Deshaun Watson reminded the world Sunday why he was a national champion. The rookie quarterback went toe-to-toe with the New England Patriots in a slugfest at Gillette Stadium before ultimately falling to Tom Brady, 36-33.

Watson diced up Bill Belichick's defense to the tune of 301 passing yards on 22-of-33 throws, two touchdowns and two interceptions (the latter coming on a last-second Hail Mary), and he ran for 41 yards on eight keepers.

In a place many rookies have gone to get destroyed, Watson impressed wire to wire.

"He's a handful," Patriots corner Malcolm Butler said afterward, via transcripts distributed by the team. "[He was] running around, people diving at him, missing him. That's a great guy. That's an upcoming Cam Newton."

Behind a wobbly offensive line, Watson's mobility is a difference-maker. In just his second start, Watson wasn't deploying a dink-and-dunk operation, either. Instead, the first-round pick pressed the ball down the field time and again.

"His leadership," Butler said of what impressed him most of Watson. "You see him leading his offensive line, leading some of the veteran players, just keeping his composure, playing the game and not letting anything get too big for him."

After struggling for spells in his debut, Watson showed the strides he can make each week.

"He's an exciting player," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "He's a player that never says die. You're always in the game with him. He can make plays on his own. Like all rookies, he has a long way to go but he's shown up pretty well the first two starts.

"I thought Deshaun played his heart out. He's a sharp kid. He's a fun guy to coach. He gets better every day. He's a special kid."

Despite the loss, Sunday indicated the Texans might have finally found a long-term answer under center.