HOUSTON – Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, arguably the NFL’s top defensive player, presents a major problem for most teams.
The Kansas City Chiefs experienced it first hand in Week 1 when Watt totaled nine tackles, including six for losses, two sacks and three quarterback hits.
But during Saturday’s opening game of Wild Card Weekend, Watt was barely visible as the Chiefs neutralized him by holding him to one tackle in a 30-0 dominating win over the Texans.
So, how did the Chiefs manage to take away of the league’s premier edge rushers?
“We had a heck of a game plan,” left guard Jeff Allen said. “(Right tackle) Donald (Stephenson) and (left tackle) (Eric) Fish(er) did a great job of kind of getting after him, stopping him from getting started.”
Stephenson said it took “a lot of hard work” from everyone, not just the offensive line, to hold Watt in check the second time around.
“The receivers did some chipping, the tight end did some chipping, Alex (Smith) did a good job of getting rid of the ball, me and Fish(er) fought our butt off to block him,” Stephenson said. “And all that put together, we knew that was what it was going to take to negate him.”
It was also a matter of the Chiefs fighting fire with fire.
“He’s a great player,” Stephenson said. “I have all the respect in the world for him; nobody plays harder up front. We knew were going to have to match his intensity.”
Fisher agreed with Stephenson.
“Obviously, we have to respect him and the player he is,” Fisher said. “But really, we just tried to study him and know his tendencies, and take advantage of them. He’s a tremendous player and we had to come out and get after him.”
Still, making Saturday’s results against Watt even more impressive surrounded an offensive line experiencing even more injuries.
Zach Fulton started at center for rookie Mitch Morse, who was inactive with a concussion, and starting right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif sustained a concussion and did not return, prompting the Chiefs to turn to Jah Reid.
Watt is known to freelance along the offensive line if he identifies a weakness.
But the Chiefs weren’t going to give him one because each replacement brought starting experience from the past regular season.
Fulton started three games at right guard, two at left guard and a start at center, while Reid started 10 games at right tackle, including the season opener against Watt.
“We’re really versatile,” Fulton said. “Everybody can play two or three positions, so it speaks to our versatility.”
The play of the offensive line against Watt had Chiefs coach Andy Reid singing their praises after the game.
“You’re not going to win every battle against J.J. Watt,” Reid said. “I mean, you’re talking about the Defensive Player of the Year, two-timer.
“But the one thing you can do is battle against him and I thought our guys did that. He got us a few times but that’s what great players do. On the other hand, we did a pretty good job there. He’s a heck of a player.”