INDIANAPOLIS — Last season, the Indianapolis Colts dodged a bullet.
That bullet went by the name of "Deshaun Watson" and was demolishing opposing defenses on a five-game stretch where he averaged 331.6 yards of offense and 3.8 touchdowns per game.
In Watson's final action of the season — a Week 8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks — he was involved in a tackle that he believes may have triggered an issue in his right knee.
The following week, the Texans prepared to face the Colts for the first time in 2017. In their first practice of the week, Watson's knee gave way. He was diagnosed with a torn ACL, his incredible rookie year coming to an end just halfway through.
The Colts would go on to gather two of their four wins of the season against the Texans, who were led by quarterbacks Tom Savage and T.J. Yates in Watson's absence. Houston went 3-3 with Watson as the starter but have only won one game since, including their 0-3 start this season.
This time, the Colts get their showdown with Watson on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"You pop on the tape and the first thing you see is No. 4," Colts linebacker Anthony Walker told Colts.com this week. "Deshaun Watson, he's back and you see that he can make every throw. He can scramble out of the pocket and make a play happen no matter what, so you definitely want to make sure you contain him."
Watson may have injured his knee last year, but that doesn't appear to be affecting his mobility this year. Through three games, he is averaging 40 yards per game on the ground and 6.7 yards per carry. His mobility in the pocket that allows him to buy time to find open receivers.
When a team prepares for the Texans, they're not just preparing for a quarterback who can make plays in the pocket. They have to allocate resources to make sure Watson doesn't gash them with his feet.
"That's the game, that's the game," Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said. "They got the two great wideouts and the quarterback that's really good. Lamar (Miller) they got an excellent running back. So that's the game, being able to do that, and that's easier said than done."
Eberflus compared Watson to the quarterback the Colts played last week in the Philadelphia Eagles' Carson Wentz, who is also coming back from season-ending knee surgery, but showed virtually no signs of slowing down against the Indy defense.
"Like last week, he's a heck of an athlete, strong in the pocket, able to extend plays, all those things you deal with with Watson and Wentz and Russell (Wilson) and all the guys that are out there that do that and that are so good at it," Eberflus said. "So it will be a challenge for our defense."
One of Watson's strengths is his arm and the ability to drive the ball down the field. He is tied for second in the league in passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield. He also has an excellent deep threat in third-year wide receiver Will Fuller V, who has caught two of five downfield targets for 76 yards and a touchdown over the last two weeks.
"No doubt. I mean you look at – yeah, he chucks it deep," Colts head coach said about Watson's ability to throw downfield. "They've got some speed when they are throwing it deep. That's kind of how he made his mark last year. They've got a lot of big chunk plays. So it will be a good test for the defense and a good test for our front to get pressure on him."
After not getting the opportunity to play against the likes of Watson last season, the Colts are ready for the challenge on Sunday.
"You want to play against the best, and you want everybody at full strength to see where you measure up," Walker said. "We're definitely excited for the opportunity, but if we go out and execute our gameplan, anybody that we play against, all we have to do it is execute, and we feel we'll be very confident in the outcome."