Reading what people have written about splendid Texans defensive end J.J. Watt from last night's Patriots romp, you'd think New England's line squashed Watt. "Kudos to Dante Scarnecchia and the New England offensive line for keeping Brady so clean," Peter King tweeted. "Texans standout defensive end J.J. Watt, who was pretty much invisible otherwise, forced a fumble," wrote the Associated Press. What game were they watching? New England excelled at many things last night. They did not, however, shut down J.J. Watt.
The Patriots kept Watt off the stat sheet—the fumble he did force wound up a Patriots touchdown—but that was all they did. Watt punished the Patriots' line and, by extension, Brady. The Patriots played Watt one-on-one too often, and he knocked Brady down five times on 35 dropbacks. He played very well.
And a J.J. Watt knockdown is no trivial thing. Watt weighs 295 pounds. That's Terrell Suggs with 30 pounds of extra muscle. Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz, the football media's rare avowed Patriots fan, tweeted last night that Brady might finish the game with six touchdowns and six broken limbs. Quarterback hits add up. We thought the Patriots, and the writers, knew this.