EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Houston Texans were trailing late and facing a second straight loss after a nine-game winning streak.
Deshaun Watson wasn’t having it.
The cool-headed, playmaking quarterback threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins with 2:15 left, lifting the Texans to a 29-22 victory over Sam Darnold and the New York Jets on Saturday night.
“It doesn’t surprise me that he’s able to stay controlled in those situations,” Hopkins said about Watson. “He’s done that before in big games in his career. On the sideline, everyone was composed. Nobody panicked.”
And no one was more in control than Watson.
“The game is never over for me,” he said. “The plays are never over sometimes. I just go out there with the ball in my hands, put the load on my shoulders and lead the team to victory. I’ve been doing that my whole life and I have to continue to do that at this level.
“Every game comes down to a final drive. You’ve got to be able to block out all the noise, lock in and try to lead the team to victory.”
After Darnold and the Jets took their first lead of the game on Elijah McGuire’s 2-yard touchdown run, the Texans (10-4) answered right back.
A holding call on cornerback Morris Claiborne on third down prolonged the drive, and Watson completed passes of 20 and 3 yards to Demaryius Thomas and 7 yards to Hopkins to get to New York’s 14. Watson then found Hopkins streaking down the left sideline and launched a pass that the receiver somehow came down with despite being tightly covered by Claiborne.
“I wouldn’t want any other quarterback in this entire universe other than him,” Hopkins said. “The things he can do, staying in the pocket after taking hits and deliver balls on the money — not a lot of quarterbacks can do that.”
Hopkins rolled an ankle on the play, and Watson and Alfred Blue helped him to the sideline as the Texans celebrated. The receiver was OK, though, and finished with 10 catches for 170 yards and two TDs.
Watson finished 22 of 28 for 294 yards and the two scores to Hopkins.
Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 40-yard field goal — his fifth kick of the game — made it 29-22 with 54 seconds left. Darnold and the Jets (4-10) had one more opportunity to try to tie —or win— but Houston held on.
“To go out there against a good Texans team, it would’ve been awesome to be able to get that win,” Darnold said, “but we just came up short.”
The loss ruined what was a terrific night for Darnold, who made plays with his arm and legs all game. The No. 3 overall pick was 24 of 38 for 253 yards and touchdown passes to Robby Anderson and Andre Roberts. He set up an impressive 15-play, 73-yard go-ahead drive late during which he converted three third-down plays and a fourth-down opportunity.
On third-and-10 from the 19, Darnold took off for 14 yards — and a holding call on Aaron Colvin put the ball on the 2. After Darnold was stopped for no gain on a quarterback draw, he handed the ball to McGuire who pushed up the middle — surrounded by a surging mass of blockers who helped shove him all the way into the end zone for the score.
It set off a wild celebration by the Jets. But Watson and the Texans still had their own comeback in store.
“Thank God he’s our quarterback,” coach Bill O’Brien said.
With New York trailing 16-3, Darnold gave the Jets some life just before halftime with a terrific drive during which he made plays with his legs — a 10-yard run on third-and-3 — and arm — passes of 16 yards to Chris Herndon and 26 to Anderson. On first-and-goal from the 5, Darnold scrambled a bit before stepping up in the pocket and zipping a pass to Anderson for a touchdown to make it a 16-9 game.
But, Jason Myers then missed his second extra point of the season — and 14th of his career.
Darnold picked up where he left off in the first half, leading the Jets on another touchdown drive, capping another impressive possession with a 13-yard toss to Andre Roberts. Darnold kept the drive alive on third-and-10 from the Jets 40 with a laser-like throw to Anderson for 20 yards.
Myers followed by missing his second straight extra point as Houston remained ahead 16-15.
“The first one, I just pushed a little bit,” Myers said. “The second one, I thought I hit it good, but just kind of fell left on me.”
Texans: RB Lamar Miller left with an ankle injury in the second quarter and didn’t return, but O’Brien didn’t think “it’s major.” Miller was initially hurt early in the first quarter when he went down after a 1-yard run. He returned on Houston’s next possession, but left again early in the second quarter. He had 8 yards on three carries. … NT Brandon Dunn left with an ankle injury and didn’t return.
Jets: RT Brandon Shell was carted off the field early in the third quarter with a knee injury. He was blocking during a passing play when left guard Spencer Long rolled into his left leg. Coach Todd Bowles said Shell would have an MRI on Sunday. … WR Rishard Matthews left with a hamstring injury.
GETTING TO THE QB
Henry Anderson had three of the Jets’ six sacks of Watson. It marked the first time New York had six or more since it had seven against Buffalo on Nov. 2, 2017.
Texans: at Philadelphia on Dec. 23.
Jets: home vs. Green Bay on Dec. 23.