By Cedric Williams
During the 2012 NFL season, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt was the most talked about defensive player in the league. And for good reason, as he led the league with 20.5 sacks and set a record for most passes knocked down by a defensive linemen with 16, on his way to winning the 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.
Watt has been an equally disruptive force this season, despite the Texans 2-4 start.
But on Sunday, with Watt registering no tackles, no assists, no sacks, and no batted balls down in his team’s 38-13 loss to the St. Louis Rams, it was a St. Louis defensive linemen that stole the show.
Hometown hero Michael Brockers, a Houston native who starred at nearby Chavez High School during his schoolboy days, made a triumphant return home with perhaps the best game of his pro career.
Brockers, who was selected No. 14 overall by the Rams in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, finished his first game back home since high school with seven tackles, two quarterback sacks, and three tackles for loss.
The 6’5, 326-pounder was simply sensational for the Rams and looked just about unblockable for the Texans all day long.
“This particular game, yes, was his best (game) to date as a Ram,” head coach Jeff Fisher said. “He was very, very good. Very productive (in the) run game, pass game, effort, pressure. He was clearly the best tackle on the field.”
The 22-year old, second-year pro out of LSU was more modest about his performance against the hometown Texans.
“Any day you have two sacks, a couple of tackles for loss, it’s a good day,” Brockers said. “I think it just happened like that. I did my job. I’m just a soldier in this unit.”
And as impressive as Brockers was on Sunday, the best part of the day was the fact that he wasn’t alone in dominating the Houston offensive line.
The Rams other defensive tackle, Kendall Langford, had eight tackles (one for loss); starting defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn had one sack each — Long had a tackle for loss as well; and backups William Hayes, Eugene Sims, and Jermell Cudjo combined for seven tackles and five hits on the two Houston quarterbacks (Matt Schaub and T.J. Yates).
“When you know they’re going to throw, it gives you a chance,” Fisher said. “With the production and the rush from the whole defensive line, there’s not a lot of time to let routes develop. You have to get rid of the football and that’s one of the reasons Alec (Ogletree) made a great play — because the ball came out a little quick.”
That play by Ogletree, which might rank as the single best defensive play of the season by the Rams so far, was a 98-yard interception return for a touchdown that gave St. Louis a 38-6 lead late in the third quarter.
Review of the play on film showed a strong rush by the Rams’ D-line forced Yates to throw the ball sooner than he probably wanted to, which allowed Ogletree to jump in front of Houston’s intended receiver, to make the interception then sprint the length of the field untouched for his first professional touchdown.
“The aggressive nature towards the takeaways and the turnovers has been real good for us,” Fisher said. “We hope we can continue it.”
For more Rams news and updates, visit Rams Central.
Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a freelance reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the Rams and small-school college sports for Examiner.com and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work can be found on Examiner.com.