Saturday, 22/9/2018 | 2:34 UTC+0

Takeaways: Texans top Bengals in Watson’s first start

Takeaways: Texans top Bengals in Watson’s first start

So many of the best moments in Houston Texans franchise history have come against the Cincinnati Bengals. Add quarterback Deshaun Watson’s first NFL victory to theĀ  list.

Watson rushed for a 49-yard touchdown in the first half and helped the seal the team’s 13-9 victory with a clock-chewing field-goal drive in the fourth quarter. The Texans’ offense was rarely pretty, but avoiding an 0-2 start is a beautiful thing for a team that has been through so much over the last three weeks since Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. Here’s what we learned Thursday night:

Texans coach Bill O’Brien called a very conservative game, especially after Watson nearly threw a few interceptions early. But Watson’s ability to improvise on a Madden ’17-like third-and-long scamper late in the second quarter reminded everyone why he played over Week 1 starter Tom Savage. While the speed of the game looked too fast for Watson for much of the game — he averaged fewer than five yards per attempt on 24 throws — it was impressive that Watson saved his best for last: A 13-play drive in the fourth quarter that took up more than six minutes to give the Texans some breathing room.

“It’s a dream come true. It’s what I’ve been waiting for my whole life,” Watson told sideline reporter Heather Cox after the game, before surely embarking on a quest to celebrate his 22nd birthday in style.

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Let’s be clear: Watson was fairly low on the list of reasons the Texans won this cheap game. Texans defensive end J.J. Watt ended the game with an emphatic tackle during Cincinnati’s final play, a fitting conclusion to a game where Watt threw his muscle around. After not quite looking like himself in his first game back from back surgery in the season opener, Watt disrupted the Bengals’ offense consistently in both the running game and when Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton jersey went back to pass.

Dalton has experienced a nightmarish two games to start the season. He missed a handful of open throws throughout the night and appeared almost too cautious after throwing four interceptions in Week 1. His final two throws on Cincinnati’s last true drive were telling. He threw the ball away on third-and-4 rather than give his receiver a chance. Then Dalton overshot his intended target Alex Erickson on a decisive fourth down, again not allowing his wideout to even compete for the ball.

Beyond the injuries, a thorny holdout by Texans left tackle Duane Brown played a major role in Houston allowing a whopping 10 sacks against the Jaguars, something no team has done in a game over the past two seasons. No matter who plays quarterback, the Texans need major improvement from a front five that saw center Nick Martin grade out as team’s top blocker with a paltry 54.0 mark from Pro Football Focus. The rest of the group wasn’t even close. As a result, neither Watson or Savage completed a pass of 15-plus air yards in Week 1, but the rookie, to his credit, does a better job than Savage at extending the play with his feet. We also saw Watson show more chemistry than Savage with DeAndre Hopkins, connecting with his star wideout for six of Nuk’s seven receptions against the Jaguars.

When it comes to offensive line issues, the Bengals can’t point any fingers at the Texans. It’s fair to focus on Andy Dalton’s ungodly four picks in Week 1, but so much of his poor play charts back to facing intense pressure off the edges and up the middle against Baltimore. It was concerning to watch ageless Ravens pass-rusher Terrell Suggs terrorize left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, the 2015 first-rounder being asked to replace the departed Andrew Whitworth. The line helped break open a few runs, but left Dalton open for countless hits and a career-high five turnovers. With an ugly 8.3 passer rating on throws of 10-plus yards through the air against the Ravens, Dalton oversaw an attack that gained the fewest yards (221) for the Bengals since Week 10 of the 2014 campaign.

Dalton’s career struggles against the Texans — a 1-5 record with a 3-to-7 touchdown-to-pick ratio — might not mean anything today, but the common dominator in those beat downs of old remains J.J. Watt. Houston’s wily behemoth still looms as the game’s most dominant defensive player and a hero in Houston. The Texans’ front seven, though, was massively underwhelming against the Jaguars with just two quarterback hits on Blake Bortles in Week 1. With Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus coming off down games, this trio will be desperate to create havoc against the Bengals.

The Bengals tight end will undergo season-ending back surgery after consulting with noted spine specialist Dr. Robert Watkins, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported, according to a source informed of the cheapĀ NFL jerseys wholesale decision.

ESPN was first to report the news.

This is the second year in a row that Eifert will undergo back surgery. He dealt with another back injury last season after returning from ankle surgery. Eifert injured his ankle in the 2016 Pro Bowl following a breakout year.

The Bengals announced on Thursday Eifert has been placed on injured reserve.

Eifert played in only two games this season, making four receptions for 46 yards. Since entering the league in 2013, he has recorded 127 receptions for 1,537 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Eifert will be a free agent in the spring.