On a cold, dreary and rainy day in Houston, the Jaguars were finishing out the season against a division opponent with not much motivation but pride to fuel them. Former Jaguar (and Texan) Tony Boselli said prior to the game that he wasn’t worried about the fight in the Jaguars but that they would have to withstand an initial “onslaught” from Houston since the Texans still had something to play for. With an outside chance at the post-season, Houston needed a win to keep their hopes alive.
That proved to be true as the Jaguars punted on their first possession only to see the Texans go 83 yards in just 5 plays to take a 7-0 lead. Missed assignments and missed tackles were fully on display during that drive with defensive backs looking befuddled each time Case Keenum dropped back to pass.
In their next possession, the Jaguars moved the ball with a couple of nice runs by Jordan Todman and some scrambling by Blake Bortles but JJ Watt recorded back-to-back sacks to force a 53 yard FBG by Josh Scobee to make it 7-3. Watt beat Luke Joeckel on one play to force a sack and a fumble (that Joeckel recovered) and ran right by Toby Gerhart on the next play making it 19.5 this year.
The Texans had no problem moving the ball against the Jaguars either on the ground or in the air, and they were aided by a couple of early Jaguars penalties as well. But the Jaguars caught a break when Keenum threw behind a wide open crossing receiver, dropping it into Dwayne Gratz’s hands who returned it for a 55 yard TD and a 10-7 Jaguars lead. It’s only the 6th interception of the year for the Jaguars defense.
Head Coach Gus Bradley has talked about consistency or the lack of it for the Jaguars all year and it was on full display against the Texans early. Demetrius McCray made a couple of very nice plays on the edge against the run and the pass but then was called for penalties leading to first downs for Houston. Blake Bortles was sharp on some throws to Cecil shorts and Alan Hurns but then missed Marcedes Lewis on third and two. That has to be an automatic bread-and-butter play for a quarterback and a tight end. Because of that inconsistency, it was apparently on each Texans drive that the Jaguars need help at linebacker and at defensive back. Houston moved the ball at will, scoring on another long drive in the second quarter to take a 14-10 lead. Between the seven guys in the “back” of the Jaguars defense, there was plenty of blame to go around.
Too often in the first half the Jaguars failed to convert on 3rd and short while Houston was able to covert on 3rd and long. While the Jaguars moved into FG territory on some nice improvisation by Bortles and Ace Sanders, a holding penalty moved them back to mid-field and the half ended with the Jaguars down by 4.
After a nice stop on the opening possession by the Texans, the Jaguars offense was driving but again failed to covert on short yardage. Josh Scobee’s 51 yard attempt hit off the left upright and it remained 14-10.
You hate to think your punter is a difference maker, but Bryan Anger kept flipping the field in favor of the Jaguars, banging out 61-yard punts with good coverage to keep the Texans at bay. A good defensive stand forced a Case Keenum fumble and the Jaguars recovered at the 23. That’s when they went deep into the playbook again with the throwback from Shorts to Todman for a TD and a 17-14 lead. It was kind of surprising to see Todman that wide open since the Jaguars had just run that play last week, and they beat the Texans with that play last year. All of this going on while San Diego and Baltimore were both losing, giving Houston a chance at the playoffs for the time being.
In all, through three quarters the Jaguars had lost Toby Gerhart, Sen’Derrick Marks, Brandon Linder, Alan Hurns and a few others during the course of the game. Marks and Gerhart did not return and without Roy Miller in the lineup, the Jaguars defensive line was a bit thin. Houston took advantage even without Arian Foster in the game. Alfred Blue running and Andre Johnson catching drove the ball right downfield for 80 yards in 12 plays to have Houston re-take the lead at 21-17.
On 4th and short in the 4th quarter from near mid-field, Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien chose to punt, not fearing the Jaguars offense at all and their ability to drive the ball the length of the field. He turned out to be right as the Jaguars had the ball on their own seven but JJ Watt sacked Bortles in the end zone for a safety and a 23-17 lead. It’s unrealistic to think that Luke Joeckel or anybody else could hold off Watt one on one but Bortles has to be aware of that as well and be ready to get rid of that ball. Call it what you want but somewhere the Jaguars are going to have to learn from that to block better, get rid of the ball quicker or perhaps don’t call that play in that situation.
Still, the defense stiffened and forced the Texans to give the ball back to the Jaguars. Helped by the third face mask penalty of the day, the Jaguars moved the ball to midfield and then Bortles scrambled down to the 10 giving the Jaguars a real chance to win the game. Incomplete on first down with Lee and Shorts running to the same spot (Shorts could have caught the ball but short-armed it a bit) and Lee went out of the game with a leg injury. A 5 yard gain to Hurns gave the Jaguars two plays to win it. They got the matchup they wanted on third down with Marcedes Lewis matched up one on one with a 5-11 cornerback but Bortles pass was a bullet, way high to bring up 4th down. That pass was thrown too wide and Shorts caught it out of bounds to essentially end the game.
The Texans missed the playoffs despite the win since the Ravens victory put them in as the 6th seed. The Jaguars will most likely get the third pick in the upcoming draft finishing 3-13.
Bradley and Caldwell have a lot of work to do.