HOUSTON — Deshaun Watson was on the bench in a hoodie, a knee injury having relegated the quarterback to cheering and coaching as the magic the Houston Texans offense had discovered with him in control disappeared.
The incomplete passes from his replacement Tom Savage came early and often as the boos from the home crowd grew increasingly louder with every bad play in a 20-14 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
Watson’s stellar rookie season ended on Thursday when the rookie tore the anterior cruciate ligament in one of his knees in practice. Savage, who was benched in the opener for Watson, couldn’t move the offense for most of the game, but threw a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to get Houston within 20-14.
The Texans had a chance to win it late, but Savage was sacked by Jabaal Sheard and fumbled as time ran out to secure the victory.
“It’s probably the most frustrating game of my life,” Savage said. “It’s one of those deals where you just weren’t making the throws. Guys were open and I’m not going to give you the politically correct answer and say blah, blah, blah and we can do better. I’ve got to make the throws.”
The Texans had a first down at the 7-yard line on that last drive and failed to pick up a single yard in four plays as Savage threw three incomplete passes before the fumble.
Coach Bill O’Brien went on a rant about clock management when asked if Savage could have played with more urgency at the end of the game.
“I really don’t want to hear any (stuff) about clock management,” he said. “I really don’t want to hear it this week. He tried to do the best he could. We got lined up as fast as we could. We’ve practiced two minute every week and we just didn’t get it done.”
With Watson running the offense, the Texans (3-5) had set a franchise record by scoring 30 or more points in five straight games. His development had given the team hope that it could finish strong and contend for a third straight postseason berth despite losing J.J. Watt to a season-ending injury for a second straight year.
The offense looked completely different without the dynamic playmaker on the field on Sunday, and the loss left the Texans searching for answers in how to get back on track.
“I don’t really know,” O’Brien said. “It’s just a combination of a lot of things. The ball’s got to come out. We have to coach better. Everybody’s got to do a better job.”
Houston got a touchdown on a fumble return in the second quarter, but the offense didn’t score until a 34-yard reception by DeAndre Hopkins with about six minutes left in the fourth quarter that cut the lead to six.
It was the first touchdown pass for Savage, who made the fourth start of his career on Sunday. He finished 19 of 44 for 219 yards.
“(That) showed we can move the ball,” Hopkins said. “We just have to do it more consistent, come out and start fresh and not wait until late to pick things up.”
There were several plays on Sunday where Savage badly missed receivers, causing the ball to sail out of bounds. That, he said, was one of the most troubling things about his performance.
“It’s not my game, never has been my game, of chucking the ball 5 yards out of bounds,” he said. “That’s where the frustration comes from because I know I’m better than that.”
He’ll have to be for the Texans to have a chance next week when they visit the Rams, a team that scored 51 points against the Giants on Sunday for their third straight win.