Chargers edge rusher Melvin Ingram beat Houston right tackle Tytus Howard with an explosive outside move, made a bee line for Deshaun Watson and grabbed a fistful of the quarterback’s No. 4 jersey with his right hand.
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Ingram was sure he would haul down Watson for a key sack in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game at Dignity Health Sports Park. The elusive quarterback, as he did for most of a toasty afternoon, left Ingram grasping at air and the Chargers secondary gasping for air.
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Watson broke free of Ingram’s grip, stepped up in the pocket as if to run and, with linebacker Kyzir White and free safety Rayshawn Jenkins closing, dumped a short pass to tight end Jordan Akins near the Chargers 40-yard line.
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Akins was virtually untouched as he raced to the end zone to complete a 53-yard touchdown play with 9 minutes 40 seconds left, giving the Texans a 10-point lead on the way to a 27-20 victory in front of 25,349.
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Advertisement “That was a crazy play,” Ingram said. “I’m coming around the corner, I’m grabbing him, and he stepped up. It’s just a play I have to make. That’s totally on me.”
Though the final touchdown came via a pass, Watson created the play with his feet. The Chargers bit hard on the run and White’s decision to leave Akins to pursue the quarterback left the tight end wide open
“He makes a lot of great plays that aren’t drawn that way on the chalkboard,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “Some of the plays are designed, but not all of them.”
Ingram and White weren’t the only Chargers victimized by Watson, the former Clemson standout who completed 25 of 34 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions
Advertisement Watson is not the pure runner that Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson is, but he senses pressure and extends plays with his feet. His scrambling ability forced linemen to chase him around the pocket and defensive backs to cover receivers longer
1 / 14 Chargers wide receiver Travis Benjamin drops a pass in front of Houston Texans free safety Tashaun Gipson late in the game. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times) 2 / 14 Houston Texans tight end Jordan Akins leaps into the stands after scoring on a 53-yard reception against the Chargers in the fourth quarter. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times) 3 / 14 Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen celebrates as he scores on a 12-yard touchdown pass against the Houston Texans in the second quarter. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times) 4 / 14 Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is upended by Houston Texans cornerback Bradley Roby after scrambling for eight yards in the final minutes of the game. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times) 5 / 14 Houston Texans defensive end Charles Omenihu, left, grabs the face mask of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers during the second half. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times) 6 / 14 Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is sacked by Houston Texans defensive ends J.J. Watt, left, and D.J. Reader during the second half. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times) 7 / 14 Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen stays inbounds for a seven-yard touchdown reception in front of Houston Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph in the first quarter. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times) 8 / 14 Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers looks to pass against the Houston Texans during the first half. (Getty Images) 9 / 14 Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins tries to run past Chargers linebacker Thomas Davis, left, and defensive tackle Justin Jones during the first half. (Getty Images) 10 / 14 Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson shouts instructions to wide receiver Kenny Stills during the second quarter. (Getty Images) 11 / 14 Chargers running back Austin Ekeler finds an opening in the Houston Texans’ defense on a carry in the second half. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times) 12 / 14 Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers tries to evade a sack by Houston Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus before he ends up fumbling the ball away during a play in the second half. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times) 13 / 14 Chargers running back Justin Jackson carries the ball against the Houston Texans. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times) 14 / 14 Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers walks off the field in the final moments of the Chargers’ 27-20 loss to the Houston Texans. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times) Watson completed 14 passes of 10 yards or more and five passes of 30 yards or more, including a 38-yard flea-flicker pass to Kenny Stills to set up a 16-yard scoring pass to Darren Fells in the second quarter. The Texans converted six of 10 third-down plays
“He does a really good job of keeping his eyes downfield when he escapes the pocket,” linebacker Thomas Davis said of Watson. “We had him in our grasp way too many times. We just have to understand, he’s a dynamic player, and when you’re playing a guy like that, everything works hand in hand
“You have to do your job up front, you have to do your job on the back end and make sure you’re staying close to the receivers through the whole down.”
Watson scrambled for 15 yards on a third-and-14 play in the first quarter and threw 15 yards to DeAndre Hopkins on a third-and-14 play in the third. The Chargers sacked Watson twice, but Watson avoided three or four more sacks with his instincts and feet
“I don’t think our guys were out of their rush lanes,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “I think [Watson] made some moves, he escaped, he broke some tackles. We just have to finish the play.”
It was a particularly rough day for strong safety Roderic Teamer, an undrafted free agent from Tulane who was making his NFL debut. Filling in for the injured Adrian Phillips, Teamer was beat on Watson’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Akins on a seam route that gave Houston a 21-17 lead with 1:19 left in the third quarter
Advertisement Teamer also lost track of Stills on the long flea-flicker play in the second quarter, and he had coverage on Will Fuller when the receiver caught a 30-yard pass down the right sideline. That set up Carlos Hyde’s three-yard touchdown run that pulled the Texans to within 17-14 in the third quarter
“I made some rookie mistakes,” Teamer said. “I never want to make excuses. I just have to get better, move on and make the plays that I should.”
Teamer said the touchdown to Akins on the seam route in the third quarter “was a bad read on my part. Any time you give up a touchdown, you want that back.”
Teamer was actually a sub for a fill-in. Phillips, who broke his arm last week in Detroit, moved from linebacker in the dime package to strong safety to replace the injured Derwin James in a defense that is also without cornerback Michael Davis (hamstring)
“I’d be lying to say [the injuries] don’t catch up to you, but we have to do a good job with that next-man-up mentality,” Jenkins said. “No matter who goes down, this is the NFL, these are where you find the best football players. When you get that shot, you better be ready.”