Deshaun Watson is off to a record-setting start to his rookie season in the NFL.
The former Clemson Tigers quarterback showed no signs of rust from a bye week in the Houston Texans heartbreaking 41-38 loss in Seattle to the Seahawks.
Watson was 19-for-30 for 402 yards and four touchdowns – connecting with fellow Clemson alum Deandre Hopkins eight times for an NFL season-best 224 yards and a touchdown. In spite of throwing three interceptions, including the game-clinching pick by Richard Sherman, Watson still posted an impressive 106.9 quarterback rating in the game.
He also was the Texans leading rusher in the game, gaining 67 yards on eight carries, an average of 8.4 yards per attempt. That allowed Watson to become the first quarterback in NFL history with 400-or-more passing yards, four touchdown passes and 55-or-more rushing yards in a game.
Watson got the scoring started when he connected with Will Fuller on a spectacular 59-yard touchdown pass a little more than 2 minutes into the game.
Watson took the top off the famed Seahawks defense, firing deep down the middle of the field to hit a streaking Fuller in stride.
Watson and Fuller connected on another score in the second quarter. On a play that looked like a gadget play at the start, Watson took the snap and faked in several directions before settling into a traditional dropback position and firing to Fuller in the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown pass.
Technically, it was the third touchdown scored off a Watson pass in the game. After his first scoring strike to Fuller in the first quarter, Watson was intercepted by Seattle’s Earl Thomas, who ran 78 yards for a pick-6 touchdown.
Watson likely would like to take that score off his ledger, as well as the second interception he threw in the game, the first of two picks by Sherman. But there’s no shame in being beat by former All-Pro selections like Watson and Sherman.
In the game, Watson extended his rookie-record of passing for 225-or-more yards and rushing for 20-or-more yards to five games.
When Watson connected with Lamar Miller for his third touchdown pass of the game, he didn’t just give his team the lead in a shootout, Watson tied another NFL record. He matched the mark set by Kurt Warner in 1999, throwing 18 touchdowns through his first seven career NFL games.
Watson’s superb play has caught Warner’s eye. The former quarterback who played in three Super Bowls, winning one, paid Watson a compliment.
It was only a 2-yard touchdown pass, but it was as dazzling a play as any made by Watson this season. Watson faked a handoff to Miller before dropping back to pass, when he was immediately under pressure. Watson spun away from the pressure before stepping up, and back into the arms of a would-be tackler looking for a sack in the red zone. But Watson shoeed a quick release, firing in front of him to a wide-open Miller.
With the score, Watson became the first rookie with 330-plus passing yards, three passing TDs and 55-plus rushing yards in a game.
Watson had his third game of four-or-more passing TDs, joining Fran Tarkenton (1961) as the only rookie to accomplish the feat.
Watson is just eight touchdowns away from surpassing the NFL single-season mark for touchdown passes thrown by a rookie quarterback. The current record holders are Peyton Manning and a Russell Wilson.
Watson’s fourth and final touchdown pass went to Hopkins. It was a 72-yard strike that Hopkins did most of the work on, taking a short throw and weaving through the Seattle defense, temporarily giving Houston the lead.
For the season, Watson has completed 107 of 174 passes for 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns. He’s completing 61.5 percent of his passes and has a 101.1 passer rating.
Hopkins remains Watson’s favorite target this season. The Central, S.C. native has 37 receptions for 382 yards and six touchdowns in seven games in 2017.