ARLINGTON — J.J. Watt has Tony Romo. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback is in his powerful hands. The play is dead.
And then . . . it's not.
Romo somehow shrugs off the 6-foot-5, 290-pound Watt, steadies himself and flings a 43-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams. It's a stunning sequence and while it's not the play that ends up deciding this Texas Super Bowl 20-17 for the Cowboys — that's Dez Bryant's own bit of no-way overtime magic — it's the play most likely to be remembered from this rare Houston Texans-Dallas Cowboys game for years to come.
It leaves Watt's teammates stunned. And Romo's coach sounding like an awestruck passenger along for the ride.
"Football is a brutal game. It beats up on your body. It beats up on your emotions."
"J.J.'s just got to make that play," Texans safety D.J. Swearinger says, before going on to quickly note that the Texans' secondary needs to cover better when Romo slips out of a would-be sack too.
There is no finger pointing at Watt, who carried the Texans to a 3-1 start to the point where he's a defensive player in serious consideration for NFL MVP honors, in the Texans' locker room. It's more of a stunned shock. Maybe, in the Dallas locker room too.
"Certainly, it's one for the ages," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett says of Romo's great escape.
The ultra competitive Watt slowly dresses after the game, ripping off one last stay piece of white athletic tape on his arm before pulling on his dress shirt. Watt wishes he could rip away this game too. For the first time in a long time, Watt has seen his super abilities fail him.
"Football is a brutal game," Watt says moments later, surrounded by a sea of TV cameras and reporters in the visitors locker room. "It beats up on your body. It beats up on your emotions."
It's a reminder that Justin James Watt is only human after all — regardless of all the evidence that often screams otherwise.
"With the type of player he is, we all expect him to make that play," Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson says. "J.J. missed it. It happens . . . That play didn't lose us the game."
Afterwards, Romo goes out of his way to note how Watt's pressure changed the game — making it impossible for Romo to get to his third and fourth reads on pass plays like usual — even though No. 99 leaves without a sack. And carrying that one big miss on his massive shoulders.
"Obviously on the one I should've had a sack," Watt says. "Those are the type of things that weigh on you."
Romo's made a career of making sack artists miss. Still, Watt never expected it to o happen to him. Not in the moment when he has the chance to make a game-changing play after dealing with so much all afternoon.
"Every team throws the house and the kitchen sink at me," Watt says. "I'm fine with that. It's something I have to deal with on a weekly basis. That's why it's that much more frustrating when I'm in clean and I miss a sack that turns into a touchdown."
Watt waits for the next question. He's not hiding from anything. He may be haunted, but he's not giving in. Romo dodged him, so he'll try to make Andrew Luck feel the pain.