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Deshaun Watson gives the Texans hope after winning his 1st NFL start

After an embarrassing Week 1 for Houston, Watson got the start and his first career victory.

NFL: Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Deshaun Watson made his first NFL start sooner than what many anticipated, but it resulted in the Texans getting their first win of the season. It was a nice birthday present for Watson, who turned 22 on Thursday.

He didn’t stuff the box score with a bunch of stats, but he was good when the Texans needed him to be. Watson finished the game completing 15 of his 24 passes for 125 yards. He also had five carries for 67 yards and his first rushing touchdown of his career.

The Texans offense was still iffy at times. But there were flashes where you could see the potential in Watson and what he brings to that side of the ball. Bill O’Brien felt he couldn’t get those things out of Tom Savage, saying this about Watson after the game: “He wasn't perfect, but he did some good things. It will be a lot to learn from.”

A day later, O’Brien was even more complimentary of the rookie.

With Watson, he’s only going to improve. These were the most promising things Watson showed in his debut.

He showed poise after getting blown up by Geno Atkins

Geno Atkins is a 6’1, 300 pound two-time All-Pro. He’s been one of the most fearsome defensive linemen in the NFL going back to 2011 when he made his first of five Pro Bowls. That’s not exactly a guy you’re eager to get hit by.

And he sent the rookie flying off his feet:

On the next play, Watson recovered in the best way possible. He stepped up into the pocket and realized there was not a play to be made.

Except for this 49-yard touchdown run:

“I was just trying to make a play,” Watson said after the game. “I broke away and found a hole. My receivers and everyone else that was down the field did a good job of blocking for me and making me find lanes to get into the end zone.”

The Texans hadn’t seen a run like that in a while: 2014, to be exact:

An overlooked part of the play was that he even got a nice stiff arm in on Carl Lawson at the beginning of the run.

Putting a rookie quarterback in at the start of the season can be tough. But Watson showed that one of the reasons the Texans traded up to draft him No. 12 overall was his poise.

They also knew he could take a hit.

Having DeAndre Hopkins is going to help him

The above statement seems like an obvious thing. Hopkins is one of the best receivers in the NFL today, and that’s not up for debate — but hear me out.

Hopkins does a great job of getting open, even when he might not be open. Numerous times in the Texans’ game Thursday night, he forced himself off defensive backs to get open for Watson. Eventually he was called for pass interference in the fourth quarter, but it made a big difference.

On this play, you can see Bengals corner Darqueze Dennard nearly falling to his feet because of the spacing that Hopkins created:

During one drive in the fourth quarter, it seemed like the Texans were running an offense called Just Throw The Ball To Nuk. It was the second-longest drive of the game, and even though it ended in a field goal, it was as fun as the game had been all night.

Hopkins enjoyed what he saw out of Watson, too. “He was a leader,” he said after the game. “He was a warrior. He was everything we expected; he was the guy that we drafted.”

Watson targeted Hopkins 13 times during the game, eight more than the next closest Texan, Tyler Ervin.

If Watson’s going to be locked in on one receiver in the NFL, Hopkins isn’t a bad choice.

He was smart at the end of the game

The Texans were on their longest drive of the game when faced with a third-and-16 from Cincinnati’s 35. The pocket collapsed on Watson, who was looking downfield. It was an opportune time for one of those patented rookie mistakes.

Instead of trying to force a throw, he used his feet and was able to pick up 11 yards before running out of bounds, giving Ka’imi Fairbairn a 42-yard field goal as opposed to a 53-yarder.

The play seems like a no-brainer to armchair quarterbacks and Twitter head coaches, but there have been plenty of rookies who would have tried to force their hand there. Watson had the composure to make the smart play, and it put his team in a better position to win.

It wasn’t a perfect game by Watson — though a 13-9 victory on the road in a short week for your first NFL start is pretty damn good. After the game, he told reporters, “I just want to be a complete professional quarterback.” He added, “That’s going to take time.”

Now he’ll have a few extra days to prepare for their next contest: a Sept. 24 matchup against the New England Patriots.