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Watt to do about J.J.? Texans' big end worries Patriots.

Byline: Jennifer Toland

FOXBORO - Among the top tasks for the Patriots' offensive line Monday night will be preventing Houston Texans swat specialist and sack master J.J. Watt from wreaking havoc in the passing game and wrecking quarterback Tom Brady.

Brady believes his O-line will get the job done.

"There's a lot of trust that you have to have in the offensive line," Brady said, "so I don't concern myself so much with worrying about a particular pass rusher on the D-line. For me, it's more coverage oriented and trying to read out the coverage so I can try to get the ball to the open guy as fast as I can.

"It's not like there's any special formula to blocking a good defensive lineman. You just have to stand up and go out and play a great game."

Watt, the 6-foot-5, 290-pound second-year defensive end, has been a nightmare for opposing offenses this season. He ranks second in the league with 16.5 sacks - upon further review, he was credited with an additional sack on a late takedown of Titans quarterback Jake Locker last week, a play that was originally ruled a team sack - and has an incredible 15 passes defensed.

Since passes defensed were officially tracked in 1991, only 11 players have recorded 10 sacks and 10 passes defensed in a single season. Watt is the only player with 15 of each.

Houston uses Watt inside, outside and on both sides, and he can cause havoc from anywhere. He leads the team with 83 tackles, 28 tackles for loss, and 32 quarterback hits.

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said the Patriots will need to have more than one player ready to handle him and block him.

"He certainly makes a lot of plays in the 3-4 defense," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "He has excellent quickness, and he's long, so he does a good job of rushing against everybody - the tackles, the guards. He also plays a lot of sub-defenses because they're in so much sub, where he's working on guards or occasionally on the center.

"He's a tremendous player, and he's had a lot of opportunities, and he's been very productive with them."

The 23-year-old Watt began his collegiate career at Central Michigan, left school and took a job delivering pizzas before heading to Wisconsin and playing two seasons for the Badgers.

His name popped up with the Patriots on many mock boards before the 2011 NFL Draft, but the Texans took him with the 11th overall pick, so he wasn't even around when New England picked at No. 17 (and selected offensive tackle Nate Solder).

As a rookie, Watt had 58 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 4 passes defensed, so he really has come on strong in 2012.

"He's not only very talented," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said, "but he brings a passion, he brings a consistency week in, week out to how he prepares and how he goes about his job. We're very fortunate. We got a fine young man who is turning into a great, great player, hopefully for a long time."

Watt, who has recorded a sack in three straight games, trails only the 49ers' Aldon Smith (17.5) in that category. The Giants' Michael Strahan has the record of 22 set in 2001.

Patriots offensive lineman Donald Thomas, who has started the last three games at left guard, talked after yesterday's practice about preparing for Watt.

"You try to watch as much film as you can and try to get the look from these guys in practice," Thomas said, "but it comes down to the game and trying to catch up to the speed of his pass rush. You can talk about it as much as you can and watch as much film, but it really comes down to those first two series and getting a feel for him."

Brady was sacked four times in last week's game against the Dolphins, tying a season high, but the Patriots have allowed him to be sacked only 19 times this year, the fourth fewest in the NFL. Houston, by the way, is tied for the league lead in fewest sacks allowed with 15.

Five of Watt's pass deflections have been picked off, with four of them leading to scores.

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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:1U7TX
Date:Dec 7, 2012
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