Sean Pendergast

Ranking Deshaun Watson's Prime Time NFL Performances

Deshaun Watson has been outstanding in prime time games since arriving n the NFL in 2017.
Deshaun Watson has been outstanding in prime time games since arriving n the NFL in 2017. Photo by Eric Sauseda
Heading into the Week 11 loss to the Ravens, the confidence level in the Houston Texans was at an all-time high for the Bill O'Brien Era. A 6-3 record, a Week 6 road win against Kansas City, a near win in Week 1 against the Saints in New Orleans, and the recency of a 26-3 thrashing of the Jags in London were probably the main data points driving the enthusiasm.

Then came the 41-7 drubbing from the Ravens, and with prime time games upcoming against the Colts and the Patriots, the confidence reset button had been hit. The Texans were 6-4 and dropped to the sixth seed in the AFC. The "what if" scenarios over a loss in either of those two games, or God forbid BOTH games, were bubbling like an active volcano.

As it turns out, the Texans would win both games, and in retrospect, maybe we should have seen this rise to 8-4 coming. After all, the two keys words about the Colts and the Patriots game analysis should have been "PRIME TIME," for the Texans quarterback these days is Deshaun Watson, and he is the king of prime time football, dating back to the two historic games against Alabama for the national championship in 2015 and 2016.

Deshaun Watson now sits at 6-2 in prime time for his NFL career, a shiny .750 winning percentage. Digging into this further, let's relive the magic and rank, in reverse order, Watson's eight performance in prime time, nationally televised NFL football games. Here we go....

8. WEEK 5, 2017: Chiefs 42, Texans 34 (SNF)
16-31, 261 yards (5 TD), 3 carries, 31 yards rushing
How good is Deshaun Watson? Well, his WORST prime time performance is a game in which he threw FIVE touchdown passes. The thing here is that the Texans were way behind in most of this game, 39-20 in fact, at one point in the second half. Between Deshaun's shaky completion percentage, and the outcome and flow of the game, this is in last place... which is BANANAS!

7. WEEK 2, 2017: Texans 13, Bengals 9 (TNF)
15-24, 125 yards, 5 carries, 67 yards rushing (1 TD)
This was Deshaun's first career start, so while the numbers pale in comparison to the loss to KC, this comes in at seventh, because (a) they won the game, (b) they won the game with just three days to prepare, (c) it was Watson's first ever NFL start, and (d) his 47-yard TD run right before halftime won the game, essentially.

6. WEEK 12, 2019: Texans 20, Colts 17 (TNF)
19-30, 298 yards (2 TD, 1 INT), 3 carries, 10 yards
This was the game just two weeks ago, a huge win, but a game where the Texans and Watson needed huge high variance plays to get the win. Over half of Watson's 298 yards came on four passes — two to Will Fuller (44, 51 yards) and two touchdowns to DeAndre Hopkins (30, 35 yards).

5. WEEK 5, 2018: Texans 19, Cowboys 16 (OT / SNF)
33-44, 375 yards (1 TD, 1 INT), 10 carries, 40 yards rushing
This is Deshaun's highest yardage output in prime time, but the Texans were woeful in the red zone (1 for 5), and Watson almost got himself killed running the football on a fourth down play in a goal to go situation. Still, it was a win over the Cowboys, so fifth feels about right.

4. WEEK 12, 2018: Texans 34, Titans 17 (MNF)
19-24, 210 yards (2 TD), 9 carries, 70 yards (1 TD)
This was the first game after Bob McNair passed away, just a magical night memorializing the late Texans founder with a stellar all around game, 210 yards through the air, and 70 yards on the ground.

3. WEEK 8, 2018: Texans 42, Dolphins 23 (TNF)
16-20, 239 yards (5 TD), 1 carry, 14 yards rushing
The cool things about this game were (a) Watson finished with a perfect passer rating on the night, and (b) Brock Osweiler started for the Dolphins, so it was the greatest circle of life experience ever for Texan fans who got to revel in the worst of QBs being someone else's problem while simultaneously enjoying a perfect version of Watson.

2. WEEK 1, 2019: Saints 30, Texans 28 (MNF)
20-30, 268 yards (3 TD, 1 INT), 4 carries, 40 yards (1 TD)
Yes, I know it's a loss, but Deshaun was scintillating in this game, and the seeds of optimism for 2019 were planted in this game, in which Deshaun Watson's 13 second TD drive, in 80 yards and 2 plays — yes, read that again, 80 yards in TWO PLAYS, on the road against arguably the best team in football — put the Texans ahead with 37 seconds to play. Aaron Colvin's employment at that time is not Deshaun Watson's fault!

1. WEEK 13, 2019: Texans 28, Patriots 22 (SNF)
18-25, 234 yards (3 TD), 4 carries, -1 yard rushing, 1 reception, 6 yards (1 TD)
Statistically, Watson has had bigger prime time games, but he has had no more significant win up to this point in his career, and he was the biggest reason the Texans sent Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the rest of the flu-ridden Patriots back to Boston sad.

So, adding it all up:

6-2 record
PASSING: 156-228 (68.4 completion rate), 2,010 yards (8.82 YPA), 21 TD, 3 INT, 121.05 passer rating
RUSHING: 39 carries, 271 yards (7.0 YPR), 3 TD
RECEIVING: 1 catch, 6 yards, 1 TD

Yeah, pretty damn nice having this guy as your franchise quarterback, Texans fans.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at and like him on Facebook at
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast