nfl notebook

Texans QB Deshaun Watson stunned by in-the-grasp call

Deshaun Watson almost escaped, but Justin Houston had him in the grasp.
Deshaun Watson almost escaped, but Justin Houston had him in the grasp.Michael Hickey/getty images/Getty Images

Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson couldn’t believe what he was told. Moments after appearing to avoid a sack with an incredible throw to DeAndre Hopkins in the end zone, referee Tony Corrente announced the touchdown had been negated. The explanation: Colts defensive end Justin Houston was draped around Watson’s lower legs and was pulling him to the ground so the officials ruled it a sack in the first half.

‘‘I went back and forth with the ref,’’ Watson said following the Texans’ 30-23 loss at Indianapolis. ‘‘He said I was down. He said he was trying to protect my health so it goes back and forth, but that’s the call he made.’’


It cost Houston 9 yards, forced it to trade a touchdown for a short field goal instead of taking the lead. And there was nothing the Texans could do but accept it.

Watson acknowledged the rare in-the-grasp call made a ‘‘big difference’’ as the Texans spent most of the day trying to rally for their fourth win in Indianapolis in five tries.

Falcons’ Freeman ejected

Falcons running back Devonta Freeman was ejected early in the third quarter of Sunday’s game for throwing a punch at Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

Donald and Freeman locked up immediately after Cory Littleton returned an interception to the Atlanta 16 with Los Angeles leading, 20-3. Donald touched Freeman first, but Freeman retaliated by shoving Donald in the facemask. Freeman continued to try and swing, finally going down on his back as he was restrained by umpire Terry Killens.

Players from both sidelines ran onto the field to support their teammates, but there was no further ruckus. Freeman, Donald, and Atlanta defensive end Takk McKinley were each flagged for unnecessary roughness.

Freeman’s departure left the Falcons with third-stringer Brian Hill and return specialist Kenjon Barner at running back.


Top reserve Ito Smith was carted off the field at the end of the first quarter with head and neck injuries.

Also, Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins was ejected for throwing a punch at Bills tackle Cody Ford on the second snap from scrimmage.

‘‘I was just really extremely selfish,’’ Wilkins said.

‘‘That’s not something I’m proud of, that’s not something I intended on doing coming into this game. I just really let myself down and the team down more importantly.’’

Falcons’ Ryan injures ankle

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan suffered a game-ending right ankle injury and limped off the field and into the sideline medical tent after getting sacked by Donald early in the fourth quarter. Ryan later walked gingerly off the sideline toward the locker room.

Longtime backup Matt Schaub made his season debut and replaced Ryan, the former NFL MVP who hasn’t missed a game since 2009.

Patterson goes distance

Cordarrelle Patterson has done it again at Soldier Field. The Bears wide receiver returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Saints.

The score marked the sixth kickoff return for a touchdown for Patterson and his first while a member of the Bears. The score wasn’t the first time Patterson has gone coast-to-coast at Soldier Field. He did it last year while playing for the Patriots.

Chris Williams was the last Chicago player to return a kickoff for a score, doing it against Green Bay in 2014. Devin Hester had Chicago’s last kickoff return for a touchdown at Solider Field, accomplishing the feat in 2011.


Peters an instant smash

Baltimore’s newly acquired Marcus Peters picked off a pass by Seattle’s Russell Wilson and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown.

The Ravens sent linebacker Kenny Young and an undisclosed pick in the 2020 draft to the Rams in exchange for Peters last week.

The touchdown was Peters’s fifth career pick-six, most in the NFL since his rookie season in 2015.

The interception was the first thrown by Wilson this season. He had gone 220 pass attempts since his last pick.

Giants’ Barkley returns

Saquon Barkley returned after missing three games with a sprained right ankle, and it really didn’t do much for the Giants’ offense.

The Cardinals limited Barkley to 72 yards rushing and a touchdown in a 27-21 victory Sunday that sent the Giants to their third straight loss.

Cordarrelle Patterson returned a kickoff 102 yards for his first return TD with the Bears.
Cordarrelle Patterson returned a kickoff 102 yards for his first return TD with the Bears.mark black/Associated Press/FFR171635 AP via AP

Rivers sixth on list

Philip Rivers moved past Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, a pair of his fellow 2004 draft picks, on the NFL’s all-time yards passing list. The longtime Chargers quarterback came into Sunday’s game with Tennessee with 56,441 career yards passing and needed only 105 yards to pass Manning (56,537) and Roethlisberger (56,545) for sixth all-time. Rivers threw for 329 yards in a 23-20 loss to the Titans . . . It took seven weeks, but the Dolphins finally grabbed a lead. It came in the second quarter against the Bills, the score 14-9. Alas, the Dolphins lost, 31-21.