Texans defensive end J.J. Watt doesn't like how he played against the New England Patriots the first time around.
Watt had four tackles, three quarterback hits and a forced fumble in the Texans' 42-14 loss at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 10. That's hardly a lackluster showing, but it was one of only two games all season in which Watt, the presumptive NFL Defensive Player of the Year, did not register a sack or pass defensed.
"I don't think I played my best game," Watt said on Wednesday. "I think we can all agree on that. I got quite a few hits on him, but obviously the ball was gone. I need to play better, and I'm going to play better."
Watt had 20.5 sacks this season, most in the NFL and tied for the sixth-most in league history. His 16 passes defensed set an NFL record for a defensive lineman. He also had 39 tackles for loss and 42 quarterback hits.
Watt's three hits on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in Week 14 were more than all but one player – Seattle's Chris Clemons, who hit Brady four times in Week 6 – had against him all season. There were six games this season in which Brady was hit three times or less total by the opposing team.
"I think there is a lot more to it than sacks," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who was asked about the Patriots' relative success against Watt in December. "We certainly had a big challenge dealing with him the last time. It'll be a big challenge dealing with him again, as well as the entire defense, not just him but all of them… that whole group. Watt's a big challenge, and he does great on runs at him, runs away from him. He's a good pass rusher. He runs games well. You've got to block him on every play. He's a tough guy to handle.
"I don't think you really slow him down. You just try to keep him from ruining the game. That in itself is a challenge because he's so good."
Watt has shown a knack for making big plays in big games. He has 4.5 sacks in three career playoff games. He had three sacks in the Texans' Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit and three more sacks in the Texans' division-clinching victory against Indianapolis in Week 15. He said candidly before the Texans played at Denver in Week 3 this season that he wanted to add Peyton Manning to his sack list, then sacked Manning 2.5 times. He sacked Aaron Rodgers twice on Sunday Night Football on Oct. 14.
Still missing from Watt's sack list is Brady, the three-time Super Bowl champion and two-time NFL MVP. It sounds like he's eager to change that on Sunday.