Sarah Barshop, ESPN Staff Writer 56d

J.J. Watt keeps making big plays, complicating Texans' decisions

With one season left on his contract, the Houston Texans have a decision to make on J.J. Watt this offseason.

In the Texans' 41-25 victory over the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, Watt showed why that is such a tough decision when he intercepted a pass by Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and ran it back 19 yards to score, his first touchdown since 2014, when he caught a touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick when playing on offense.

I was going up the field, but I saw he was going to throw quickly, so I stopped rushing and jumped up,” Watt said. “Hit me square in the hands, double-clutched and then just spun out and ran to the end zone. Just trying to make a play.”

This comes a game after Watt batted down a career-high four passes in Week 11 against the Patriots.

“We talked about turnovers during the week, and I mentioned that they come in streaks sometimes, and we talked about how J.J. used to be able to tip the ball, intercept it and run it in for a touchdown, and then low and behold, he does it early in the game,” interim head coach Romeo Crennel said. “... It gave the whole team a lift to see him make a play like that.”

Quarterback Deshaun Watson was energized by it.

“That was dope,” Watson said. It brought me back to the old days. He’s not getting old as we look at it. He’s still got some athletic ability. I knew sooner or later, especially after last weekend, he was going to get one of them.”

But the 31-year-old defensive end, the franchise’s best-ever player, is owed $17.5 million (not guaranteed) in 2021 and despite having Watson at quarterback, Houston doesn't have a roster that's ready to compete with the best in the AFC next season.

The Texans didn’t really consider trading Watt at the trade deadline, but they could choose to move him after the season, a decision that will be left up to the new general manager the Texans will hire in January. With the respect that Watt has earned in Houston and within the organization, it wouldn't be a surprise to see both sides work together to find a solution that takes what Watt wants into account.

Quarterback breakdown: Watson showed everyone on Thursday that the Texans’ 3-7 record is not due to his poor play. In one of his best games of the season, Watson completed 17 of 25 passes for 318 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. He again focused on getting the ball to Will Fuller (six catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns on seven targets) and Brandin Cooks (five catches for 85 yards). According to ESPN Stats & Information, Fuller is the fifth player since the merger to have 150 or more receiving yards and two touchdowns on Thanksgiving.

Promising trend: Defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver has been saying all season that turnovers come in bunches, but they hadn’t come very often at all. That changed on Thursday when Houston forced turnovers on three straight drives. Entering the game, the Texans had just five takeaways this season and no more than two in a game.

Eye-popping stat: Watt joins Deion Sanders as the only players to debut in the Super Bowl era with at least three career receiving touchdowns and three pick-sixes, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Sanders had three receiving touchdowns and returned nine interceptions for touchdowns in his career.

Watt's touchdown on Thursday was his seventh career touchdown. Including the playoffs, he has three touchdown receptions, three interceptions and a fumble return for a touchdown. He scored five times in the 2014 season but entering Thursday had not scored in his past 62 games, including playoffs.

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