HOUSTON — It’s a question that almost made Wade Phillips want to cry.
OK, someone has to ask the tough questions. Some idiot reporter has to do it.
So here goes, Wade… Hmmm. (clear my throat).
“Wade, how do you coach a guy like J.J. Watt?” I asked with a cat-that-ate-the-canary grin in our one-on-one conversation.
You never ask that kind of a question in a group setting but this marked the first time in person for this inspector to really focus his binoculars on No. 99 in the steel blue jersey.
When observations were finished, it seemed as if Watt’s candidacy for NFL Most Valuable Player looked solid no matter if it’s illegal for a defender to receive such an award.
“You know,” Wade said with a light-hearted Mid-County grin, “it’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it. I would say he’s had the best season of any defensive lineman in the history of the game. It’s really been incredible what he’s done… all in one season.”
To think that J.J. played better in the wild card rematch than in last year’s Bengals-Texans playoff game would seem out of the question at first thought. Yet that may have happened.
Cincinnati knew what Watt plenty. Cincinnati did everything but throw the kitchen sink at J.J. Cincinnati had as little or less success against him in the rematch. J.J. played off the charts again.
“Is he something else?” the son of Bum smiled in near disbelief. “His ceiling is way, way up there.”
To refresh our memories, Watt batted a ball into his hands and dashed 29 yards for a touchdown on a rare defensive lineman’s Pick 6 in last year’s 31-10 elimination of the Bengals. The moment took the nation by storm.
So it’s insane to imagine this writer would make a case that Watt played better in 2013.
“My game today?“ Watt quizzed. “That’s real hard to say. I didn’t score seven points like last year…. And individual things are nothing compared to the team goals.”
OK, let’s break it down. Cincinnati’s offense scored 10 at Reliant last year and really 7 this time. The Pick 6 (by Bengals Leon Hall) was Matt Schaub’s fault, according to Schaub.
Cincinnati gained 21 first downs and 300 total yards a year ago. The Texans defense allowed 12 first downs and 198 total yards on Saturday.
Statistics and scoring plays do not begin to explain how much Watt would impact this game. You had to put the binoculars on him numerous times to appreciate the enormous pains, adjustments and compensations Cincinnati would make to deal with his variety of skills.
“They really did try a little bit of everything today,” Watt said of the Bengals’ diverse tactics.
It’s not only the sacks, the tackles, the passes broken up but it’s the things which J.J. Watt does for his teammates. He enabled Connor Barwin or Brooks Reed to do this or accomplish that because of No. 99’s effective penetration. Like a most appreciated Christmas present, Watt’s a gift that keeps on giving.
“People don’t always see it or appreciate it but J.J. goes out there today and pretty much shuts down the run,” outside backer Reed said. “He batted another one up in the air again today. And (Cincinnati passer Andy) Dalton, even though he’s a great quarterback, he was scrambling a lot. That’s because we made it uncomfortable for him.”
If his defensive coordinator finds it easy to coach J.J., the delight for Watt to play under Phillips is quite similar.
That’s why J.J. remains confident that Wade figures to devise a good plan next week for New England in Sunday’s AFC Divisional playoff game.
“I know that whatever he puts in place is going to be great, and we’re going to execute it,” Watt said. “We’re going to have success. We have no other option.”
They have another option but not if the Houston Texans plan to play in Super Bowl 47.
Tom Halliburton is a Port Arthur News sports columnist
HOUSTON — It’s a question that almost made Wade Phillips want to cry.
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Bassmaster Elites are coming back
The Bassmaster Elite Series returns to Southeast Texas in March 2015 to fish out of Orange.
The announcement was made last week, ahead of Bassmaster’s official tournament schedule announcement and the buzz is already strong in Southeast Texas and beyond.
I was in Orlando, Fla. attending the ICAST (fishing trade) show and talked with a number of top anglers including Kevin VanDam, Mike Iaconelli and Shaw Grigsby who said it was no surprise they would return considering the massive turnout for the weigh-ins and that the area welcomed them in a very special way.
It’s far too early to speculate anything like who the top contenders will be or how the fishing will be but there are some things to keep in mind and to look for over the next few months and into the event itself.
• Prefishing-There is a pre-fishing cutoff that usually extends to right before the Bassmaster Classic and I fully expect most of the anglers in the Elites to come back and prefish.
Last go-round probably 2/3 of the field fished the area but this time I expect that to be just about everyone. Many of the anglers that did not pre-fish told me they expected to have a lot of water to fish but the sheer volume and diversity was almost overwhelming.
Beginning probably in the early fall we will see many anglers fishing local waters to get a better idea on how to approach the area.
• East to West Runs-The Elite anglers fished far and wide but I expect even more running next go-round. After launching from the Simmons Drive Boat Ramp in Orange angler Bill Lowen ran down the Intracoastal, across Galveston Bay and fished in the Clear Lake area and placed in the top 12. The more adventurous anglers will try super long runs, in my opinion, even longer than last time to try and score on big fish. The Intracoastal Canal system makes that possible.
• Sabine River -Very few of the anglers actually fished in the Sabine River despite the event being called the “Sabine River Challenge”. I think that will change with more anglers running as far north as they can to find pockets of fish that receive little pressure and perhaps a four or five-pounder to push them over the top.
• Bigger Turnout-Last year some 34,000 people attended the event which set a Bassmaster record for an Elite event.
It was broken a couple of weeks later in New York but I fully expect the 2015 tournament to draw 40,000 plus. The reason they are coming back is not for the stellar fishing because while we have lots of bass, everyone knows our fishery cannot compare to Toledo Bend for example.
The support from the public however was amazing and that is what is bringing the top anglers on the planet to fish our area.
We will have the very best coverage of the event beginning now and leading up to it with exclusive interviews with all of the top pros with not only their thoughts on the big event but with unique tips on how you can catch more fish.
It’s an exciting time and I look forward to bringing you special coverage on a special event.
(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at www.klvi.com or watch him on “God’ Outdoors with Chester Moore” Saturdays at 10 a.m. on GETV.org)
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