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Culture / Sporting Life

J.J. Watt’s Sideline Tirade and DeAndre Hopkins’ Injury Touchdown Push the Texans to an Imperfectly Perfect 10

Houston’s Stars Have More Guts Than Most

BY // 12.16.18

J.J. Watt lost it on the sidelines when he thought the Houston Texans might be losing their grip on a season of supersized promise. DeAndre Hopkins plucked a football out of sky, making a touchdown catch with as little separation as New York subway riders enjoy at rush hour.

And the Texans had just enough to become the first 10 win team of Bill O’Brien’s NFL head coaching career. It wasn’t a Perfect 10. Far from it.

But Texans 29, Jets 22 on the road, in one of those late season Saturday NFL games that always seem dangerous for the favorite, shows plenty about this Houston team. It mainly shows that the now 10-4 — and AFC No. 2 seed (at least for now) — Texans can rely on their stars’ guts.

There is Watt screaming at his fellow defensive starters after the Texans allow Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold to drive his team down the field to tie the game at 3 in the first quarter. The scene’s caught by the NFL Network’s cameras — and it shows just how much Watt treasures the somewhat unexpected opportunities of this season.

J.J. Watt’s always been more of a lead by example leader, elevating his teammates with how hard be worked. But on a gloomy Saturday in New Jersey, he used his voice, his anger, to drive home the importance of the moment.

Anyone who doubted that importance only needs to see DeAndre Hopkins having to be helped off the field after his game-winning touchdown catch. One made right over Jets cornerback Morris Claiborne. Claiborne could not be any closer to Hopkins if they were attached by a harness. In fact, there are skydiving instructors who aren’t this close to their students on tandem jumps.

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No matter. Hopkins, hobbled by what he says is a rolled ankle, still comes down with the football. The Texans’ lifeline receiver cannot quite get up on his own afterwards. But he makes sure Houston’s still standing.

“It was just Hop being Hop,” Watson said afterwards. “He wanted someone to carry him off. He made a great catch and he deserved it.”

Hopkins may not be your typical prima donna NFL wide receiver, but who doesn’t enjoy a little drama? The Texans better hope that is really all it is.

If No. 10 — who makes 10 catches for 170 yards in a game where the Texans’ only other offense often seems like kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn — is hobbled for any length of time, this Houston team’s flaws will become fatal. In fact, if Hopkins is hurt at all, the Texans would be wise to consider holding him out of next week’s game in Philly.

That is a worry for another day, though.

O’Brien’s team has gone 10-1 since that 0-3 start. These Texans are in the game. This imperfect 10th win virtually assures Deshaun Watson and company of having a spot in the playoffs.

This Houston team isn’t often dominant. But they have true superstars with guts. That’s their edge.

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