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J.J. Watt takes aim at NFL sack record


With two games left to play, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has his sights set on the NFL single-season sack record.

Watt has 19.5 sacks through 14 games, tied with San Francisco's Aldon Smith for the league lead. He needs 3.5 sacks to break the record of 22.5 set by Michael Strahan of the New York Giants in 2001.

"It would mean a lot," Watt said on Wednesday. "It's definitely on the goal list, but there are much bigger goals out there. My goal has been to have one of the greatest seasons of all-time, so that's something that I could do to help reach that goal, but number one, first and foremost, my goal is always to win a Super Bowl no matter what."

Watt already has made history by becoming the first player with at least 15 sacks and 15 passes defensed (he has 15) in the same season. His 34.5 combined sacks and passes defensed are the most ever, ahead of the 32.0 (2.0 sacks, 30 passes defensed) by 1993 AP Defensive Player of the Year Rod Woodson.

In terms of sacks alone, Watt already has the ninth-most in a season in NFL history and sixth-most ever by a defensive lineman. If he and Smith both top 20 sacks, it'll be the first time that two players have done it in the same season.

Eight players have recorded 20 or more sacks since it became an official statistic in 1982. Aside from Strahan, Minnesota's Jared Allen (2011) and the New York Jets' Mark Gastineau (1984) had 22 sacks. Minnesota's Chris Doleman (1989) and Philadelphia Hall of Famer Reggie White (1987) had 21. New York Giants Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor (1986) had 20.5 and won the MVP award. Kansas City Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas (1990) and Dallas' DeMarcus Ware (2008) both had 20 sacks.

Watt averages 1.4 sacks a game this season, which more or less puts him on pace to tie Strahan's record. He has been remarkably consistent all season, recording at least half a sack in 11 of 14 games. He has six games with two or more sacks, including two three-sack games in the last four weeks.

Circumstance could play a major role in whether Watt breaks Strahan's record. The Minnesota Vikings, who the Texans play in Week 16 at Reliant Stadium, average just 30.4 passing attempts a game, fourth-fewest in the league. Quarterback Christian Ponder has been sacked 30 times, but the Texans may have to build a big lead to force Ponder to throw the ball instead of handing off time and again to league-leading rusher Adrian Peterson.

If the Texans beat Minnesota, they'll clinch home-field advantage in the AFC throughout the playoffs. That would render their regular-season finale at Indianapolis meaningless for playoff seeding, which would lead to an interesting debate: Should Texans coach Gary Kubiak sit Watt in Week 17 or let him play and go for the record, even if it's only for a quarter or a half?

That all remains to be seen. Regardless of the sack record, Watt's season has been one for the ages, and he's still got two games left to go.

"There's not enough words to describe the type of season he's having," Kubiak said. "I think in due time, everybody else will make their statement on that toward the end of the season and what they think. But he's been exceptional and for a second-year player, this is exciting. Hopefully, he's here doing it a long, long time."

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