Texans didn't even let Jaguars have the ball

September, 16, 2012
9/16/12
8:03
PM ET
Blaine GabbertDale Zanine/US PresswireThe Texans' D held the Jaguars to 117 yards on offense -- a new franchise low for Jacksonville.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In suffocating the division-rival Jacksonville Jaguars 27-7 at EverBank Field, the Houston Texans showed many of the characteristics good football teams generally possess.

By so doing they moved to 2-0 and remained atop the AFC South, where they stand as perhaps the most clear-cut favorite to win their division.

“Two 20-point wins in the first two weeks, that’s what you’re supposed to do,” said defensive end J.J. Watt, who had another sterling effort and productive stat line: four tackles, a sack-and-a-half, two batted-down passes and a fumble recovery.

His teammates talked of him performing like a Pro Bowler. He said he hopes to be unavailable for the game, which would be the case if the Texans are busy preparing for a Super Bowl.

What did the Texans show us that helps make the case they could make it to New Orleans?

1) They dispatched a team that can’t match their talent in relative short order, taking away any hope of an upset in a hurry. And they still weren’t entirely satisfied. It was 17-0 with less than seven minutes left in the first half and felt like they could double that.

“We can be better,” defensive lineman Antonio Smith said. “But we’re a good defense. We thought we could come out with a zero, a goose egg.”

2) They fared well in an area where they were not good just a week ago, showing the capacity to repair a problem in short order -- in this instance, running the ball.

“I would say [it is a sign of a good team], you’ve got a problem, you can fix it fast,” said running back Arian Foster, who turned 28 carries into 110 yards and a touchdown. “But it could go back the other way, so you’ve got to continue to try to fix it.”

3) They took advantage of another team’s weak spot. The Jaguars were down two starting offensive linemen, and starting left guard Herb Taylor had not played in an NFL game since 2008 and was just signed on Monday.

“That was a tough road to hoe for them,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “But they have a great running back and we knew that we had to keep him down, which we did.”

Maurice Jones-Drew managed 5 yards a carry, but the Jaguars couldn’t feed him like they wanted to because they were 0-for-9 on third down and held the ball for just 16:43.

Not a misprint. Jacksonville’s time of possession was 16:43.

“They have really, really nice benches here,” Watt said of the real estate he occupied for most of the afternoon. “They have shade and they have cooling. So it was awesome that our offense could hold the ball for so long because it was relaxing over there.”

Some other things I took out of the Texans’ big win:

Don’t expect a controversy: Blaine Gabbert has an injury in the back of his leg and didn’t finish the game. Coach Mike Mularkey made the move to sit the quarterback sound precautionary. Gabbert didn’t talk about his own leg, deferring to Mularkey because of the coach’s overzealous policy that fines a player $10,000 for talking about an injury.

He was unproductive with seven completions in 19 attempts for 53 yards with three sacks and a touchdown pass. His accuracy was poor, but his receivers looked like they ran some bad routes, too.

The protection against a top defense was weak, he was hurt by several drops and he didn’t throw a pick or lose a fumble. Gabbert is still the starter -- provided his injury doesn’t cost him the bulk of practice this week and leave Mularkey feeling he’d be better off with Chad Henne in the short term.

For Jacksonville, 117 total net yards was a new franchise low, as was that time of possession.

“It was absolutely unbelievable some of the things we did, especially in the [scripted first] 15 plays,” Mularkey said.

The Jaguars had some mixed feelings about what the loss meant, which served mostly as evidence for how different guys digest a terrible day in different ways.

“It tells us that we’re not good enough, that we’ve got to change things, that we’ve got to improve, otherwise it’s going to happen every week,” safety Dwight Lowery said. “You can go about it a bunch of different ways. But the way we’ve been going about it obviously ain’t working.”

[+] EnlargeArian Foster
Phil Sears/US Presswire Arian Foster rushed for 110 yards on 28 carries as the Texans controlled the ball all game.
Countered tight end Marcedes Lewis: “Obviously they played a better game than we did today. That wasn’t us out there. We just never could really get it going. It just wasn’t our day. This is two games, you know. Fourteen left, that’s the good thing about it. When you lose, it sucks, but there are some things to gain from it. We’ll get better.”

Offensively the Jaguars were simply too conservative. Sure, missing two starters on the offensive line can create a dangerous situation for the quarterback. But at some point you have to threaten more to have a chance to win, if that’s what you intend to do.

Gabbert did not look down the middle of the field or deep often enough, and when he finally did the Jags found their biggest play of the day, a 39-yard connection with Laurent Robinson that set up a 5-yard touchdown catch for Jones-Drew.

“Those plays were called,” Mularkey promised. “I was on phones. I know it was called. The ball has to come out quicker.”

Such a good vibe: The Texans feel great about their ability to beat you in different ways and do what is necessary to win.

But they consider the run game their backbone, and a week after an 82-yard effort they found insufficient against Miami, Foster got his 17th 100-yard game and Ben Tate took 12 carries 74 yards and scored twice. The team managed 48 carries for 216 yards, which amounts to a 4.5-yard average.

“Whenever we can go out and run the ball we did, we just keep teams off balance,” said receiver Andre Johnson, who caught only three passes for 21 yards. “When we do that it’s hard to stop. Our plan was to run the ball. Coach stressed that after our performance last week.

“Every time we play that team the game is pretty much won by the team who runs the ball the best. The team that plays the most physical pretty much wins it. That’s what we did today.”

It wasn’t technically no-huddle, but the Texans' quick huddle dictated pace and certainly helped wear down the Jaguars considering how much Jacksonville's defense was on the field.

“It really helped us keep attacking,” quarterback Matt Schaub said.

Not reactive: Apparently EverBank Field security’s plan for a fan running onto the field is to pretend nothing is happening. That, or put the game on hold and let him tire himself out. If it is the latter, it should be reassessed, because it made the security look clueless and you can never tell what someone's intention is when he or she gets close to players.

At any rate, after this barefoot boob ran up and down the field early in the fourth quarter, he lined up wide near the line of scrimmage as if he was a split end and caught his breath. Then he took off again.

Lowery had seen enough, and chased him down. Lowery grabbed him with one hand, then passed him to a security person.

I asked Lowery what he was thinking as he decided to take care of it.

“Get the f--- off the field,” he said. “It’s ridiculous. I was willing to put a shot on him, but he held up when I got him.”

“That was crazy,” Houston left tackle Duane Brown said. “But it was pretty disturbing that he was just able to go out there and run freely and have a good time. I guess it was fun to watch and gave us a bit of a break.”

Chimed in Smith, who calls himself the Ninja Assassin: "That dude had, like, ninja-like stealthness."

 

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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