NFL Nation: Jaguars-Texans
|AP Photo/Dave Einsel|
|Rookie Steve Slaton rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns to help the Texans to a 30-17 victory over the Jaguars on Monday.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
HOUSTON -- The Texans looked like a team with a foundation Monday night: Three stars shined for a team that played with resolve and assertively took a game from a division rival.
Three-fourths of the way through the season, it may mean they're finally figuring things out. It may mean the Jaguars, whose quarterback got tripped up by his linemen more than once as he dropped back, are an easy team to beat. It probably means some of both.
And that's got to be good enough for the home team, playing for the first time on "Monday Night Football" and now standing alone in third place in the AFC South at 5-7.
Receiver Andre Johnson set the tone with a 31-yard touchdown catch and run on the opening drive, but he then moved to the background in a game that belonged to defensive end Mario Williams, who sacked David Garrard three times and forced a fumble, and Steve Slaton, the electric rookie running back who accounted for 182 yards and two scores.
"He's a little monster for us, he's a little beast for us," cornerback Jacques Reeves said of Slaton, who's averaging 5 yards a carry and is on pace for 1,205 rushing yards and 10 rushing TDs.
As a third-round pick out of West Virginia, Slaton was projected by many as a third-down specialist, a change of pace. But unable to get any consistent contribution out of veteran Ahman Green this season -- he's now on injured reserve -- the Texans turned to Slaton to set the pace instead of changing it, and he has been more than they could have reasonably expected.
"Even our offensive coordinator sort of touted him as a Reggie Bush-style back, good out of the backfield with great hands for catching the ball," quarterback Sage Rosenfels said. "He's become a great every-down back. He hits the hole quick and he's got great balance.
"He usually gets hit pretty hard 5 or 6 yards downfield and has great balance to stay up and get another 4 or 5 and sometime break them. He has been sort of a gem for this football team. To find that kid in the third round, he's become one of the best players on our team."
HOUSTON -- Hope is in short supply for the two teams that squared off Monday night at Reliant Stadium. There is little that can make up for expectations this season they've missed by miles rather than yards.
But one team gets to leave Reliant Stadium feeling good, believing it can build something lasting in the final month of the season. One team is in third place in the AFC South behind two clubs that may be destined for big things in the playoffs.
That team is the Houston Texans, who won their first "Monday Night Football" game, topping Jacksonville 30-17. The Texans are now 4-1 against the Jaguars when they wear their red jerseys on what they call "Battle Red Day." It's hard to imagine they'll ever wear anything else against them.
At 5-7, the Texans are ahead of the 4-8 Jaguars. As Houston moves ahead, it expects to have starting quarterback Matt Schaub back in place after he missed the last four games with a knee injury.
That is a lot more than the Jaguars, who looked to give up late in the game, have to look forward to.
Through 10 games, the Texans gave up an average of 28.7 points a game, a total that made their ability to move the ball on offense less relevant.
But last week they made a concerted effort to be more aggressive defensively and won in Cleveland, 16-6.
They kept at it Monday with three sacks from Mario Williams and three forced turnovers. They mounted a successful goal-line stand and held a division rival to a field goal while the result was still up in the air.
The first of Jacksonville's two touchdown came with 2:11 left and the game well in hand.
That's nearly two full games for the Texans without allowing a touchdown. Maybe it's the start of something new.
Even if it's not -- even if it's more a commentary on the state of the Jags -- don't you think the Texans wish they had decided to force the issue and play a little more assertively on defense sooner?
The Texans just had their first possession of the second half and moved to a 50-yard Kris Brown field goal that put them ahead 13-0.
Mathis got hurt defending a desperation pass in the back right corner of the end zone. Holder Matt Turk tried to salvage a bad snap by Bryan Pittman on a 21-yard field goal attempt but his pass for Owen Daniels sailed incomplete as Mathis went down.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
With his touchdown, Johnson passed running back Domanick Williams (known as Domanick Davis for most of his career) for first place in franchise history. The 31-yard score broke a tie between Johnson and Williams, who had 28 career touchdowns and 168 points.
Johnson, an unassuming guy who's a great combination of size and speed, has suffered with his team's inconsistency at quarterback this season. This is the fifth game Matt Schaub has missed.
The team has talked some about how they hope Schaub-to-Johnson could someday be something like Peyton Manning-to-Marvin Harrison. They've got a long way to go to get there, but it's a nice aspiration.
The conversation about Johnson on the ESPN broadcast has been about how he's not a diva like some of the league's best-known receivers.
Houston has no interest in him developing into one of those, and he won't.
He's got a month's worth of games with Schaub, who is due to be back in the lineup next week at Green Bay, to resume building the connection the team hopes can take off for a full season next year.
"Monday Night Football" gets national attention for people.
In Porter's case, that's not a good thing.
The national audience was just reminded about his big free agent contract and how his production has not come close to matching expectations.
Those who didn't know just found out he's got eight catches this season. They've been good for 115 yards and one score.
And his team is still in need of an explosive downfield receiver.
HOUSTON -- They are used to indoor football here, but Hurricane Ike tore up the retractable roof at Reliant Stadium and the Texans are playing this season with the roof open.
The crowd is a bit spotty, partly because the Texans are a disappointing 4-7, partly because Houstonians aren't eager to bundle up and partly because club seat holders are in the club. It was 53 degrees at kickoff, and it is expected to be in the 40s before we're finished here. (Bears fans would have their shirts off.)
It's Battle Red Day and the team handed out red T-shirts to match the head-to-toe red uniforms. If the giveaways are the outside layer, it's only because they've been put on over jackets instead of under them.
After one possession for each team, the Jaguars were officially at risk.
The Texans waltzed to a Sage Rosenfels-to-Andre Johnson touchdown pass to get things started. The Jaguars answered with a brutal three-and-out that featured false start penalties called on left tackle Khalif Barnes and fullback Greg Jones.
Now the Texans are starting possession No. 2 near midfield. The vibe is not good for the Jaguars, but we know Rosenfels is capable of the sort of poor decisions that can get Jacksonville right back in it.
HOUSTON -- No major surprises in inactives or starting lineups for Jaguars-Texans.
Jacksonville tight end George Wrighster, activated last week off the PUP list, will play for the first time this season.
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