No sluggish start. No moments of concern. No need for a barrage of turnovers to get going.
The Houston Texans dominated AFC South rival Jacksonville from start to finish and in every phase Sunday.
Arian Foster ran for 110 yards and a touchdown, Ben Tate added 74 yards and two scores and the Texans overwhelmed the Jaguars in a 27-7 victory that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score.
The Texans improved to 2-0 for the third consecutive season. The Jaguars started 0-2 for the third time in the past five years, and have lost four straight in the series.
The latest meeting wasn’t even competitive. It may have eased any concerns Houston had about last week’s 30-10 victory against Miami, a game in which the Texans struggled until converting three consecutive turnovers into touchdowns late in the second quarter.
”We were mad that we started slow last game so we came out here with a mission, a goal, to start fast,” Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said. ”Two 20-point wins the first two weeks? That’s what you’re supposed to do. If we can just stay focused on our goals, we should be fine.”
Houston looked every bit like a team picked to win the AFC South and make a run at the Super Bowl.
The Texans gained 242 yards in the first half while building a 17-0 lead. Foster ran for 69 yards and a score. Tate added 49 and a touchdown. Matt Schaub, using mostly short throws, picked apart Jacksonville’s defense.
”This was a tough loss for us,” Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny said. ”You’re playing at home, against a division opponent, a playoff team, and we go out and perform like this? We did not play well at all. It showed us where we’re at. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Especially on offense.
The Jaguars finished with a franchise-low 117 yards – worse than anything they did last season as the NFL’s least productive offense.
”I’m not going to sit here and say I’ve got the answers for what went wrong with our team today,” Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri said. ”But clearly we weren’t firing on all cylinders.”
Blaine Gabbert played as he did as a rookie, hurrying throws, missing open receivers and showing little pocket presence. Gabbert completed 4 of 11 passes for 13 yards in the first half, was sacked twice and had two balls batted down at the line of scrimmage – both by Watt.
Gabbert finished 7 of 19 for 53 yards – his fewest passing yards as a starter – and ended the day standing on the sideline with an ice pack on his left leg. He played one series in the fourth quarter before giving way to backup Chad Henne.
”We killed ourselves,” Gabbert said. ”We were 0 for 9 on third down, just a lack of execution. Had a bunch of mental mistakes. We just shot ourselves in the foot. And you can’t win football games in the NFL by doing that.”
Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey said Gabbert ”has a strain in the back of his leg” and that he pulled him as a precaution since the game was out of hand.
”It wasn’t worth the risk,” Mularkey said, adding that he’s unsure if Gabbert will be able to play next week at Indianapolis.
Even with Gabbert healthy, the Jacksonville managed just 43 yards in the first half. That was the third-fewest in franchise history.
The Jaguars showed some life to open the second half, turning good field position into a touchdown. Gabbert hooked up with Laurent Robinson for 32 yards, and then found Maurice Jones-Drew in the flat for a 5-yard score.
Houston answered right back, though, driving 80 yards in 17 plays. Jacksonville looked as if it would force a punt, but rookie Andre Branch was flagged for being offside on a third-down play, which kept the drive alive.
Tate’s 2-yard plunge made it 24-7.
”That was a huge drive,” Texans left tackle Duane Brown said. ”We came out the second half, kind of flat and not with the same urgency we had in the first half. Coach got on us quickly and told us to pick it up. So the long drive was good. It made a statement for us, especially those of us up front. I think it took the wind out of them and really gave us a lot of momentum.”
Houston finished with 411 yards, ran 83 plays, managed 28 first downs and converted 8 of 17 times on third down. Jacksonville ran 38 plays and had the ball for 16 minutes, 43 seconds – another franchise low.
The Jaguars played without left guard Eben Britton and right tackle Cam Bradfield. With four offensive linemen already on injured reserve, Jacksonville turned to veteran Herb Taylor to start at left guard. Taylor practiced just three times this week – none in full pads – and hadn’t played in a game since 2008.
Jacksonville’s plan to run the ball early and often got thrown out the window as soon as Houston built its early lead.
”All of it was weird,” Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. ”We’ve got to fight. We’re not in too big a hole. We’ve got to climb out of that hole and pull it together.”
Notes: Jones-Drew ran 12 times for 60 yards. His touchdown was the 75th of his career. He joined Randy Moss, Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates as the only active players with at least 75. … Jaguars PK Josh Scobee set the franchise record for points (765), breaking the previous mark held by Mike Hollis. … Schaub completed 26 of 35 passes for 195 yards. … Texans have won four in a row in the series for the first time.