After starting off this season with a 1-4 record, the Houston Texans came into the game against the Jets on Sunday having won three of their previous four games and tied with the Colts at the top of the AFC South. It has been a pretty amazing turnaround for a team that also lost one of its best players in Arian Foster for the year in the midst of all that losing early on. With a win over the Jets they could finally get back to .500 while also keeping the pressure on the Colts to keep pace as well.
The Jets' season, on the other hand, has gone in pretty much exactly the opposite direction. After a strong start they were just a game over .500 before facing the Texans, after losing three out of their previous four games. At 5-4 they were still very much in contention for a playoff spot provided they had a strong second half of the season, but what had started off as unbridled optimism was quickly starting to fade.
To put it succinctly, both teams needed this win pretty badly if they wanted to stay in contention. It's important to remember that context as I discuss the performance Justin James Watt in that game.
I know that some folks are starting to sour on Mr. Watt's off-field persona and to that I say, to each their own. I can't speak to how "genuine" Watt is in his interviews, nor how much of his "story" has been a carefully crafted PR strategy as I have never met the guy. And frankly I don't care about any of that shit anyway.
What I can speak to, however, is how he plays on the field, and what the film tells me is that he is still one baaaaaaad mutha...
SHUT YO MOUTH!!!
Seriously, it's a hell of a thing, quite honestly, to see a guy who you know everybody game plans to try to neutralize still making big play after big play throughout the course of a game. I mean, it's not like the Jets hadn't heard of Watt before Sunday, and believe me, they at least tried to minimize his impact. There was rarely a play where Watt was truly single-blocked all game, but he still managed to consistently get in the backfield and fuck shit up. It was a sight to behold.
See, one of the problems if you are trying to game plan for Watt, say, in the run game is he can make plays whether you try to run the ball at him or try to run the ball away from him. This is primarily because of the fact that he is quicker than any man his size should ever be. It would be different if he wasn't 6'5 and built like a damn grizzly bear, but then for him to move like a cheetah is just unfair. Hell, I had a Bravestarr flashback watching him pulverize the Jets.
Just look at his first of three tackles on Sunday to get an idea of what I mean. The Jets tried to run a counter away from Watt and he still ended up making the play. Mind you, the Jets had both their right tackle Breno Giacomini and tight end Kellen Davis set up to be in good position to wall him off back side. Unfortunately for them, Watt recognized the blocking scheme almost instantly and executed his patented quick swim move to split both guys and penetrate into the backfield. Poor Stevan Ridley was busy trying to pick what hole he was going to hit on the front side of the counter when next thing he knows Watt is slamming him into the turf from behind for a loss of 2 yards.
In damned if you do, damned if you don't news, later on in the second quarter the Jets tried to run at Watt and the result was still pretty much the same. This time he did a quick swim inside of Giacomini and ended up taking Ridley down for a 4-yard loss. The crazy thing is I watched that play over and over again and I'm not sure what 68 could have done differently to get a better result. That's the predicament you find yourself in trying to call plays when Watt is really humming.
And believe me, on Sunday he was definitely humming.
Now, I know that when it comes to Watt, everyone wants to talk about sacks and pressures, but I just thought I would first point out how hard he was to block against the run before we even get to all that. There is no doubt, however, that the Jets did not have an answer for Watt in their pass protection either. That's not to say they didn't try, they just weren't all that successful.
I will say that it probably wasn't a good idea to leave Giacomini one-on-one with Watt right after the two-minute warning near the end of the first half. Not sure you drew that up, but it was, to quote Pernell McPhee, a "FUCKING MISTAKE!" As he came off the ball you could almost see Watt recognize he had a true one-on-one with no chip block coming and he quickly went right into his move. He gave a quick step and nod inside, which was just enough to get Giacomini to stop his feet anticipating yet another inside move. That was all it took as Watt exploded around the edge with a rip move to beat Giacomini around the edge and take Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick down immediately for a 6-yard loss.
That sack came on a third-and-6 with the Jets at their own 43-yard line with the score tied 3-3, thus ending any chance of the Jets taking a lead before halftime, by the way.
For his second sack of the day Watt took his ass kicking skills over to the right side of the defensive line across from Jets left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson. Generally speaking, I'm sure the Jets feel good about leaving Ferguson one-on-one with just about anybody in the NFL. That's because Ferguson is regarded as one of the best left tackles in the league and has been for awhile. It's that "just about" part where Watt comes in, however.
Watt went straight to a bull rush into Ferguson's chest and basically ran right over him. By the time Ferguson tried to sit down on Watt's power, it was already too late as Watt was already in the process of ripping off inside and knocking the hell out of Fitzpatrick yet again.
That happened to be a third-and-5 with the score 17-10 Texans and just under seven minutes to go in the third quarter. A game that close and every drive-ending play gets magnified, especially in the second half.
In addition to the two sacks, Watt also had at least three other pressures, including two where he beat at least two Jets blockers. Oh, and by the way, he also forced a hold apiece on both Giacomini and Ferguson. Add it all up and that's a ton of lost yardage created by just one guy.
I will always believe that big-time players make big-time plays in big games and Watt's stat sheet was stuffed on Sunday. He was a force from the first play to the last (seriously, look at the last play for the Texans on defense. He totally crushed the right guard before Fitz threw the interception.) and refused to let his team lose. Eight total tackles, two sacks, three tackles for a loss, three pressures and two forced holding calls is definitely what I call "showing up" when his team really needed him to. So you might think J.J. Watt is fake off the field, but on it there is no question the dude is real af! That's why he's my choice for Hoss Of The Week for Week 11 of the NFL season.