Johnathan Joseph didn't just return to practice. The Houston Texans game-changing cornerback returned with an interception that has his teammates buzzing.
Joseph — who hobbled off late in the Texans' overtime win over the Jaguars on Nov. 18 and has missed two games since with groin and hamstring issues — is absolutely crucial to the gameplan defensive coordinator Wade Phillips wants to throw at Tom Brady in one of the biggest Monday Night Football games ever. So seeing Joseph back on the field, making plays, in the team's first full practice for the New England Patriots on Thursday means plenty.
"He did well," safety Danieal Manning says. "He made a pick. He covered all types of different routes, which is important with the gameplan we're putting together for certain receivers."
Baby girl Vivian Brady will be blissfully unaware that her dad is playing in the best matchup (record wise) in the history of Monday Night Football.
Brady will not have his full complement of receivers for this Monday nighter with touchdown terror Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman out with broken bones, but he still has Wes Welker, who only caught 12 passes last week. While Joseph wouldn't normally cover the slot receiver in an offense, don't be surprised if he still ends up on Welker plenty on Monday night.
There is little doubt that Welker is the Patriot weapon that the Texans have to worry about most. Outside receiver Brandon Lloyd hasn't had a game of more than 45 yards since mid October.
"I'm not going to give the whole gameplan away," Manning says. "But we have a few things we think we can do."
Many of those center around the all-pro cornerback who changes everything for the Texans. Joseph only took about half the snaps with the first-team defense during his first practice back. But Texans coach Gary Kubiak says he "looked very explosive."
Brady has other things besides Joseph on his mind at the moment. The 35-year-old Golden Boy quarterback and his supermodel wife Gisele Bundchen welcomed their second child (and Brady's third kid under six overall) into the world Wednesday, hours before Joseph returned to practice for the Texans the next day.
"They have a couple of guys that are down, but Wes is still who he is. He can create space."
Baby girl Vivian Brady will be blissfully unaware that her dad is playing in the best matchup (record wise) in the history of Monday Night Football. There's never been a meeting of two teams with better records than the 11-1 Texans and the 9-3 Patriots this late in the season on the NFL's once-premiere TV franchise.
Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is calling it "the biggest game in the history of this franchise." While that's very debatable (the Texans were playing for a spot in the AFC Championship Game last January in Baltimore), the impact of Johnson framing it that way is not.
This Texans offense takes its cues from the often-quiet Johnson and to have No. 80 throwing caution aside and putting it all out there on this game is sure to have an impact.
Johnathan Joseph will have an bigger impact on Brady's night — and what the Texans throw at him.
"They have a couple of guys that are down, but Wes is still who he is," Manning says. "He can create space. So we’ve got some packages and we’ve got to get them in certain situations."
A little practice interception showed how ready Joseph is to make the scheme work.