WHO: Deshaun Watson, of the Houston Texans.
WHAT: An overtime drive in the wild card round of the playoffs that’ll go down in history.
WHY IT’S SO GREAT: There aren’t many young NFL players more likable than Deshaun Watson. He entered the league—and joined the Texans—right as Hurricane Harvey stormed over Houston, and promptly donated his first game check to a trio of cafeteria employees at NRG Stadium. He went on to set a slew of NFL rookie records, giving hope to a historically beleaguered fanbase—before suffering a torn ACL on a rare, noncontact injury while practicing during that inaugural campaign. As with any such injury, the question lingered: Would Deshaun Watson ever be the same player?
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Yes. The answer is yes. Or maybe it’s “he’s even better.” Look, here’s proof:
What you’re watching is Watson in a high-stakes situation: It’s overtime in the NFL playoffs, and the next team to score even a single point wins the game and advances to the divisional round. The other team goes home dreaming of next year. The Texans had already gotten the crap kicked out of them in the game, falling behind 16-0 with just a minute and a half remaining in the third quarter—until Watson scored on a rushing play from 20 yards out (he also successfully converted the two-point conversion, making it a one-possession game). In the fourth quarter, he led the team to a second eight-point touchdown, briefly giving the Texans a lead before a last-second kick sent the game to overtime.
In overtime, the Texans needed someone to step up. As the Buffalo pass rush came after Watson, he converted a third-and-18 play from his own 19 yard line on a possession that, had he failed, would have put enormous pressure on his defense to prevent a game-winning field goal. Then, moments later, on a seven-man blitz from the Bills, Watson escaped what appeared to be a sure sack, then another, to find an open receiver in Taiwan Jones. He used the fact that so much of the defense was trying to take Watson’s head off to charge forward for nearly 30 yards. The Texans were then in a position to win the game, and they did.
Immediately after the game, Watson told an ESPN sideline reporter that in that moment someone needed to step up, why not have it be him? It’s a remarkable statement, at once confident and humble. He recognized that the situation called for greatness, believed in himself, and brought it home. Now Deshaun Watson knows that he can be great against a fierce defense, for the highest stakes, in the biggest games. The next time somebody has to be great—which could be as soon as 2:05 p.m. on Sunday, when the Texans play the Chiefs in Kansas City—Watson will enter that game knowing what he’s capable of. Vegas favors Kansas City by nine points, but after witnessing the way Watson led his teammates to victory, we wouldn’t bet against him.