted a team full of high character players, a team that would stick together no matter what. It goes back to the lessons he learned growing up and playing sports in Forrest City, North Carolina (population 7,210).  These now 8-3 Texans are that team.

“We’re used to adversity. We’re used to having to find a way. And we believe in each other” Texans lifeline J.J. Watt says. “We believe we’re going to find a way (to win).”

Watt is wearing a gray Dillon Panthers sweatshirt as he talks, repping the fictional team from Friday Night Lights fame. Which is fitting because this Texans season almost looks like it was lifted from some Hollywood script.

Only, you can’t skip to the end, to see how it all turns out against the NFL’s glamour squads in the playoffs.

This is a season where it’s better to enjoy the moments. Especially whenever Deshaun Watson has the ball.

DeShaun Watson, Prime Time Player

Watson is at it again on the big stage, completing 19 of 24 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns, spreading the ball out to nine different receivers, picking up another 70 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

The Texans offense looks more dangerous than it has since their last prime-time game, that Thursday night blowout of the Brock Osweiler Miami Dolphins. Houston racks up 295 yards in the first half alone, more yards than both the Kansas City Chiefs (268) and the LA Rams (194) each had in the first half of their offensive clash for the ages last Monday night.

Who says these guys have no pizzazz?

The Texans QB shows his pure electrifying ability on a 34-yard scramble up the middle in the fourth quarter. With his pocket collapsing, Watson takes off, making one, two, three, four Titan defenders miss before finally being brought down at the 12-yard line.

“You never know when I’m going to keep the ball,” Watson says in a line that must sound like a horror movie villain’s warning to opposing defensive coordinators.

Watch Out… Chiefs?

On this night, Watson finds himself with an entire cast of Prime Time Players around him.

Lamar Miller, the sometimes confounding running back, rips off the type of game shifting, franchise record 97-yard touchdown run that made Bob McNair so enamored with him in the first place (Miller is clocked at running 20 MPH by ESPN’s tracking). Thomas catches two touchdowns in his third game as a Texan. Watt collects another sack and a half. Christian Covington — who came into the game without a sack the entire season — leaves with two and a half.

The Texans terrorize Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota with six sacks overall on a night when he somehow only throws one incompletion in 23 passes and racks up 303 passing yards. Call it the ultimate false stats optical illusion.

“This team is a bunch of fighters,” Covington says at his locker. “We’re a group that just fights our way back.”

They may be even fighting themselves into a little national respect. Don’t look now, but there is Booger McFarland getting off his crane to declare, “This team is gonna be a tough out come January,” on ESPN’s postgame show.

There are plenty of more doubters, though. After the rare football game that’s genuinely sweet — the pregame Bob McNair tribute, the postgame game ball giving to Cal  — these Texans roll on. Houston’s somehow only one game back of the AFC pace setting Chiefs (9-2) with a host of winnable games coming up.

Do you believe in good guys who just won’t quit? Do you believe in McNairs?

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