Barreling into the Indianapolis Colts’ backfield, Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney zeroed in on his target: quarterback Andrew Luck.
Clowney burst past a feeble blocking attempt with uncanny acceleration before drilling Luck for a clutch sack during a 37-34 overtime victory that represents the Texans’ lone win of the season.
Between that sack, another one earlier in the game and alertly pouncing on a botched snap in the end zone for a touchdown, Clowney delivered the kind of performance the Texans have been waiting several months to see.
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Hampered during the first three games of the season, preseason and offseason with rust accumulated while recuperating from a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery, Clowney signaled that he’s back in a major way.
Clowney recorded four tackle for losses, four quarterback hits and two sacks against the Colts, tying his career-highs for sacks, hits, tackles for losses and fumble recoveries. He was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for the first time.
If Clowney can maintain that standard, the 1-3 Texans and their up-and-down defense could experience a big change of fortune.
“Yeah, I hope so,” Clowney said. “That’s what I expect out of myself. Just go and put all my effort to this team and my teammates and go out there and compete at a high level.”
Playing under a $12.306 million fifth-year club option, Clowney has seen a direct correlation between his health and his production.
When Clowney played every game last season, the former top overall pick from South Carolina recorded a career-high 9½ sacks, 21 tackles for losses and 21 quarterback hits.
This year, Clowney already has missed one game with elbow and back injuries. He was limited on the injury report Wednesday with a hamstring injury.
“I think he feels better,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien when asked why he thought Clowney played so well. “I think with JD, when he feels good, body-wise, he goes out there and he’s hard to handle.”
For one of the few times since the Texans drafted Clowney, he and J.J. Watt are both healthy and performing optimally.
Watt had two sacks against the Colts and has notched a team-high five sacks during the past two games. This marked the first time that Watt and Clowney had two sacks apiece in the same game.
“We’ve been trying to do that before that, but it just came together last week,” Clowney said. “Hopefully, we can continue to do the same thing we’ve been doing, putting pressure on the quarterback and just competing at a high level. I think it brings a lot of energy to our defense.”
Clowney has had at least one game with four tackles for losses in each of the past three seasons. No other player in the NFL has more than one game with four tackles for losses since 2016.
And Clowney’s 42 tackles for losses during that 33-game span is the second-most in the NFL.