The Texans (4-8) face the Bears (5-7) on Sunday at Soldier Field. It's the fifth time the franchises have met, and Houston's won the previous four. Here are five things to watch after kickoff at Noon CT. First Glance is presented by First Community Credit Union.
1) Wowsers, Watson – Despite the won-loss record, Deshaun Watson has been superb in 2020. He has a passer rating of 110.0, and has dipped below the century mark in just four games this season. When that happened, the Texans lost all four. They're 4-4 in games when his rating's been north of the 100 mark.
With 24 touchdowns to just six interceptions, Watson's been very judicious with the ball. He's such a threat, that Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano wishes he and Chicago could add a few more bodies to the defense on Sunday.
"Unfortunately, we don't get to play with 13 players," Pagano said. "We'd love to, this week. That would be nice to always have somebody just assigned to him. Or 2 guys, besides the other 11."
After last Sunday's loss, Watson explained that he and the squad had reviewed the mistakes from the end of the game and moved on to preparing for Chicago, and that the desire to win remains high.
"We've just got to continue to charge into the game and use that energy and motivation for the next opponent for sure," Watson said.
While Watson has continuously said he's "taking what the defense is giving him" this season, the Texans quarterback has done anything but simply check down and throw short passes. He can, and has, but he's been incredibly dangerous in terms of getting big chunks of yardage, too. Watson's second in the NFL in completions of 20 yards or more this season, and the Texans lead the League in yards per reception with 12.8.
Bottom line: when Watson throws the ball, the Texans typically move the chains.
2) The Others – There is no Will Fuller V. Or Randall Cobb. Or Kenny Stills. Last weekend against a strong Colts defense, the Texans were able to get a pair of 100-yard receiving performances from Keke Coutee and Chad Hansen. Both had career highs in receiving yards, and Hansen had been on the practice squad until about 15 hours before kickoff. After spending a good chunk of the season not in the rotation, both were able to produce.
Watson wasn't surprised by either, and expects even more from Coutee.
"I'm very proud of Keke, man," Watson said. "It was a perfect opportunity for him to take charge and take over and show what he's capable of doing. That's not even his limit. He can even be a lot better. He can tell you that."
Hansen, meanwhile, was active for the first time as a Texan last Sunday. All five of his receptions were for at least 14 yards, and every one resulted in a first down. What he did wasn't surprising to Watson.
"He can go up there and make contested catches, he's going to be where he needs to be and he's going to catch the ball," Watson said. "He's going to compete. That's the biggest thing."
Hansen will "probably" be back on the active roster against Chicago, according to Crennel, after getting put back on the practice squad this week.
3) Snap and clear – Houston was two yards and 1:28 away from beating the Colts last Sunday, but a shotgun snap that was low and to the left of Deshaun Watson was pounced on by the Indianapolis defense. A go-ahead touchdown opportunity was snuffed out, and Houston dropped its eighth contest of 2020. It was an especially tough way to lose, but the Texans said they've moved on from it.
"First of all, right away, you can't let that play define your day, define you as a person, define you as a player," offensive coordinator Tim Kelly said. "It was one snap. All the other ones that we had throughout the day, however many snaps we had, all of them were fielded and he was able to go out there and execute."
Center Nick Martin took full responsibility for the miscue. So did quarterback Deshaun Watson. Both players are captains, were angry the game ended the way it did, and are already focused on what needs to be done to beat the Bears.
"You do have to learn from it," Martin said. "You have to look at the play, look at the whole game. Obviously take the good from the game and obviously the negatives, which is something I focused on more this game with the end result. But then learn from it and move on."
4) Trubisky Talk – Mitchell Trubisky is the Bears quarterback, and in 2020 he's completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,069 yards, with 10 touchdown passes and five interceptions. The Bears have gone 3-2 when he's started.
"He's got some good talent," interim head coach Romeo Crennel said. "He's got good arm strength and sometimes things work out for the better and they haven't done that for the team. I think sometimes the way the team goes can impact the way a guy plays. I expect their best game is going to be – they're going to put their best foot forward to try to play their best game."
Wide receiver Allen Robinson and tight end Jimmy Graham each have five touchdown catches apiece this season, and Robinson's 904 receiving yards are more than twice what anyone else on the Bears roster has amassed this year.
5) Mack and the defense – Outside linebacker Khalil Mack is the marquee name on the Bears defense, and he leads the way with 6.5 sacks. The 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year is certainly a cause of concern for Kelly and the Texans offense.
"He's as good as there is in this league and he's playing at a really high level," Kelly said. "It's a big challenge for our guys up front, especially those two tackles. They're both going to get a piece out of him and really, they've got to come, and they've got to play well in order to try to minimize his impact on the game."
Defensive end Akiem Hicks, though, leads Chicago with 14 quarterback hits, while inside linebacker Roquan Smith is tops on the Bears with 15 tackles for loss.
"They're stout up front," Martin said. "They're athletic. Great ability to push the pocket. We've got to step up. Obviously let our tackles do their things on the edge and really support the depth of the pocket for Deshaun inside."