Bill O'Brien pulled out all the stops to upset his former boss, Bill Belichick, in Sunday night's 28-22Houston Texans victory over the New England Patriots.
The biggest trick card came on a play in which quarterback Deshaun Watson became a receiver. Leading 21-9 in the fourth quarter, Watson took the shotgun handoff, handed the ball to running back Duke Johnson moving left, who then handed it to receiver DeAndre Hopkins coming across the formation. Hopkins, with Watson trailing as a pitch option, waited until the last moment for the defender to commit before lobbing the pigskin forward to Watson, who dove for the end zone.
O'Brien didn't take credit for the trickeration, noting that Watson and Hopkins brought it to him during the Week 10 bye.
"I think they drew it up in the dirt over the bye week," O'Brien said, via the Houston Chronicle&utmsource=t.co&utmmedium=referral). "They brought it in, had it on a piece of notebook paper, handed it to me. We've been working on that for a while. The timing was right. Wasn't the exact look we thought we were going to get and they made it work."
The play wasn't new, the Chicago Bears ran a similar action on a two-point play in a 2017 prime-time game against the Minnesota Vikings, except in this version -- by design or happenstance -- Watson caught a forward pitch instead of a backward pass.
"I think it was Chicago that did it, me and AJ McCarron were looking at it, watching film one day," Watson said. "And we were like actually we can probably run that and then Hop saw it and Hop, of course he's like, 'Let's do it, let's do it!'"
Taking the play from the Bears is apropos. The touchdown catch combined with three TD passes, Watson joined former Chicago QB Jim McMahon (Week 4, 1985) and Nick Foles (Super Bowl LII) as the only players in the Super Bowl era to have 3-plus passing TDs and a receiving TD in a single game, per NFL Research.
The last two players to do so both hoisted Lombardi trophies that season.
As for Hopkins, he was proud of the degree of difficulty in which he completed the play.
"I would give myself a 10 maybe because I took a hit just to get it to him," Hopkins said. "They played it very well. He was patient. I knew I had to kind of tuck the ball, wait for him to commit, to throw it to Deshaun. I knew once I threw it to him, he was going to be in.
"In practice, it wasn't a guy flipping me at practice. It was a lot clearer. I knew holding onto the ball, getting the guy to commit, it would lead to Deshaun being open. I knew all I had to do was give him the ball."
The play, which ended up being the game-winner after the Patriots' late comeback bid, gave the Texans their fourth win in the last five games, pushing their record to 8-4, and a one-game lead in the AFC South with four to play, including two versus the Tennessee Titans, second in the division at 7-5.