Watch It Again

The Pizza Man delivers: J.J. Watt steals playoff mojo with insanely athletic play

The Pizza Man delivers: J.J. Watt steals playoff mojo with insanely athletic play

A 6-foot-5, 290-pound man is not supposed to have this much agility. Of course, a guy who walked away from a scholarship at a MAC school to deliver pizzas is not supposed to turn into a first-round NFL draft pick.

J.J.Watt lives to defy expectations.

And he only made arguably the biggest play in Houston Texans' history to do it Saturday. With the AFC South Champs staggered, locked in a 10-10 game with sixth seed Cincinnati at Reliant Stadium, with Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton building plenty of confidence, Watt changed everything in one insane flash.

When Dalton dropped back to pass on a first-and-10 at his own 34, he saw his favorite target — rookie wide receiver A.J. Green — open, saw a chance to get the two-minute drill rolling. Watt saw something else.

The rookie defensive end whose motor never stops moving anticipated Dalton's pass, leaped up, just off the line of scrimmage, and somehow plucked it out of the air. Staying on his feet, Watt took that captured football right into the Bengals end zone for a 29-yard touchdown. A defensive touchdown that changed everything.

Suddenly, the Texans led 17-10 with 52 seconds left in the first half, the first time they led all game. Suddenly, Reliant went from loud to bonkers — and never simmered down again.

 No flags stopped Watt Saturday. Instead, he made one of the most athletic plays you'll ever see a nearly 300-pound man make. 

It's no surprise that it's Watt who played the biggest in the Texans' biggest game of all. Not after the rookie season he's had.

"First off, you’ve got to start with number 99," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said of Watt. "For us to draft him and play the way he’s played this year it’s been exceptional."

Watt's been so good this year, that it got to the point where even the NFL refs didn't appear to know how to officiate this man child, turning one of Watt's most dominant games (that Thursday nighter in Indianapolis) into a spree of yellow flags that still makes little sense.

No flags stopped Watt Saturday though. Instead, he made one of the most athletic plays you'll ever see a nearly 300-pound man make.

I'll be the first to admit that I thought Watt was a horrible draft pick for the Texans last April, believing they should have went with Auburn's Nick Fairley instead. But Watt has a way of proving anyone who doubts him wrong. Including the coaching staff at Central Michigan that never thought he'd amount to anything after he walked away from the Chippewas and ended up working as a Pizza Hut delivery driver while taking classes at a local community college, seemingly out of football.

Watt would recover to walk on at Wisconsin. The walk-on became an All-American. And now he's an NFL playoff star, one who helped carry a rookie quarterback in the biggest game of all.

T.J. Yates looked like he felt the weight of the moment early. On the Texans' first possession, he overthrew an open Andre Johnson by several feet on a third-and-5. Yates missed tight end Owen Daniels by almost as wide of a margin on Houston's second possession.

When Dalton drove the Bengals 74 yards for a touchdown on their second possession — thanks in large part to Green beating safety Glover Quin and drawing a 52-yard pass interference penalty — everyone in the Reliant Stadium stands suddenly felt nervous too. The Texans trailed 7-0, Yates couldn't keep the ball down and Green was playing game changer.

But with Pro Bowl tailback Arian Foster steadying things, Yates found his footing. His 21-yard pass to Daniels turned out to be his only pass on an 80-yard game-tying drive (Foster ran five times for 44 yards), but it meant a lot — with the Bengals drawing a 15-yard, unnecessary roughness on the play too.

Yates showed how quickly he recovers from bad plays too, a trait that Kubiak has praised again and again. For one play after Yates telegraphed an interception that the Bengals simply dropped, he found Andre Johnson for a first down on third-and-six. Then, he hit Johnson for a touchdown.

Texans 24, Bengals 10.

Houston scored 17 unanswered points to get there, all triggered by the Pizza Man.

J.J. Watt
J.J. Watt didn't play like any wide-eyeed rookie in his first playoff game.
J.J. Watt
J.J. Watt developed a rep for never giving up on a play while at Wisconsin.
J.J. Watt
J.J. Watt