Texans’ Deshaun Watson keeps Chargers defense scrambling, grasping and gasping for air
Chargers edge rusher Melvin Ingram beat Houston right tackle Tytus Howard with an explosive outside move, made a bee line for Deshaun Watson and grabbed a fistful of the quarterback’s No. 4 jersey with his right hand.
Ingram was sure he would haul down Watson for a key sack in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game at Dignity Health Sports Park. The elusive quarterback, as he did for most of a toasty afternoon, left Ingram grasping at air and the Chargers secondary gasping for air.
Watson broke free of Ingram’s grip, stepped up in the pocket as if to run and, with linebacker Kyzir White and free safety Rayshawn Jenkins closing, dumped a short pass to tight end Jordan Akins near the Chargers 40-yard line.
Akins was virtually untouched as he raced to the end zone to complete a 53-yard touchdown play with 9 minutes 40 seconds left, giving the Texans a 10-point lead on the way to a 27-20 victory in front of 25,349.
The Chargers struggled mightily to contain Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, surrendering a 10-point lead in the second half to lose 27-20.
“That was a crazy play,” Ingram said. “I’m coming around the corner, I’m grabbing him, and he stepped up. It’s just a play I have to make. That’s totally on me.”
Though the final touchdown came via a pass, Watson created the play with his feet. The Chargers bit hard on the run and White’s decision to leave Akins to pursue the quarterback left the tight end wide open.
“He makes a lot of great plays that aren’t drawn that way on the chalkboard,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “Some of the plays are designed, but not all of them.”
Ingram and White weren’t the only Chargers victimized by Watson, the former Clemson standout who completed 25 of 34 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
Watson is not the pure runner that Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson is, but he senses pressure and extends plays with his feet. His scrambling ability forced linemen to chase him around the pocket and defensive backs to cover receivers longer.
Watson completed 14 passes of 10 yards or more and five passes of 30 yards or more, including a 38-yard flea-flicker pass to Kenny Stills to set up a 16-yard scoring pass to Darren Fells in the second quarter. The Texans converted six of 10 third-down plays.
“He does a really good job of keeping his eyes downfield when he escapes the pocket,” linebacker Thomas Davis said of Watson. “We had him in our grasp way too many times. We just have to understand, he’s a dynamic player, and when you’re playing a guy like that, everything works hand in hand.
“You have to do your job up front, you have to do your job on the back end and make sure you’re staying close to the receivers through the whole down.”
Watson scrambled for 15 yards on a third-and-14 play in the first quarter and threw 15 yards to DeAndre Hopkins on a third-and-14 play in the third. The Chargers sacked Watson twice, but Watson avoided three or four more sacks with his instincts and feet.
“I don’t think our guys were out of their rush lanes,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “I think [Watson] made some moves, he escaped, he broke some tackles. We just have to finish the play.”
It was a particularly rough day for strong safety Roderic Teamer, an undrafted free agent from Tulane who was making his NFL debut. Filling in for the injured Adrian Phillips, Teamer was beat on Watson’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Akins on a seam route that gave Houston a 21-17 lead with 1:19 left in the third quarter.
Teamer also lost track of Stills on the long flea-flicker play in the second quarter, and he had coverage on Will Fuller when the receiver caught a 30-yard pass down the right sideline. That set up Carlos Hyde’s three-yard touchdown run that pulled the Texans to within 17-14 in the third quarter.
“I made some rookie mistakes,” Teamer said. “I never want to make excuses. I just have to get better, move on and make the plays that I should.”
Teamer said the touchdown to Akins on the seam route in the third quarter “was a bad read on my part. Any time you give up a touchdown, you want that back.”
Teamer was actually a sub for a fill-in. Phillips, who broke his arm last week in Detroit, moved from linebacker in the dime package to strong safety to replace the injured Derwin James in a defense that is also without cornerback Michael Davis (hamstring).
“I’d be lying to say [the injuries] don’t catch up to you, but we have to do a good job with that next-man-up mentality,” Jenkins said. “No matter who goes down, this is the NFL, these are where you find the best football players. When you get that shot, you better be ready.”
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