Houston Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney proved to be a difference maker in the playoffs.
Anything J.J. Watt can do, Jadeveon Clowney can do too. It sounds sacrilegious, but it’s true. The Houston Texans’ first playoff win of the Bill O’Brien era — it’s not ending anytime soon — proves that.
Clowney sets the tone for the Texans’ 27-14 dismantling of the quarterback-less Oakland Raiders on Saturday. On Oakland’s first offensive play, he bats down a pass. Then, he sets up Houston’s first touchdown with an uber-athletic play. This is how you push a flawed team into round two of the NFL playoffs.
This is how you pull a Watt. Only Clowney did Watt even one better on this day. He saved Bill O’Brien’s job.
Or at least, finally squashed the always farfetched notion that O’Brien and the Texans would be parting ways.
“I’m not going to fire him,” Texans owner Bob McNair says of O’Brien.
“I have a five-year contract here,” O’Brien says. “I have two years left on my contract. I’m looking forward to coaching here.”
On a day when O’Brien’s team is dominant like it’s never been before this 2016 season, Clowney removed any last bit of doubt about his worthiness as the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft. Khalil Mack — the fifth pick in that draft, the man Clowney was supposed to come up lacking against — is across the field from Clowney and a complete non-factor in the biggest NFL game of his life.
Advantage Clowney. Advantage Texans.
Clowney is even letting his true personality out — and talking and walking like a star. “I told y’all,” Clowney crows as he struts into the interview room. You’re going to have some bravado when you’re capable of making the plays this man is capable of making. Take the tone-setting interception.
Clowney tipped the pass, batted it up in the air again and then caught it for one game-shifting interception. The play showed off Clowney’s athleticism and his newfound determination.
“Man, film study,” Clowney says when asked about the pick.
The play was a little reminiscent of J.J. Watt’s Pick 6 pluck out of the air against the Cincinnati Bengals in his first-ever playoff game. While Clowney didn’t score himself, he gift wrapped the Texans’ first touchdown in a game where touchdowns should have been hard to come by.
Lamar Miller ran it in from the four on the very next play. And the Texans were on their way.
Thanks to the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft who’s proving to be worth the hype. Clowney is a difference maker — and Texans were smart to nab him at No. 1 despite all the doubters. With Watt out, Clowney’s taking on the starring role. This is someone who’s been a star all his life. He’s ready for it.
Just imagine where the Texans would be without Clowney. All those rumors about Bill O’Brien leaving would actually have some merit to them. Houston would be a dead team walking without No. 90.
“Clowney has been doing what he’s been doing all year,” Texans left tackle Duane Brown says.
Connor Cook is even worse than advertised, completing 4 of 14 passes in the first half. Gifted the worst NFL playoff quarterback in recent memory, the Texans defense takes full advantage. The Raiders go 0 for 11 on third downs through three quarters. Houston picks up Cook three times.
The ESPN cameras still kept finding Watt on the sidelines, but J.J. would often be slapping Clowney on the back, giving love to the new difference maker. The Texans’ defense should be even better with both these gameplan wreckers in the lineup together next season.
The immediate future isn’t so promising. The Texans move on to play at New England or Kansas City next week, two of the best teams in the NFL. There will be no Connor Cook repeats. But there’s still a game to prepare for — and the end to that O’Brien could be leaving talk.
“When the team got together last April for OTAs and again in July for training camp, we envisioned a great season,” says quarterback Brock Osweiler, whose good first half kept the boos at bay on this day. “We envisioned an AFC South championship.
“We envisioned making some noise in the playoffs.”
Jadeveon Clowney makes noise wherever he goes. He’ll drag the Texans as far as he can take them.