Watt leads Hous­ton to di­vi­sion crown

The Denver Post - - SPORTS -

By Kristie Rieken

hous­ton» J.J. Watt was asked what it was like to play with two hands on Sun­day af­ter spend­ing the past three games with a cast over his bro­ken left hand.

“You tell me,” Watt said with a laugh.

Watt was back to his old self on Sun­day, lead­ing a dom­i­nant de­fense that helped the Hous­ton Tex­ans to their first AFC South ti­tle since 2012.

Watt and Whit­ney Mer­cilus com­bined for 6½ sacks and Jonathan Grimes scored twice to help the Tex­ans to a 30-6 win over the Jack­sonville Jaguars.

Watt, play­ing with­out a cast for the first time since break­ing his left hand Dec. 9, had three sacks, forced a fum­ble and re­cov­ered an­other one to help the Tex­ans (9-7) to their third play­off berth and first since 2012, when Gary Ku­biak was their coach. They will host the Kansas City Chiefs, win­ners of 10 con­sec­u­tive games, in the first round.

“It was beau­ti­ful,” Watt said. “I think for a lit­tle while there peo­ple started to forget, so to­day was a lit­tle bit of a re­minder what it’s like when I have both hands.”

Mer­cilus tied a ca­reer high with 3½ sacks and forced a fum­ble and re­cov­ered one on a day when Hous­ton set a fran­chise record with eight sacks.

Blake Bor­tles threw for 239 yards with two in­ter­cep­tions for the Jags (5-11).

“It’s tough to end the year on a note like that,” Bor­tles said. “I guess the good thing is that we have a lot of time to look at it and fig­ure out how to fix it.”

Watt, who had been slowed by wear­ing a club­like cast on his in­jured hand in re­cent weeks, got to work early, sack­ing Bor­tles on the third play of the game for an 8-yard loss. He got up af­ter the sack, held his wrist and wig­gled the fin­gers on his left hand to dis­play that he wasn’t wear­ing a cast.

Watt, who leads the NFL with 17½ sacks, forced a fum­ble with his third sack in the fourth quar­ter, and it was re­cov­ered by Mer­cilus.

Watt joins Reg­gie White as the only play­ers in NFL history to have three 15-sack years in their first five years in the NFL.

“If you are be­hind in the game, they can pin their ears back,” Jack­sonville coach Gus Bradley said. “That is one of the most tal­ented rush­ers in the game for many years. He can be dis­rup­tive.”

Grimes had a 12-yard touch­down re­cep­tion and added a 3-yard rush­ing score in the sec­ond quar­ter to help Hous­ton take a 20-3 lead at half­time.

Hous­ton Tex­ans run­ning back Jonathan Grimes scores a touch­down dur­ing the sec­ond quar­ter Sun­day. Ge­orge Bridges, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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