JJ Watt building off big moment in 2011 playoffs

JJ Watt building off big moment in 2011 playoffs
January 1, 2013, 9:59 pm
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FILE - In this Jan. 7, 2012, file photo, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt celebrates returning an interception for a touchdown against Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton_ for one of the biggest plays in Texans' history_ during the second quarter of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Houston. A year later, Watts is one of the league's top defenders, and he'll need another big game to help Houston regain its form after losing three of its last four games in a wild-card game against Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

(APWF)

HOUSTON (AP) With one mighty swat, J.J. Watt knocked down Andy Dalton's pass, intercepted it and returned it for a touchdown in last year's playoff win over Cincinnati for one of the biggest plays in Texans history.

A year later, the second-year defensive end is one of the league's top defenders, and he'll need another big game to help Houston - which lost three of its last four regular season games - regain its form in a wild-card playoff rematch against Cincinnati.

Watt wasn't too keen on reliving that play Tuesday, though.

``That was last year and this is this year,'' he said. ``I have things to focus on this year. It was a great play, a huge moment in my life, but I'm looking forward to making bigger moments this year.''

He's had plenty of them so far this season, leading the NFL with 20 1/2 sacks. He also had 39 tackles for loss, 16 passes defended, 107 tackles and four forced fumbles.

``You are watching something special,'' coach Gary Kubiak said. ``If you probably went and broke down what's happened over a period of the first two years in this league for a player, I'm not sure many guys could put up the numbers he's put up.''

Watt was having a solid rookie season for Houston in 2011 and had started each game for the Texans. But he was largely unknown outside of Houston before his interception return gave the Texans their first lead in a 31-10 win over the Bengals. It was the first playoff win in franchise history and a play Kubiak called a ``game-changer.''

``He's been really consistent,'' Kubiak said. ``He was a (darn) good rookie. During the playoffs last year, he raised his level of play. He found another gear as a player. It's continued through this season.''

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis remembers the play from Watt well, and has watched him change the course of many other games with his playmaking ability.

``It's kind of a big dagger for us,'' Lewis said. ``We never really overcame it. He's done that a lot. He's made the big sacks and sack fumbles ... you can't put on the tape where he's not doing that.''

Watt finished 2 1/2 sacks shy of breaking Michael Strahan's NFL single-season record of 22 1/2. He was named to his first Pro Bowl recently, and is a top candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. But Watt isn't concerned with individual accolades.

``My season's been a lot of fun, and it's been great. But if we don't go out there and win, if we don't go out there and take care of business in the playoffs, it's just going to be another season for me,'' he said. ``I appreciate all the support I've gotten, all the love I've gotten and obviously the awards and everything, but I want a Super Bowl. That's it.''

The Texans lost to the Ravens in the second round of the playoffs last season. Now they're looking to put the disappointment of the last month behind them when they host the Bengals on Saturday.

Houston intercepted Dalton three times and sacked him four times in last year's win. Watt believes making the Bengals quarterback uncomfortable will again be the key to success.

``The only way I know how to stop a quarterback-receiver combination is to not let the quarterback get it out of his hands, and that's where I come in, and that's where the defensive line comes in,'' Watt said. ``We need to put pressure on him. We need to get after him. We need to fluster him.''

The Bengals are acutely aware of the problems Watt can create. Rookie right guard Kevin Zeitler might know what to expect better than anyone. He, like Watt, went to school at Wisconsin and the two have trained at the same gym.

``(He's) long, athletic, strong,'' Zeitler said. ``He does it all. Watching him on film, it's just insane the things he can do. It's going to be a very tough challenge. We are going to have to put a lot of effort toward stopping him.''

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AP Sports Writer Joe Kay in Cincinnati contributed to this report.

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