By JOE KAY/AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI (AP) – Deshaun Watson ran 49 yards for a touchdown in his first NFL start and led the Houston Texans’ depleted offense to a late clinching field goal in a 13-9 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night.
Watson showed up in a black tuxedo for his first NFL start – it was his 22nd birthday, no less – and showed the flash that helped him lead Clemson to a national title. He avoided the rush and ran 49 yards for a 10-3 lead late in the first half, dashing past befuddled defenders.
The Texans (1-1) got the most out of their depleted offense, and then let their defense do the rest. The Bengals (0-2) have failed to score a touchdown in their two games to open a season for the first time in their 50 seasons.
Watson led a 13-play drive that set up Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 42-yard field goal with 1:56 left. The Bengals got the ball two more times, but failed to cross midfield.
Cincinnati lost to the Ravens 20-0 at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, the first time in their history that they opened the season blanked at home. Andy Dalton threw four interceptions and lost a fumble.
The Bengals managed only three field goals by Randy Bullock on Thursday. Dalton fell to 1-6 career against the Texans, including a pair of playoff losses.
Watson directed an offense missing three tight ends because of concussions, along with receiver Will Fuller V and guard Jeff Allen. The Texans kept it simple, and Watson avoided the game-turning mistake despite heavy pressure from the Bengals.
Watson was 15 of 24 for 125 yards and no interceptions. He ran five times for 67 yards.
The Bengals became the first team that opened the season with five scoreless quarters since the 2009 Rams, who went 1-15, according to ESPN Stats.
They thought they finally had a touchdown when Tyler Eifert caught a pass from Dalton in the end zone in the third quarter – the videoboard broke into a touchdown song – but the tight end had stepped out of bounds before making the catch, nullifying it. Cincinnati settled for its third field goal.
The Texans lost two cornerbacks. Johnathan Joseph hurt his right shoulder while making a tackle in the first half and didn’t return. Kevin Johnson hurt his left knee in the third quarter and was out. The Texans already were missing LB Brian Cushing. He’s in the NFL’s concussion protocol and has been suspended 10 games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Bengals: CB Adam “Pacman” Jones returned from his one-game NFL suspension for an offseason conviction and hurt his right elbow in the fourth quarter, but returned and finished the game.
The Texans play at New England. They’re 1-8 against the Patriots, including a 34-16 playoff loss last season.
The Bengals play at Green Bay for the first time since 2009. They’ve won three straight against the Packers, two of them at Paul Brown Stadium.
(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)