KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson emerged unscathed Thursday night as he was never touched by the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense during an extremely brief appearance.
The encouraging return of Watson became official as practically everything went according to plan for the Texans.
Between Watson’s continued good health and some positive moments from his teammates, it was precisely what the Texans had hoped to get out of their preseason opener.
The Texans defeated the Chiefs, 17-10, before a sparse crowd at quiet Arrowhead Stadium as the defensive backs delivered a goal-line stand to preserve the victory.
During his first game back since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament last season, Watson got the start. He was only on the field for five plays and 2 1/2 minutes.
Watson looked fine in his lone series following a lengthy running session for exercise with teammates hours before kickoff.
Watson displayed the same confidence in his surgically repaired right knee that he has shown throughout training camp and the offseason.
The former Clemson consensus All-American and national championship game winner didn’t stay on the field long, though.
Watson completed his only pass: a four-yard throw to wide receiver Bruce Ellington.
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It was a successful, healthy return for the former Clemson star before giving way to backup Brandon Weeden.
For Watson, it was a culmination of months of grueling rehab sessions to strengthen his knee and regain his trademark mobility.
After leading the Texans to the highest-scoring offense in the NFL with a 34.7 points per game average during his six starts, Watson appears primed to pick up where he left off as a rookie.
Watson was on pace to throw for 43 touchdown passes and compete for Pro Bowl and Most Valuable Player honors before he hurt his knee in practice.
Now, Watson is looking for an even more dynamic performance heading into his second NFL season.
Following an uneventful night for Watson, Texans coach Bill O’Brien inserted Weeden.
And Weeden shined in relief as the former Cleveland Browns first-round draft pick delivered a sharp performance.
In nearly one half, Weeden completed 9 of 11 passes for 97 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 143.0 passer rating.
Both of his red-zone touchdown passes went to rookie tight end Jordan Akins, a 26-year-old former Texas Rangers minor league outfielder.
The third-round draft pick’s presence may stabilize a position in flux since the retirement of former starting tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz due to chronic concussions.
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Meanwhile, starting running back Lamar Miller showed off the explosiveness and svelte physique he’s regained since revamping his diet and training regimen.
Down to 217 pounds, his lightest weight since playing for the Miami Dolphins, the former Pro Bowl alternate looks much more explosive than last season when he averaged a career-low 3.7 yards per carry and ceased to be a breakaway threat.
Miller rushed for 29 yards on four carries. That included a 19-yard jaunt for a first down.
The Texans decided before the game to make it a night of rest for multiple key players.
Defensive end J.J. Watt, outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus, nose tackle D.J. Reader, inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney, cornerback Johnathan Joseph, safety Tyrann Mathieu and wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller didn’t play.
That meant the only activity, besides cheering on their teammates, was a long running session for exercise hours prior to kickoff.
The Texans used the opportunity to evaluate several younger players.
That included starting rookie outside linebacker Duke Ejiofor, a former Alief Taylor standout, and inside linebacker Dylan Cole.
Cole was particularly active as he deflected a pass intercepted by inside linebacker Zach Cunningham during the first half.
The Texans’ backup front seven put a lot of pressure on new Chiefs starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes completed 5 of 7 passes for 33 yards and was sacked once by backup defensive lineman Angelo Blackson.
The Texans built a 17-7 halftime lead.
The only touchdown they surrendered was a 24-yard pass from backup quarterback Chad Henn to wide receiver Demarcus Robinson. Reserve cornerback Dee Virgin couldn’t catch up with Robinson on a go route as the receiver easily created separation behind him for the score.
With Mathieu held out as a precautionary measure, the Texans started rookie Justin Reid, the younger brother of former San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowl safety Eric Reid next to converted cornerback Kareem Jackson.
The Texans’ top draft pick, a third-round selection from Stanford, stumbled to the ground during the first series. He finished with one solo tackle.