Goal-line Stand: Deshaun Watson ties single-game rookie record vs. Titans

Updated: October 5, 2017
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Wow, it’s the quarter mark of the NFL season already? Feels like just yesterday the Kansas City Chiefs were facing the New England Patriots on opening night.

But, nevertheless, here we are. Four weeks in and so much to wrap our heads around.

This can be such an unpredictable league. The things we expect to happen, very rarely comes to fruition. I’m sure several analysts and media members are on the verge of tossing their preseason predictions in the nearest dumpster. But it’s what keeps fans intrigued. There’s so much parity in the NFL and there’s honestly no way to gauge what will happen from year-to-year.

With that being said, let’s jump into this week’s discussion. I’ll focus on Deshaun Watson‘s record-tying performance in just his third NFL start, the Buffalo Bills‘ surprising 3-1 start, the New York Jets and their version of “tanking,” and Cam Newton and how he found his mojo against the Patriots.


First-and-goal: Deshaun Watson ties rookie record in dominating victory over Titans

Can someone remind me again why Tom Savage was starting at quarterback for the Texans in Week 1? Because man, over the last three games, Watson has been as good — if not better — than he was at Clemson. There’s a reason Tigers coach Dabo Swinney had this to say before the 2017 NFL draft: “I’m just telling you, if they pass on Deshaun Watson, they’re passing on Michael Jordan.”

Watson has definitely been Jordan-like in his rookie season. Coming off a game against the defending Super Bowl champs where he threw for 301 yards, two touchdowns and two picks, while also rushing for another 41 yards, the 22-year-old quarterback did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

He completed 73.5 percent of his passes for 283 yards, four touchdowns and just one interception through the air. And he added a fifth touchdown by way of the ground. He became the first rookie to pass for at least four touchdowns and rush for another in a single game since Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton did it in 1961 with the Minnesota Vikings, according to ESPN.

What was even more impressive: the fact that it came in a rout of the Titans, who many predict to be postseason worthy this year. The Texans couldn’t have cared less. They smacked around Tennessee, 57-14.

Not only has Bill O’Brien found his quarterback of the future, he may have found the signal-caller who could lead his team deeper into the playoffs this season.


Second-and-goal: Bills slow down Matt Ryan and Falcons offense 

When you have a defense playing as well as Buffalo’s, there’s no team that you can’t compete against. The Atlanta Falcons, who hadn’t missed a beat from last season’s success, were heavy favorites entering Sunday’s game. They were on their home field and taking on a Bills team that many felt were in the midst of a rebuilding year.

But Buffalo had other plans. The Bills defeated Matt Ryan‘s Falcons 23-17 and forced three turnovers on the day. Rookie cornerback Tre’Davious White scooped up a Ryan fumble in the third quarter and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown. It was a game-changing play that put the Bills in the driver’s seat for the rest of the afternoon.

And that’s been a recurring theme this season. The Bills have been playing suffocating defense and haven’t put too much pressure on Tyrod Taylor and the offense. Buffalo is surrendering just 13.5 points per game, which is atop the NFL after four weeks.

If Taylor, who has thrown five touchdown passes and just one interception, continues to protect the ball as well as he’s done throughout his career, the Bills just may be legitimate contenders to not only earn a playoff spot, but — dare I say — win the AFC East.


Third-and-goal: Are the Jets the best team in New York this season?

It’s still fairly early, but the Jets are off to a better start than the New York Giants. Who would’ve thought?

The Giants are a lowly 0-4 after losing back-to-back close contests to the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Jets (2-2), on the other hand, have won two in a row and will head to Cleveland to face the Browns (0-4) this upcoming Sunday (another win, maybe?).

Many figured the Jets would lie down and just tank this season away. Wrong. Todd Bowles has his team playing tough, gritty defense. They’ve had trouble stopping the run, but they’re surrendering just 194.8 yards per game through the air, which is good for seventh in the league. In fact, the only quarterback to experience much success against the Jets this season was the Oakland Raiders‘ Derek Carr in Week 2.

I honestly don’t expect them to continue playing at this pace. However, in a league where anything is possible, we can’t count the Jets out. They’ve been pounding opponents on the ground with their collection of running backs. Bilal Powell, for instance, rushed for 163 yards and a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, while rookie back Elijah McGuire rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries.

They won’t be able to depend on the arm of Josh McCown to take them very far. But by leaning on the rushing attack and a solid defense, they at least give themselves a shot on a weekly basis.


Fourth-and-goal: Cam Newton gets it going against underachieving Patriots defense

The Carolina Panthers are 3-1 after four weeks, but it wasn’t until Sunday when Newton found a comfort zone and looked like the quarterback who was named league MVP in 2015.

I know, his sexist comment to a female reporter wasn’t the smartest move. It even caused him to lose an endorsement. But it doesn’t take away from his production on the field Sunday.

After throwing three interceptions the previous week in a 34-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints, Newton bounced back and had his best game of the young season. He completed 76 percent of his passes (22-of-29) for 316 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He was also effective on the ground, rushing for 44 yards and another score.

Newton played with the passion we’ve become accustomed to seeing out of him over the years. He was smiling, pumping his fist after first downs and playing as if he had a chip on his shoulder.

Granted, this performance came against a New England defense that has been getting lit up this year. The Patriots rank near the bottom of every defensive statistical category. They’re last in the NFL — by far — in total yards allowed (456.8 per game). That’s 60.5 yards per game more than what the Indianapolis Colts are giving up, who have the second-worst defense in the league. And teams are averaging 32 (!) points per game when going up against Bill Belichick’s crew.

But if you’re Newton, a game like that has to give you confidence as the season continues. He needed to see the offense get things going without Greg Olsen on the field, and they were able to do just that. The Panthers compiled a season-high 444 total yards of offense.

Newton & Co. will be tested once again come Sunday when they face the 3-1 Detroit Lions.

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