Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt spent a portion his pregame underhand tossing a football to kids lined up along the field at Lincoln Financial Field. Good guy, that Watt, one you’d love to have wearing your favorite team’s colors.
After that, however, he vanished. OK, maybe not completely. He did make three tackles and was called for roughing-the-passer against Nick Foles in the first half. Otherwise, though, that great magician, right tackle Lane Johnson, made Watt disappear.
Lane had a great week of preparation,” said head coach Doug Pederson.” Got in his mind-set, he's awesome. He's awesome, he's a tremendous right tackle. He's had to block some really, really good defensive ends this season. This was probably the best one he's seen all season and did a nice job. Did a really nice job and it's a credit to him. Well deserved.”
Watt entered Sunday’s game against the Eagles with 14.5 sacks, which tied him for second most in the NFL. He left town without adding to that total and on the losing end of a 32-30 score, as the Eagles (8-7) kept their playoff hopes alive by winning for the fourth time in their last five games.
Johnson matched up on Watt most of the game, and won the battle hands down.
“It’s no different than any other week,” said Brandon Brooks, who lines up next to Johnson at right guard. “Best tackle in football. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again - right tackle, left tackle, Lane’s the best tackle in football.”
There was something different about Sunday.
Johnson learned earlier in the week that he had not received a bid to the Pro Bowl.
“I’m still pissed,” said Johnson. “But this isn’t a pity party. I want to use it my advantage and show what I can do against great players. I have another one next week in (Washington Redskins) Ryan Kerrigan, so what better chance to just go play.”
The three tackles who made the NFC roster are Dallas’ Tyron Smith, New Orleans’ Terron Armstead, and Washington’s Trent Williams.
It’s easy to make a case that Johnson hasn’t had a better season than any of those three. And Johnson is trying to do just that.
“I was fueled last week by everything, so anytime I go against a great player I want to show what I can do,” he said.
What better way to show what you can do than getting the best of Watt.
“My main thing is try to look at how he uses his hands and, really when he gets inside, he’s so damn quick off the ball, so my main thing this week was try to get off the ball so I could be in good position,” said Johnson. “He’s so good. He’ll be a Hall of Famer. He’s so quick, and he can play D end on my side, and move all around. There’s not many guys can do that.”
The offensive line allowed only one sack, and that was after losing Jason Peters early in the first quarter to a quad injury. Halapoulivaati Vaitai filled in and, while he was flagged twice for holding, held up OK.
“The offensive line did a great job all game with (the Texans) rushers,” said defensive end Chris Long. “Man, how about Lane Johnson? He played a hell of a game.”
Watt would likely agree.