Early in Thursday's 41-25 blowout win over the Detroit Lions, the Houston Texans' offense shuffled its feet, unable to find any traction. Deshaun Watson led two drives that stalled to open the contest. Already trailing 7-0 to the home team, the Texans faced falling further behind out of the gate.
Then J.J. Watt turned the tide.
The former three-time Defensive Player of the Year turned back the clock, picking off a pass and hustling to the end zone. The score jumpstarted a lethargic Houston team that capitalized on three straight Detroit turnovers.
"I knew it was a pass and we had a blitz on, so I was going upfield, but I saw he was going to throw quickly, so I stopped rushing and jumped up," Watt said, via the Houston Chronicle. "Hit me square in the hands, I double-clutched it and then just spun out and ran to the end zone. Just trying to make a play, just trying to do whatever I can to win a game on a big stage and give Houston something to smile about."
Texans inside linebacker Tyrell Adams, who tied a team record with 17 tackles Thursday, had a good view of Watt's score.
"I've never seen J.J. run so damn fast in my life," Adams said. "I'm going on a blitz, I get blocked by the running back and I turn around and hear everybody yelling and J.J. snatching it out of the air and he just takes off."
Thanksgiving's score marked Watt's first TD since a receiving touchdown in 2014. It's the seventh score overall of his career.
Watt's play woke up a Houston squad that started Thursday's early game looking sleepy.
"J.J. is a baller," Adams said. "I just love seeing him play. It really gives everybody the jump they need to go make a play. It really sparked the defense. From there on out, we played fast, we played physical. He kind of jump-started everything."
Watt's INT was the first of three straight possessions in which Houston forced a turnover. The next two Detroit drives ended in fumbles. Were it not for the Texans' own miscues -- a fumble and eight penalties for 65 yards in the first half -- the blowout would have occurred much earlier in the contest.
The Texans entered the game dead last in the NFL in generating turnovers. With Watt leading the way, Houston's Thanksgiving turned into a cornucopia of big plays.
"We talked about turnovers, 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 lo and behold, he does it early in the game," Texans interim coach Romeo Crennel said. "It gave the whole team a lift to see him make a play like that. He's doing what he's been coached to do, what he's done in the past, and he has a big frame and it's hard to throw over him."
Watt became the third defensive lineman with an INT return TD on Thanksgiving since at least 1948, per NFL Research. Others: Tennessee's Dave Ball (2008) and Dallas' Larry Cole (1968).
The 31-year-old Watt has one year left on his contract in Houston. His play the past two weeks -- also earning a career-high four batted balls against New England -- showed he still has gas left in his tank.
"That was dope," Watson said of Watt's TD. "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 week's game, he was going to get one of them."