HOUSTON — Deshaun Watson stared down the barrel of the NFL’s best secondary Sunday and lived.

At that point, most quarterbacks would consider themselves lucky. But Sunday, Watson had other, more daring ideas.

After his first 35-yard touchdown pass over Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones was overturned in the third quarter of Houston’s eventual 28-22 win, Watson stared deep again. The Pats blitzed five, he ducked left around an edge rush and launched another long ball. Like its predecessor, this pass soared over Jones and settled perfectly into the hands of its intended target.

Touchdown, Texans. This one stuck.

Watson’s confidence in his arm and opportunity had been earned. Houston had called the perfect play, understanding Jones would be isolated on speedster Kenny Stills with deep safety Devin McCourty engaged in a double team on the opposite side. Watson didn’t even bother glancing at his top target, DeAndre Hopkins, the object of McCourty’s double team with Stephon Gilmore.

Watson knew what he wanted from the Patriots and took it from them, the rare quarterback who has this season.

And once the Texans scored their final touchdown — a trick pass play sprung by Hopkins’ 6-yard pitch to Watson — the hammer had officially come down on the Pats. They had allowed four passing touchdowns in Houston, which doubled their season total in a single night. When the hammer came up, it revealed newfound cracks in their defense.

Opponents armed with top-tier quarterbacks who can extend plays and play efficiently can beat the Patriots passing, just as the Ravens’ run game did in Week 10.

“(Watson) buys time and makes plays. That’s what he’s good at,” Gilmore said. “They’ve got a lot of great players. Just didn’t get the job done today.”

At the outset, it looked like Pats-Texans business as usual.

The Patriots forced a three-and-out on the game’s opening series, harassing Watson with a third-down stunt that perplexed his poor offensive line. Then Tom Brady led a scoring drive, and Houston fell in a 3-0 hole. Of course, the Texans didn’t stay down for long.

Following their second punt, Brady reached down and picked them up with an interception deep in his own territory. Three plays later, Houston grabbed the lead by capitalizing on a mismatch: speedy running back Duke Johnson versus linebacker Kyle Van Noy. Johnson toasted Van Noy’s man coverage, the Pats’ preferred method of pass defense.

Post-game, the Patriots contended nothing the Texans did surprised them, especially early. They just got beat.

“Not at all. They ran their offense,” said Pats safety Duron Harmon. “They were obviously comfortable, not only in the scheme that they had but the players they had out there. And they should be. They’re a very talented team.”

Still, Houston’s drive after its first score was a stunner: a masterful, 88-yard march that resulted in another touchdown. It finished as the second-longest drive the Patriots have allowed all season. Foreshadowing his final touchdown pass, Watson broke the pocket several times to create plays.

First, he scrambled to set up a third-and-short. Then he hit Johnson up the sideline on a wheel route against man coverage versus another linebacker, Dont’a Hightower, and moved the chains. Later, Watson found tight end Jordan Aikins, who broke a tackle against man-to-man and crossed midfield gaining 19 yards.

Amid all his completions, Watson shook a two-handed surefire sack by John Simon, one of the Pats’ strongest defenders, and managed a throwaway. His mobility was vital to Houston’s early lead, which founded the entire upset.

“Even some plays that should have been bad plays where we got good pressure and had a chance to get him in the backfield, he broke a tackle and was able to throw the ball away. All of those are winning plays,” McCourty said. “I thought they did a better job of that.”

Added Harmon: “He goes into the same category as Lamar Jackson; those type of guys who do a good job of extending plays. He’s a little bit different because obviously he’s looking to throw the ball downfield, but he did a good job of that time.”

At the end of the drive, the Texans successfully targeted the slowest links of the Pats’ pass defense again, leaving the linebackers wondering what went wrong after a 13-yard, play-action touchdown pass to tight end Darren Fells.

Houston’s 14-3 lead held through halftime. In the third quarter, Watson dropped his bombs, which the Patriots said they’d readied for all week. They exploded anyway because the Texans had bided their time and made Watson a perfectly prepared trigger man.

“When you play the Patriots, really it’s hard to know exactly what you’re going to get in certain situations. You have to give the quarterback kind of a little bit of playbook, so he can go out there and try to execute,” said Houston coach Bill O’Brien.

Basically, make him a coach at the line of scrimmage. Sound familiar?

Ultimately, the Texans beat the Pats with their own brand of football and a dual-threat twist. Houston leaned on heady quarterback play to power long drives and a sharp game plan. Their big plays were just bigger in Texas, as were the consequences.

The Patriots’ loss dropped them to the No. 2 seed in the AFC. Next up is Kansas City, another playoff-bound team that could threaten their Super Bowl hopes. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes wields an even bigger hammer than Watson does, one he’ll start swinging next Sunday in Foxborough.

“They’re going to come in there and try to beat us,” McCourty said of the Chiefs. “And we’ve got to bring our best or we’ll have another turnout like this.”

In the meantime, the Pats will work to seal their newfound cracks and refortify themselves as the best defense in the NFL.

“The coaches will do a good job of letting us know what we’ve got to do and what we’ve got to be better at,” Harmon said. “And we’ll do that next week.”