Winning the division is great and all, but the Houston Texans have their eyes set on more. We hadn't got past the 1st round since 2016, where we beat the Connor Cook led Oakland Raiders. This Bills team was no juggernaut, but certainly a better test than those Raiders. Every media "expert" predicted the Bills to win this matchup. They built a young, tough defense, and were led by the erratic but promising Josh Allen. Could Deshaun Watson pickup his first playoff win? He finished with 20/25 for for 247 yards and 1 passing TD. Adding 55 rushing yards and a rushing TD too. Let's see what the film has to say about his performance.
Watson Watch Volume 12: 2019 Buffalo Bills Wild Card Round
The Bills came out hot, the play calling was creative and clearly shocked the defense. A quick 0-7 deficit had pundits clamouring and ready to call this the second coming of our 2015 Chiefs playoff outing. How the offense responded to this blow would be pivotal. A three and out, forcing the gassed defense right back onto the field would likely lead to further downpour. This is a moment where the leader of the team needs to set the tone.
The Texans started in shotgun, and motioned DeAndre Carter across the formation. I thought for sure we'd get a patented BOB 1st down run up the middle. I was wrong, we passed on a 1st down! With Will Fuller out, the Texans scrapped their creative deep passing game, and went to their quick passing game. With the Bills in off Cover 3, Watson found Stills for the easy 5 yard out route. Former Texans CB Kevin Johnson zoomed downfield, not allowing any YAC.
It was a fine play to start with. Early in the game, take what the defense gives you, I get it. I bring this play up because I'm just so frustrated that whenever Fuller was out, we didn't think Stills could replace him as a deep threat. No, he's not as elite as Fuller in that area, but he's pretty damn good, and worthy of at least trying to replicate that scheme. Oh well, moving on.
The Texans got to midfield, thanks in large to a 19 yard run from Carlos Hyde, and were facing their first 3rd down of the day. The Bills drop into a Cover 2 and run a stunt to take advantage of our porous right side of the OL. Zach Fulton completely misses the end crashing inside and Watson is forced to evade him, a clear theme of the day. Kenny Stills was running a dig, but when Watson starts to scramble out to his right, Stills stops his route and gives Watson a window for a throw. Watson does great to keep his eyes downfield, instead of relying on his legs for the 1st. The chemistry between these two will only get better, and could form a dangerous duo this season.
The Texans would gain two yards on their next two plays, and were faced with another 3rd and decently long. The Bills are showing single high, and do drop into a Cover 1 blitz post snap. Watson looks slightly to his right at first, seeing if Kenny is open quickly, he's not and so Watson looks to Nuk over the middle of the field. His trusty 3rd down option had inside leverage, and Watson let it rip. The CB did a great job to fight overtop, and break it up however. BOB thought it was DPI and even challenged the crucial play. However, just like every other BOB challenge, it failed.
Being on the Bills 37 yard line is such an awful field position. Do we trust Fairbairn with a 54 yard FG attempt? Do we go for it on 3rd and 8, this early? BOB decided neither, and that punting was the right decision. Pinning them on the 10 yard line, Allen and the offense were forced into a tricky situation. They ended up punting it right back, giving the offense another chance to respond.
After a 1 yard run, and a 5 yard pass, we had yet ANOTHER 3rd down early in the game. The Bills showed single high pre snap, but rotated to a Cover 2 look. In addition they only rushed 3, dropping Lorenzo Alexander (#57) into a spy. This is the exact defensive look that the Colts ran against us in the 2018 playoff game. The Bills were silly to think Watson hadn't studied how to beat this look. With three weapons to his left, and only two Bills defenders, he knows someone has to be open. With Safety Micah Hyde (#23) running back into his deep half, Fells is the open man underneath. LB Tremaine Edmunds is too far to make it over there in time and that's an easy 11 yards.
Two plays later and the Texans faced this reoccurring theme of 3rd downs. The Bills defense is no easy task, and were great at forcing the Texans into these prolonged drives. This time they show a 2 high look pre snap, and rotate into a single high - Cover 3 blitz. Watson is looking for TE Jordan Thomas (#83) on his angle route. Kenny Stills drag route underneath is supposed to drag the DE (#55) that drops off from the blitz. But Jordan Thomas slips, and (#55) is in position anyways. Watson pump fakes wisely, and faces pressure from the blitzing LB (#58) who runs through Duke Johnson's block. Watson slips away from the first defender, but DE (#93) was playing contain, and brings Watson down. There was really nothing for Watson to do there, as no one else was open. Another punt, another scoreless first quarter...
The Bills would start the quarter off with a solid drive, ending in 3 points. Going down 0-10 didn't seem too bad just yet. Still tons of time in the game left, but the offense had better get it going. That wouldn't happen just yet though, as Watson was under hell all game. The Bills were relentless in their pursuit of sacks, getting two on this next drive.
Here's a real frustrating one. The Texans run max protect and only send Nuk and Stills out on routes - deep curls. Watson play action fakes to Hyde, but before he can even hit the top of his drop, Jerry Hughes is holding on to him, dragging him to the ground. Darren Fells had completely whiffed on his block, and no one was able to recover in time. Hughes is FAST, Watson tries to escape and even drags Hughes a couple yards forward, but it didn't matter. The Texans had been set behind schedule and weren't able to recover. Punt #4 before sniffing their red zone, is it? I don't know, I've lost count.
The Bills would go on to net another field goal just before the half ended, extending our deficit to 13-0. It was wild that we only had one offensive drive that entire quarter. Going into the second half things were looking ugly. It seemed like the narrative that the Texans can't show up in big time games was being proven. Luckily as we know, the second half would be a different story.
Getting the ball to start the half was just what we needed to right the ship. Quick score now, and we're right back in this. Unfortunately, that wouldn't be the case. Incompletion on 1st, scramble for 1 yard on 2nd, and yet another 3rd and long for Watson. The Bills drop into a Cover 1 Spy and eventually get the sack on Watson. Did he have anything open though? Hopkins has space, but Fells is right underneath him, closing the throwing window. Fells himself has a step, but would've been tackled before the sticks. Looking at the end zone view we can see that Watson was looking to his right, to DeAndre Carter on the out route. There was some space there but Watson had no time to make the throw thanks to the pressure in his face. As he scrambled, Watson should've at least thrown the ball away, but the result would be the same - another defeating punt.
At least the defense got the memo, forcing a Bills punt on their first drive. The offense needed to wake up and show some signs of life. Laying a goose egg would certainly spell demise for BOB and the coaching staff (which I wouldn't have hated...). On our next drive we could've stole all of the momentum. Deshaun had Stills on a deep crossing route, he had just enough space that a perfect throw could've led to a beautiful bomb. The ball landed about two yards too far though, as Deshaun and Stills lack of practice time together reared it's ugly head. That throw would've gotten us the deepest into Bills territory that we've been all day. But "would've, should've, could've", that BS right?
On the ensuing play, Watson would complete it to Hopkins, but he fumbled the ball and possibly the season away. Things were at an all time low and the Bills had drove down to our 12 yard line. A touchdown here and spirits would be broken, belief would be lost, and the Texans would continue to be the joke of the NFL. Luckily, a timely J.J. Watt sack would change everything. He forced the Bills into taking a field goal, and only going up 16-0. It was still a two score game, but the energy was different. All of NRG was on their feat to celebrate Watt's miraculous comeback sack. It was a statement, he was tired of losing, tired of the beating, and he did his job to turn the tide.
The offense was motivated and ready to attack. This next play isn't super important to the result of this game, but in the grand scheme of things, it's extremely vital for Watson's development. All throughout this series of Watson Watch, I've been trying to evaluate his ability to deal with blitzes. Particularly the nickel blitz, which has been giving him trouble throughout his career. This example of the Bills shows the progress he's made. Pre snap, Watson notices safety (#23) Micah Hyde coming closer to the LOS, where he's lined up head over the nickel CB. This is an indicator that the nickel will blitz and Hyde will replace him in coverage, on DeAndre Carter. Watson points it out to the offense and knows exactly what the Bills are doing. Post snap, the Bills do exactly what Watson thought with the nickel blitz. He reads it super quick and fires it to Carter (his hot read) instantly. The result? No sack, but a free and easy 5 yard gain instead. This is huge for his growth, as a fair amount of the sacks this offense gives up is on Watson. If he continues to master this element of the game, watch TF out.
The Texans continued to move the chains through a good balance of the run and pass. Finally they found themselves on the Bills 30 yard line, with a 3rd and 8. We've had this situation all day long but haven't been able to convert. The fire in Watson wouldn't be put out this time though. The Bills stack the LOS and bring 5 on the blitz. Tunsil misses the end man and allows a free rusher, but Watson's internal clock in his head goes off. He fires a cross field pass to Nuk on the out route. This is a deceivingly long pass, going from the left hash, to the right sideline. But Watson's arm strength is on point (despite what draft pundits would make you believe) and the throw is on the money for the first down.
Watson got crunched on that last play by the free blitzer, but he was determined to finish the job. He got right back up and wasn't afraid of contact on this next play. The Texans run a two RB set, with FB Cullen Gillaspia in the backfield. RPO is the call and Watson sees the end take a couple steps towards Hyde, he pulls it and wants the run himself. Gilly makes an amazing block on Micah Hyde (#23), paving a clear lane for Watson. Down to the 10 yard line now, with 4 Bills surrounding him, a lot of "mobile" QBs would just slide and call it a day (looking at you Kyler and Russell) but Deshaun isn't satisfied just yet. He cuts it inside and takes on two Bills like they are nothing. He lowers his shoulder and runs through the first guy, then a second Bill jumps on his back but it doesn't make a difference. Watson is Godzilla, refusing to go down and dragging those who oppose him into the ground. TOUCHDOWN!
That run was pure heart, grit and determination. It's the clutch factor that Deshaun has, that every other team in the NFL wishes they had from their QB. He's special, he's gifted, he's the Michael MF Jordan of football. But he wasn't done there. The Texans scored 6, but were still down 10, therefore they needed this Two Point Conversion, to keep it a one score game.
BOB reached deep into his bag of tricks and called a hell of a play. Watson went under center, but had RB Duke Johnson in a "Near Close" (that's what they call it in Madden lol, I could be completely wrong) split in the backfield. Hopkins motions across the formation and Watson fakes a toss to him. This stuns the defense for a split second, and plays a huge role in this run. Watson scrambles out to the right and is still looking to pass the ball until the last second. Kenny is smothered by CB Tre White, and Duke is covered underneath. Things look hopeless, but with the ball in Watson's hands, that's never true. He continues running to the edge, waiting for something to open up. Duke saves this play, he has the awareness to turn himself into a blocker, picking up Safety Jordan Poyer (#21) at first, and then backing up into LB Tremaine Edmunds. These two crucial blocks are what gets Watson into the end zone. Without Duke picking up even one of them, there's no conversion. It's a completely different game, and the state of the Texans could be completely different today. But he blocked them both, giving Watson a sliver of hope, and room to reach out the ball and get it within the pylon.
It had to be reviewed, but eventually as the refs shot up their hands, indicating success, the entire Texans fan base erupted. A miraculous two plays had completely turned the tide of the game. Watson's pure will to be great gave us a fighting chance. The defense was obviously fuelled by Watson's greatness, as Whitney Mercilus finally showed up to the game (season really) forcing a fumble that Jacob GOAT Martin recovered. Since that JJ sack, things had completely turned around for the Texans. The game was quickly changing and things were looking promising.
The offense was given a gift, starting their field position directly at midfield. Watson didn't want to squander it, and got them into field goal position with a beautiful throw to Stills. He noticed he was 1-on-1 with Kevin Johnson, and Stills with his tight alignment inside the numbers, was in perfect position to succeed on a back shoulder ball. Stills did great to give he and Watson tons of space to work with, where the throw didn't have to be directly at the sideline. Their timing was on point with this play, as Stills turns around at the last second, making sure not to give away the route. We couldn't find the end zone, but getting 3 free points thanks to the turnover was a much needed boost. 11-16.
The defense was on fire as well, determined to get us the ball back and bring in another score. They forced an easy looking three and out and Watson was back at the helm. A 41 yard bomb to Nuk got us into Bills territory, and a 14 yard pass to Fells got us down to the 1 yard line. The Texans had a guaranteed TD, as Watson pitched the ball to Hyde, but he dropped it. Everyone's heart stopped as he rushed to recover it. Was this the start of a choke job? Now backed up to the 5 yard line, the Texans ran a play that I've been dreaming they would try for years. So many NFL teams have scored on this simple play. Fake the handoff to Hyde, which brings in the defense as you have to respect the run on the goal line. But Hyde doesn't just stop running after the fake, he leaks out to the flat and is WIDE OPEN for the walk in TD.
17-16 Texans, but a 1 point lead means nothing, so BOB dialed up another Two Point Conversion call. We go 5 wide to spread the defense out, also having a bunch formation to the right side of the field. But that was just a distraction to open up the middle of the field, where Nuk was lined up in the slot to easily find the open space. He runs a sharp slant that has been unstoppable on the goal line. The Bills blitz 6 and the Texans only block 5, but it doesn't matter. The ball's out quick and there's nothing the Bills could've done. 19-16 TEXANS LETS GOOOOOOOOOOO!
The defense continued to do their job, and Jacob GOAT Martin sacked poor Josh Allen, seemingly ending their season. The Texans got the ball back on the Bills 39 yard line, with just 1:35 left. After three runs to draw out the Bills timeouts, we had a 4th and 1 at the Bills 30. Instead of taking the field goal, going up 6, and forcing the Bills to drive the entire field with no timeouts and get into the end zone, BOB knew better than to trust his defence. He called for a QB sneak, putting the fate of the team into Deshaun Watson and the OL's hands. This play works 99/100 times, but I guess that day was the 1 time. The Bills created a good push back and Deshaun couldn't pick it up. It was a heartbreaking turn of events. BOB haters were calling for his head, saying he choked the game.
I personally loved the call. I remember thinking for some reason at the time that we were on our own 30, and that the decision was go for it, or punt. Even then, I was happy with us going for it, assuming the sneak would get the job done, and we could go into victory formation. So figuring out that we were in their red zone, not ours, I couldn't complain with the call whatsoever. How could BOB trust a defense that time and time again gave up a late score to lose the game. You HAVE to trust Watson over the defense. Maybe a different play call, an RPO that could get Watson in space would be a better call. But let's be honest, if he called anything else and it still didn't work, pundits would have been screaming for a sneak. BOB made the right call, as much as I don't like him, I will stand by that, despite the result.
The Bills went on to drive down the field and punch in a 47 yard FG, tying up the game with just 10 seconds left. People were calling for BOB's head, and the once guaranteed win, looked very bleak at the moment.
Going into overtime, I won't lie to you, I wasn't comfortable whatsoever. I thought whole heartedly that whichever team won the toss, was going to win the game. I really thought whoever's offense took the field first, would end it on that drive. So when the Texans won the toss, I was confident Watson would add this to his long list of game winning drives. That didn't happen though (just yet), as on their first 3rd down of the drive, Fells dropped a crucial pass that would've moved the chains. Hearts sunk, I screamed expletives and hope was fading away. Could the defense that we just saw squander three points hold now? To everyone's surprise, the answer was yes.
Zach Cunningham came up huge and tackled Josh Allen on a very promising looking run, forcing a punt. Watson and the offense had a second chance to put the game away. Only needed three now, there was even less pressure. Watson executed a beautiful but scary drive, one that had true moments of fear. On 3rd and 18 things looked bleak. It seemed like the defense would be forced to hold again. But Watson knew that would spell defeat, and that a play had to be made. Everything was covered deep and instead of trying to be a hero and forcing something, he simply dumped it off to Duke underneath, looking to set up a manageable 4th down. Duke didn't want to need a 4th down though, he made his second game saving play of the day, by fighting for every inch of grass and heroically picking up the 1st.
I love Duke Johnson man, and without him, there's no way we win this game. Completing that first down was all we needed to take control of the game. A fire was lit underneath Watson and the offense. 5 yard run by D4, 10 yard pass to Stills and a 4 yard run by Hyde set us up on the Bills 44 yard line. Around 10 more yards and we would be in Ka'imi Fairbairn's range, to bring it home.
The Texans lined up 5 wide, and the Bills brought the house, blitzing 7 defenders to our 6 blockers. Someone was coming free, and if it was only one defender, Watson probably would've went down. But a second defender came free as well, and as both smacked into Watson, the opposing forces worked to negate each other and instead of being brought to the ground, Watson stood tall like nothing even happened. Any ordinary man would've been brought down by those two Bills defenders, but Watson is no ordinary man. He has that clutch gene, that helps him make these jaw dropping plays that no other human can make. Spinning off of that potential sack, Watson found himself with two more Bills defenders in his face. He faded away like MJ and tossed it to RB Taiwan Jones, the saviour of this play. The Texans were running smash concepts on both sides of the field, and Watson was originally going to throw it up to Nuk. The hit though stopped him from throwing it, and actually forced him into dumping it off to Taiwan. Catching the ball at the at the Bills 44 yard line, no one in the building would've guessed he would pickup 34 yards and seal the game. The journeyman special team ace showed off some much needed juice, breaking into open space thanks to the Bills seven man blitz. He was brought down just short of the end zone, but it was all we needed.
Watson got up from the tough hit he endured and FLEXED on all the haters who doubted him. All the teams that passed on him in the draft, all the media "experts" who said he threw too many interceptions, couldn't read defenses, and wasn't worthy of a first round pick. The Texans were not one of those teams. The Texans knew exactly how special of a talent Watson is. The future of the Texans is in his hands, and I'm confident that he'll take us to the promise land.
The Texans lined up in field goal formation, and the weight of the world must've been on Fairbairn's shoulders. But he kicked it right through the middle of the uprights, clutch like Kobe, the game was won. The comeback was made. The war was over. The most satisfying playoff win I've ever watched, Watson, Watt and Duke had willed the Texans back into this game, making game changing plays and stealing the W out from under the Bills. What a F*CKING game that was. Tune in next week for my recap of the Chiefs game, if you don't want to endure that pain, I understand, at least read my thoughts on us going up 24-0, and then you can happily click out of the window and pretend that's how the game ended, like me ;)