Texans defensive end J.J. Watt needs 2.5 sacks on Sunday to break Michael Strahan's single-season NFL record.
Watt has 20.5 sacks through 15 games, one ahead of 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith for the NFL lead. Strahan set the record with 22.5 in 2001. Watt's last chance to catch Strahan comes Sunday at the Indianapolis Colts, against whom he had three sacks on Dec. 16 at Reliant Stadium. It was one of six games for Watt this season with two or more sacks, putting the record well within the realm of possibility.
"I think he can get it," defensive end Antonio Smith said on Friday in the Texans' locker room. "He's gonna be determined to get it. It's gonna be hard to stop him. And I'm not going to let 'em just try to double team him, 'cuz then they gonna have to answer to me. But whoever he's going against, ooh – it's going to be the fight of their life to stop that boy from trying to get to his goal. 'Cuz he got it in his mind, and he's going to try to fight to get it."
Watt has said many times this season that he is striving to do things that have never been done before. Asked about the sack record this week, he readily admitted that it would mean a lot to him.
"It's on my mind, but winning is number one by far," Watt said Wednesday. "I had someone ask me yesterday, 'Would you rather win the game or get the sack record?' There is no debate whatsoever. I'd much rather win the game, but then I said, 'I would love to win the game and get the sack record.'
"That's obviously a huge goal of mine. I'm fortunate to be so close. I'm fortunate to have great teammates and coaches who call great plays and the teammates make me look good, and (I'm) really hoping I can get it done and help the team win."
Watt already has the sixth-most sacks in a season in NFL history. His 20.5 sacks equal Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor's total from 1986, the season Taylor became the last defensive player to win NFL MVP honors. Two players (Reggie White in 1987, Chrsi Doleman in 1989) have recorded 21.0 sacks. Two others (Mark Gastineau in 1984, Jared Allen in 2011) have recorded 22.0.
In addition to his astounding sack total, especially for an interior defensive lineman, Watt has 77 tackles and leads the Texans with 35 tackles for loss, 41 quarterback hits, 15 passes defensed and four forced fumbles. He is the first player in NFL history with 15 sacks and 15 passes defensed in a season. He has been part of 89 plays (35 running, 54 passing) that have resulted in zero or negative yards.
"What's he's done already is better than anybody's done in a long, long time, that I can remember," said Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who has coached Hall of Fame defensive linemen Reggie Wayne, Bruce Smith and Elvin Bethea. "I haven't seen a guy play like this. Even the great ones I had… They didn't have all the knockdowns, tackles for losses and tackles that he made and from that position. He's had a tremendous year. Whether he can get a few more sacks or not, I don't know. You know he's going to give the effort to make plays, no matter what it is."
Strahan's record is within Watt's reach. It would come as no surprise if he goes out and grabs it.