Sometimes, you just need to get a win. On a gloomy, rainy afternoon in northern Florida, the Texans ground out a win against a competitive but too young to be a serious threat Jaguars team. Through two quarters, Jacksonville led 13-10, but the Texans defense didn't allow a single score in the second half and the offense scored 17 unanswered points to win 27-13 in an important division game against a team that beat them twice last year.
The Texans passing game set records last week, but was not close to on target on Sunday. Instead, they relied heavily on the running game and solid defense to get back above .500 and set up a huge game in Indianapolis next week.
Arian Foster returned to form with 127 yards on 24 carries, J.J. Watt had 3 sacks and a pass defensed and D.J. Swearinger got a key interception -- adding to the team's league best 29 forced turnovers this season -- to help put the game away. In truth, the Texans should beat Jacksonville, but it wasn't exactly a beautiful win. Still, a win is a win and the Texans will definitely take it.
Offensive Game Balls
Arian Foster Despite missing three games, Foster is third in the NFL in rushing, eclipsing 1,000 yards for the third time in his career after Sunday. He also managed to set an NFL record with most 100-yard games by an undrafted player. His 5.1 yards per carry were a product of some nice long runs including a 51 yarder early in the game, but his ability to just pound yards allowed the team to avoid mistakes and not be forced to put the ball in Ryan Fitzpatrick's hands against a very good front seven in Jacksonville.
Defensive Game Balls
(J.J. Watt has already been retired from consideration, FYI, or he would be in here every week.)
D.J. Swearinger DSwagg is nothing if not enthusiastic, sometimes to a fault. He will often commit dumb penalties, like the personal foul he got for taking a shot at a receiver's head that kept a drive alive. But, he also flies around all over the field and has a knack for big plays, like the interception at the end of the third quarter that led to the Texans final touchdown, which would put the game completely out of reach.
The Defense The defense allowed only 73 total yards in the second half Sunday and a ridiculous 2 rushing yards -- a team record. They collected 4 sacks (3 by Watt) and were in rookie quarterback Blake Bortles's face all day long. Kareem Jackson returned and played well, as did the entire secondary. It was a banner day for the D.
Andre Johnson's Head Johnson appeared to be on his way to reaching 1,000 catches in his career on Sunday with a quick start until he was nailed in the head near the Jacksonville goal line and sent to the locker room with a concussion. It was marginally surprising that the Texans and secret agent coach Bill O'Brien would even disclose that was the case, but it means Johnson will have to wait one more week to hit that career milestone. What Should Stay the Same
The overall plan on how to beat the Jaguars was sound. The team ran the ball and mixed it up against a tough Jacksonville defense. They didn't turn the ball over and avoided critical penalties -- though 7 is still a few too many. The defense confused Bortles with a variety of looks in the secondary and the front seven disrupted the passing while completely shutting down the run. It wasn't a pretty win, but it was effective.
What Needs to Improve
The Texans can't expect to beat Indy next week with a mediocre passing game. For as glitzy as the air show was last week, it was grounded on Sunday. Fitzgerald managed the game and didn't throw an interception, but it was clear the Titans defense last week had a lot to do with his record day. Against a good D, he was back to his old self. They will need more from the aerial attack to beat a good team on the road like the Colts.
After missing three games with a knee sprain, Kareem Jackson returned and looked very good in Jacksonville. It's been remarkable how good the team's secondary has been even with injuries. Jackson makes them even better.
One of the strengths of this coaching staff is its ability to make adjustments. Going into the half down 13-10 and not looking good on offense, they turned it around after the break scoring 17 unanswered points and making all the right calls.
Fitzy fell back to earth after his six-touchdown performance against the Titans. He played it safe all day, completing a high percentage of passes, but rarely taking risks. That meant no turnovers but also no touchdowns. The meter was dead in the center on Sunday, not great, but not awful either.
Andre Ware Gets Pissed
The Texans radio color commentator and former University of Houston Heisman trophy winner always has an opinion and it was on full display early in the second half when Jacksonville, after two very successful screen plays that seemed to have them threatening to score. The Jags called a bizarre offensive line up that seemed to throw the rhythm of the team off. They ended up being forced to punt. Ware came back to that moment several times during the broadcast seemingly more disgusted each time he mentioned it.
Strange Stat of the Week
The Texans lead the league in forced turnovers with 29. That, in and of itself, is quite a feat. But when you consider they set an NFL record for the fewest turnovers forced in a season last year with 11, it's even more amazing. They have nearly tripled the number of turnovers they forced last year. Crazy.
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Play of the Day
With the Texans holding onto a tenuous four-point lead, they got the ball back in the Jags end of the field thanks to an interception. After driving to the 1 yard line, they were stymied and called time out before deciding to go for it on fourth down. Arian Foster ran to his right -- where the play was designed to go -- and was stuffed. He managed to stay on his feet, avoid a tackle and bounce back to the right to waltz into the end zone. It put the Texans up for good.
In the history of the franchise, the Texans have never won in Indianapolis. That's a stunning statistic. But, if they plan on going to the playoffs, they must beat the Colts in Indy next Sunday. The Colts haven't looked like world beaters lately, but they have a great young QB and a talented offense. It's a very tough place to win a game, but the Texans have no choice if they want to keep their slim playoff chances alive.