The Houston Texans defeated the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round of the 2019 NFL Playoffs. After falling behind 16-0 in the first 39 minutes of the game, the Texans completely flipped the script, scoring 19 unanswered points in the next 17 minutes of game time before winning the game in overtime, 22-19.
Ultimately, Houston’s play makers did more than Buffalo’s did, which is how they were able to wrest control of the game from the Bills after trailing for so much of the early portion. Here’s how the players we watched fared on Saturday.
QB Deshaun Watson
Houston’s quarterback had perhaps the worst first half of his career on Saturday. He completed six-of-eight passes for just 49 yards, adding three rushes for 13 yards in a half where his team was shut out. After the Bills took a 16-point lead, Watson snapped into action and was completely unstoppable. From that point on, Watson went 11-of-12 passing for 171 yards and a five-yard touchdown pass. The one incompletion was a dropped pass by tight end Darren Fells on third down in overtime. Watson added six runs for 32 yards and a touchdown in that time frame. He also completed a pass for a two-point conversion and ran one in himself. When the lights shone brightest, Watson didn’t fade; he shined brighter. That was a phenomenal performance from one of the best in the business, who finished 20-of-25 on the game for 247 yards, one touchdown, 14 rushes, 55 yards, and one touchdown.
RB Duke Johnson
Houston’s backup running back only touched the ball six times, but he made a big impact with every touch. Johnson had three carries on the game, but he managed 38 yards rushing on those carries. He was only targeted three times in the passing game, but he caught them all for 30 total receiving yards, including an 18-yard reception on third-and-18 to keep the game-winning drive alive. In a game where Carlos Hyde was largely ineffective, Johnson proved to be a sound change of pace.
WR DeAndre Hopkins
Houston’s top wideout showed exactly why many believe him to be the best in the game. In the first half, he was only targeted twice, and Buffalo used a variety of coverages against him. Houston even tried putting him in the slot to avoid Tre’Davious White, but Buffalo was able to bracket him with linebackers Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds, and slot corner Taron Johnson did a nice job, as well. When Johnson exited the game with an injury, however, Siran Neal was less apt to cover Hopkins. That’s when the Bills had White follow Nuk, and that’s when Hopkins impacted the game the most. He caught all six of his second-half targets, totaling 90 yards on the day. He lost a fumble on his first grab, but he also burned White on a 41-yard catch to set up the go-ahead touchdown, and he converted a third down one play before Watson’s rushing touchdown in the third quarter. Hopkins also beat White on a two-point try to make the game 19-16.
DE J.J. Watt
Thankfully, ESPN play-by-play man Joe Tessitore was there to tell us every time Watt breathed. I’m not sure I could have made it through the game without those updates. Now that my eyes are done rolling, we can at least discuss the impact Watt had on the game, and it was a substantial one. He finished with just one tackle, but it was a sack of Josh Allen on third down to force the Bills to kick a field goal that made the game 16-0. Had Buffalo scored a touchdown on that drive, it might have sealed the game. Watt added two quarterback hits to his ledger while operating only on obvious passing downs. It was a solid return for one of the league’s premier players.
EDGE Whitney Mercilus
Mercilus made one huge play, strip-sacking Josh Allen early in the fourth quarter to set Houston up for a field goal that made it 16-11. He had four tackles overall and added three hits on Allen for good measure. He was matched up with Dion Dawkins for much of the night, who did a pretty good job on him. It’s hard to keep a pair of solid edge rushers quiet all night, and they made enough plays to keep their team alive in the playoffs.