CARSON, Calif. — J.J. Watt has been around the NFL for a while, but even he saw something new on Sunday in the Houston Texans’ 27-20 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. With less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter, Watt got behind Philip Rivers and tried to knock the ball out.
“I was coming in for the ball, and I was going to strip it, and he literally held it up over his head so I couldn’t strip it,” Watt said. “I’ve never seen a quarterback hold it over their head because he knew I was going to strip it.”
Watt still got the sack, his second of the game. They were his first two of the season, and helped end Watt’s slow start. Watt also had two tackles for a loss and five quarterback hits.
“I think everybody else was a little more worried about it than I was,” Watt said. “The outside world seems to make a deal out of things, which, I understand. That’s what you do. But I knew it was just a matter of time, and they come in bunches when they come.”
Watt now owns a franchise-record 94 career sacks since entering the league in 2011, which is the second most in the NFL during that span behind the Broncos’ Von Miller (98).
Despite trading away Pro Bowl pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney during the preseason, the Texans still have had success getting to the quarterback. While Watt led the team in sacks on Sunday, outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus and nose tackle D.J. Reader continued to contribute for Houston on Sunday. Mercilus had a sack, two tackles for a loss and a quarterback hit, and forced a fumble that led to the Texans’ third touchdown.
Watt called Reader, who had 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hits, “one of the most underrated players in the league.”
After quarterback Deshaun Watson put the Texans ahead for good with less than two minutes left in the third quarter, the Texans again had to depend on their defense to make a stop. The Chargers were within a touchdown with 4:19 left in the game, but after a 14-play drive, the Houston defense finally was able to get a defensive stop with 11 seconds remaining.
It’s come down to the defense in each of the first two games. In the season opener against the Saints, Watson gave the Texans the lead with 37 seconds left in the game and the defense couldn’t get a stop. In Week 2, the Texans won 13-12 after the Jaguars’ two-point conversion attempt failed at the end of the game. Watt said the defense still has work to do so they’re not in a situation like that every game, but he believes the unit took a step in the right direction against the Chargers.
“We were all ecstatic [when Watson threw his third touchdown], because as a defense, we know if we go out there and get a stop, it’s over,” Watt said. “Now, it took us a little longer than we wanted to, to get that stop, but we got it.
“That’s something that we didn’t do, necessarily, in the last two weeks, so that’s a sign of good progress for us.”