Watt leads Houston to division crown
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