Defense dominates as Jaguars win season opener vs. Texans
HOUSTON (AP) — Celebrations of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ win over the Houston Texans were tempered by concerns for their state as Hurricane Irma made landfall on Sunday, with the mammoth storm threatening to affect all of Florida.
“It was a nice win, but you can really only enjoy it momentarily because our thoughts and prayers are back with everyone in Florida,” coach Doug Marrone said, “… and hoping that they’re safe.”
The uncertainty of the storm also left their plans for the week in limbo. Teams normally return home immediately after games, but the Jaguars were staying in Houston on Sunday night and will decide what their next step is on Monday.
Leonard Fournette ran for 100 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut, and Jacksonville had a franchise-record 10 sacks and forced four turnovers to get the 29-7 victory, their first in a season-opener since 2011.
Blake Bortles threw for 125 yards and a touchdown, Calais Campbell had four sacks and Dante Fowler returned a fumble 53 yards for a score as the Jaguars snapped a six-game skid against Houston.
“I was feeling anxious and ready for Week 1 to start and write a new narrative and kind of change the script,” said Bortles who was 0-6 against Houston entering the game. “I thought we did a great job up front, and we were able to run the ball well, so it made my job easy.”
The Texans hoped to provide a boost to the area ravaged by Hurricane Harvey with a win. Instead, Tom Savage struggled behind a porous line and was benched in favor of rookie Deshaun Watson at halftime with Houston down 19-0.
“It was a terrible day on offense, but it wasn’t that much better defensively … we have a lot of work to do,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “I told the team we’ve got to stick together and we’ve got to get back to work right away.”
J.J. Watt returned after missing 13 games last season after back surgery, but injured his finger in the first half and finished with just one tackle.
He was asked to describe his play.
“Terrible,” he said. “There’s only way to go from here and that’s up. Can’t play much worse.”
A 42-yard field goal by Jason Myers made it 3-0 in the first quarter and he added one from 25 yards early in the second.
The Texans punted on their first four possessions, and the fifth one ended when Savage fumbled on a sack by Yannick Ngakoue and the Jaguars recovered the ball.
Fournette, the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, added his 1-yard touchdown after that, but the kick failed, leaving Jacksonville up 12-0.
Savage was sacked six times in the first half, playing behind a line without veteran left tackle Duane Brown, who is holding out. The Texans were also without receivers Will Fuller, who has a broken collarbone, and Jaelen Strong, who served a one-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Ngakoue picked up the last sack of the half, stripping the ball as he pulled Savage down. Fowler scooped it up and dashed for the score to make it 19-0.
Watson threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins on his first drive to cut the lead to 19-7 early in the third quarter.
On his 27th birthday, Tommy Bohanon grabbed a 1-yard TD pass from Bortles after that to extend Jacksonville’s lead to 26-7.
The Texans coughed it up again late in the third quarter when Watson fumbled on a sack by Fowler and Ngakoue recovered it.
Houston was driving late in the fourth quarter when Watson turned it over again on an interception by Tashaun Gipson, who returned it 67 yards. The Jaguars added a field goal after that to make it 29-7.
Houston linebacker Brian Cushing, tight ends Ryan Griffin and C.J. Fiedorowicz and receiver Bruce Ellington all left the game with concussions. Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson injured his left knee in the first quarter and didn’t return.
THEY SAID IT
Houston cornerback Johnathan Joseph on what went wrong: “Just got punched in the mouth today … no other words can describe it.”
The official Jaguars Twitter account had a little fun on Sunday by changing their handle to “Sacksonville” after setting the franchise record for sacks in a game. Campbell led the way in his first game with the Jaguars after spending his first nine seasons with the Cardinals, Yannick Ngakoue added two and Lerentee McCray had 1 sacks.
“We want to be the best defense in the league and we have that ability,” Campbell said. “But it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t continue with it.”
Jaguars: Host Tennessee on Sunday.
Texans: Face a quick turnaround with a trip to Cincinnati on Thursday.