|Texans DE J.J. Watt is one of the most disruptive players in the NFL, but it's his ability to bat down balls that scare the Patriots most. (AP Images)|
During last year's Super Bowl, Tom Brady stood on the sidelines after another one of his passes was batted down, and exclaimed to Wes Welker that it was like “throwing in a forest.”
Well, the lumber is coming back at him Monday night, and this time it's showing up in the more fearsome form of Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.
While his 15.5 sacks will likely propel him to defensive player of the year honors, Watt strikes fear into the Patriots' heart with his ability to bat down passes at the line of scrimmage. He's been credited with 15 pass breakups this season, five of which have turned into interceptions.
"It's like throwing over this wall. It's hard," Brady said. "You just have to try to find an area. We played other big D-line before, tall guys that are rangy and are really instinctive. The Giants did a great job of that last year, and this is another team that really challenges you to do that."
To prepare for Watt's range, New England has equipped players on the scout team with racquetball racquets and ordered them to bat down whatever balls they can reach. It's not one of Brady's preferred practice exercises, but it's one that is completely necessary.
In fact, Bill Belichick suggested that the small racquets may not be enough. It may be time to move onto brooms.
“They knock down a lot of balls, and it is not just knocked down balls, it's tipped balls going for interceptions," Belichick said. "They're very disruptive."
Almost like trying to throw between trees in a forest.
Nick Underhill covers the Patriots for MassLive.com. Follow him on Twitter @CBSPats or @Nick_Underhill.