Watt goes monster-mode in win over Colts

Watt goes monster-mode in win over Colts
December 16, 2012, 9:00 pm
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Watt has an incredible game vs. Colts

J.J. Watt smiles a lot.

One of the friendlier players from the Houston locker room, Watt signs autographs and greets children. He gives heartfelt interviews. He even wore a shoe with the words “Newtown, CT” scribbled across it in the wake of the recent tragedy.

He smiles while doing all that. And then he steps on the field and mauls quarterbacks.

“I think you have to be like that,” Watt said on Sunday after the Texans’ 29-17 division-clinching win. “Off the field you have to be caring and show you are compassionate, but once you step on the field you have to go into monster mode. That’s what I try to do.”

Perhaps Watt’s words were an echoing of what Andrew Luck said earlier in the week, when he called Watt a monster. Luck felt Watt’s wrath plenty on Sunday.

And it didn’t take Watt very long to get into monster mode. In a season full of great games, his game against the Colts to win the AFC South title for the second straight season on Sunday might have been his greatest.

He led the team in tackles with a career-high 10. Six of those tackles were for a loss. He had three sacks to increase his total to 19.5 – tied for the NFL lead. He had four quarterback hits. And he forced a fumble – the third of his career and the third in his last three games.

He was a monster, an absolute monster. But he thinks he could have done better.

“I don’t think so,” Watt said when asked if it was his best game of the season. “I think there were a couple of plays left on the field. I know I missed two sacks. I have to make up for those.”

He missed two sacks.

He missed two sacks?

He still had three. He still put himself in a tie with Aldon Smith for the league lead in sacks with 19.5.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” fellow defensive lineman Antonio Smith said. “We were talking about it on the sideline. I think there was a huddle, a group of players in awe of the job he’s doing and a thing a lot of people tend to forget, and I said it on ESPN or NFL (Network) that J.J. is a (defensive) tackle. We’ve got him labeled as a defensive end, so everybody is judging him on the measuring stick as an end but he’s beating two guys every play to get 20 sacks.  He’s not out on the edge free on one guy every time. He’s getting three, four and sometimes five tackles for a loss each game.”

But it wasn’t just the numbers that impressed his teammates on Sunday. It was that whenever the Texans needed a big play, their defensive leader – in just his second season in the league – delivered.

There was the 15-yard sack that took the Colts out of field-goal range in the first quarter. There was the strip of Mewelde Moore on the goal line that Tim Dobbins fell on. There was the huge stop in the backfield on second down on the biggest three-and-out of the game in the fourth quarter.

“You want to be that guy,” Watt said. “When you’re lying in bed at night as a kid, when I’m lying in bed at night the night before a game, you don’t dream about 1st-and-10 and going to make a three-yard tackle. You dream about making a sack to end the game, about forcing a fumble on the goal line, you dream about tipping a pass that gets returned for a touchdown. I’ve been preparing my whole life for this stuff and it’s just starting to come to fruition.”

Most kids lay in bed at night dreaming about throwing a game-winning touchdown pass or catching one ... or running one in. Watt was dreaming about sacking the quarterback. And now his dream has become a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.

After 5.5 sacks as a rookie this season, Watt has 19.5 this season through 14 games. Sunday marked the seventh time he’s had multiple sacks in a game this season.

Of all the praise from his teammates and from opposing players this season, the praise from Andre Johnson might say the most.

“If he keeps going at this rate, he’ll probably be the greatest Texan to ever come through here,” said Johnson, widely regarded as the best player in the 10-year history of the Texans. “He is a hell of a player and I’ve really enjoyed watching him.”

Of course, with his level of success, Watt has become the frontrunner for the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year and many think he should be considered among the NFL’s MVP candidates.

The last time a non-quarterback won the league’s MVP award was in 2006 (LaDainian Tomlinson). The last time a defensive player won the award was in 1986 (Lawrence Taylor).

“Quarterbacks are quarterbacks and they affect the game in many different ways and defensive players affect the game in many different ways too,” Watt said. “I think a defensive player can have as big of an impact as an offensive player. I also fully understand the media’s perception and how all that stuff goes. I can just hope for the best.”

At the very least, Watt has become one of the most dominant players in the NFL. And every ounce of monster he has in him was on display against the Colts.

That is until he steps off the field.

“I’m enjoying myself,” Watt said after the game, with that same smile still on his face. “I’ve said all along that if you’re not trying to be the greatest, you’re wasting your time.”

On Sunday, he spent his 60 minutes well.