If you've never been to a controlled football scrimmage before, where teams run plays just to kind of see how they work and the stress level of who wins and who loses is fairly low, then you're not missing much. If you were at Sunday's 33-17 Texans win over the Cleveland Browns, and you've never been to a controlled scrimmage, then congratulations —- you've now basically been to one.
That's how Sunday's game felt from about the time Johnathan Joseph was dancing down the left sideline untouched on a pick six delivered like room service by Browns quarterback Kevin Hogan, who was barely passable as an NFL quarterback, and who made Brock Osweiler look like Aaron Rodgers at times (like pretty much every time Hogan was asked to throw the ball more than 20 yards down the field).
The Browns stink, and it must be absurdly painful for their fans to have to watch Deshaun Watson, for whom the Texans traded with the Browns in the draft, put together the greatest first five starts ever by a rookie quarterback. But screw Cleveland — they won a title in the NBA because LeBron happened to be born in Akron. I feel no sorrow for them, not one tiny bit.
Let's get into some winners and losers as the Texans head into their bye week...
4. Will Fuller
For the third straight week since returning from a broken clavicle, Fuller made an impact on the game, scoring his fifth touchdown in three games so far this season. It's amazing how much different Fuller looks with a quarterback who has the ability to diagnose coverages and look off safeties. The only negative mark for Fuller is that he had his first drop of the season on a deep ball, but the score was 33-10 at the time, and Fuller's been so good thus far that everyone seems willing to forgive him.
3. D. J. Reader
With J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus out, there will be incumbent starters on this defense whose previous requirements were just to "maintain and not make mistakes" who will now be asked to fill the stat sheet a little bit with splash plays. Reader, in just his second year, is one of those guys. And on Sunday, he showed up in a big way. His stat line looked like this — five tackles (three solo), one sack, two tackles for loss, and one QB hit. Reader playing THAT way will be a huge key on the trip to Seattle after the bye week.
2. Johnathan Joseph
Along those lines, another stat sheet stuffer on Sunday was Johnathan Joseph, who turned back the clock to his days as a Pro Bowler, and had two picks, including a pick six that gave the Texans a 16-3 lead and functionally ended the game for the afternoon and turned it into the aforementioned controlled scrimmage that it felt like. I didn't realize until it was pointed out in the press box that the pick six was Joseph's first pick since 2015, which seemed strange to me because Joseph was pretty solid for the Texans in 2016, and usually solid cornerbacks get a couple picks just by circumstance. Regardless, Joseph's game was encouraging, especially with Kevin Johnson ready to return from a knee injury after the bye week. (I still contend Rick Smith made a huge error, and said it back in March, when he didn't use the franchise tag to keep A.J. Bouye for one more season, but whatever...)
1. Deshaun Watson
There isn't much left to say about Watson's precociousness that we can really extract further from this game. Watson brought his B game for most of the day — some bad overthrows early and a horrific pick six in the fourth quarter were the real blemishes — but it was still more than enough to not only manufacture a blowout, but also send fans home happy. The best way to denote Watson's greatness at this point is to embed tweets with the new statistical benchmarks he crushes each week, such as...
Rookies to throw for 3 TDs in their team's first 6 games since 1950:— Football Perspective (@fbgchase) October 15, 2017
3 times: DeShaun Watson
2 times: nobody
1 time: bunch of dudes
...and my personal favorite (because I tweeted it)....
Houston Texan TD Passes:— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) October 15, 2017
2017: Deshaun Watson, 15
2016: Brock Osweiler, 15#Texans
4. Dylan Cole
I don't know if I've felt worse for a football player than I did for Dylan Cole on Sunday afternoon, which is saying something considering the injury karma we've experienced in the past few weeks here, but my heart bled for him when he went down with a hamstring injury on the same exact play in which he made not only his best play as a pro, but a play we hadn't seen a Texans linebacker make in the ten years I've been covering the team. In case you missed it, Cole picked off Hogan with outstanding stride for stride coverage down the sideline on running back Duke Johnson, and on the run back after the pick, crumbled to the ground after he was hit. They called it a hamstring injury in the press box, and the fact that he was helped off the field would lead us to believe it's more than just a pulled hamstring. We shall see, but Cole has rapidly become one of the more valuable members of this post-Watt/Mercilus defense.
3. Undefeated college football teams
Perhaps tired of all the attention that the NFL has been getting for being a gigantic parity stew, college football said "Hold my beer" this weekend, as the undefeated ranks went from thirteen down to eight. The upsets this weekend ranged from mildly predictable to monumental:
No. 2 Clemson loses at Syracuse, 27-24
No. 5 Washington loses at Arizona State, 13-7
No. 8 Washington State loses at Cal, 37-3
No. 19 San Diego State loses to Boise State, 31-14
No. 25 Navy loses at Memphis, 30-27
The remaining undefeated teams are as follows:
No. 1 Alabama
No. 2 Penn State
No. 3 Georgia
No. 4 TCU
No. 5 Wisconsin
No. 8 Miami (Florida)
No. 16 University of South Florida
No. 20 University of Central Florida
October is here, and soon we can start talking College Football Playoff brackets!
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2. DeShone Kizer
As if starting out your NFL career as the 27th starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns since 1999 isn't bad enough, the only thing worse has to be watching Kevin Hogan on the field as the 28th and think "I got benched for THIS guy?" Horrible.
1. Browns fans
Check that... the only thing worse than being the 27th and 28th starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns is having to watch all 28 of those quarterbacks knowing that your team traded the picks in the last two drafts that became Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson.
Bless your hearts, Browns fans.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.