By MoiseKapenda Bower, The Sports Xchange
HOUSTON — In the aftermath of another standout performance from rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Texans faced the reality that they might indeed have their signal-caller of the future.
Watson followed a breakout performance last weekend in New England with a record-setting display in his third career start as the Houston Texans ran roughshod over the Tennessee Titans with a 57-14 victory on Sunday at NRG Stadium.
Watson completed 25 of 34 attempts for 283 yards and became the first rookie quarterback to throw four touchdowns and rush for another since Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton in 1961. With a tantalizing mix of poise, accuracy, elusiveness and moxie, Watson showcased his wares while orchestrating an offensive attack that complemented another sterling defensive display.
“It’s cool to have it on our side because it’s not a good feeling to be on the other side,” Watson said of the blowout and referencing an ugly loss in the opener. “(For) the time being try to execute and keep it going. You’ve got to learn from the opportunities that you have that you didn’t accomplish and just move on from it because you’re only as good as your next game.”
Watson tossed scoring passes of 16 and 10 yards to Will Fuller, who made his first start of the season after missing three games with a broken collarbone, an 8-yard strike to DeAndre Hopkins, and another 8-yarder to running back Lamar Miller with 11:19 remaining in the contest. Watson added a 1-yard touchdown run late in the first half as Houston (2-2) extended to a 30-14 lead.
The Texans have won six consecutive home games in the series between AFC South rivals and nine of 11 overall. The Titans (2-2), riding high following consecutive victories over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks, did not record a first down until the second quarter and trailed 21-0 by that juncture.
“We got a big lead right away,” Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said. “If you could have a blueprint for how you want to play the game that would be the way. You want to get off to a big lead, and I thought we controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball for the most part.”
Tennessee lost quarterback Marcus Mariota to injury during the game. He passed for 96 yards and recorded touchdown runs of 34 and two yards in the first half, but did not return following the intermission. He was sidelined by a hamstring injury sustained on the second scoring run with 1:50 remaining in the second quarter.
He also tossed two interceptions, both by Texans free safety Andre Hal. Houston converted the first turnover into a 2-yard Miller touchdown run to ignite the offensive explosion.
Tennessee finished with five turnovers.
“We wanted to see if he could play,” Titans head coach Mike Mularkey said of Mariota, who will undergo an MRI on Monday. “I said to him, ‘I’d like to be smart about this — there’s a lot of football left this season.'”
The 57 points represented a franchise high for the Texans. Tennessee, which entered the weekend ranked second in the NFL in rushing yards, mustered just 86 yards on 19 attempts.
Before Mariota was lost for the afternoon and after the Texans dashed to a three-touchdown lead, the Titans strung together consecutive touchdown drives with Matt Cassel at quarterback to cut the deficit to 10 points. But Houston responded with a key play on special teams, a 42-yard kickoff return from Chris Thompson, and capitalized on two critical penalties against Titans cornerback Adoree’ Jackson.
Watson followed with his second career touchdown run and the Texans led by 16. When Mariota failed to return for the second half, Tennessee had nothing left to stem the tide.
“Offensively, we weren’t clicking fast enough,” Titans receiver Rishard Matthews said. “Once we got going, it was too late. You can’t do that against a good team.”