Maurice Jones-Drew enjoyed his last game against the Texans.
The Jaguars‘ stalwart back ran for 119 yards and tied a season-high with three touchdowns to lead Jacksonville to a 31-24 win over Houston earlier this season. Making sure that doesn’t happen again will be key Sunday if the Texans hope to stop their losing streak at three and make a late push for the playoffs.
Houston (5-6) needs to win all of its games to stay in the playoff conversation. This win could be a bit more important because the Jaguars (6-5) are also fighting for an AFC wild card spot.
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“We’ve got to stop him and it’s not just stopping him running the ball, they’ll throw it to him on third downs,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “He’s going to touch the ball 30 times. As he goes their football team goes.”
In the teams’ first meeting, Jones-Drew had 23 carries, four receptions for 28 yards and scored on runs of 61, 1 and 8 yards. He is fifth in the NFL with 1,001 yards rushing and is averaging 4.8 yards a carry.
The most dangerous thing about him is that defenders often think they have him corralled only to watch up pop out of the pile and run for a big gain. Kubiak said he’s admired his style since Jones-Drew was at UCLA.
“He’s a small, powerful guy,” Kubiak said. “He’s hard to tackle. Sometimes you think he’s down when he’s not down. He’s just very, very strong.”
Cornerback Dunta Robinson said it’s not a good feeling to see Jones-Drew bust through the line and know it’s become his job to bring him down.
“You really don’t even get a chance to think about it then. After the play is over and your head is kind of hurting a little bit, you get upset with the linemen and linebackers,” he said, partly joking. “He’s a tough running back and he makes your job very difficult. It’s tough enough trying to cover the receivers, but tackling him is a whole different ball game.”
The Texans all agree that 208 pounds on a 5-foot-7 frame gives Jones-Drew leverage in tackling situations because taller defenders simply can’t get as low as he does.
This Texans defense is different from the one the Jaguars faced the first time around. Through the first three games Houston was allowing a league-worst 205 yards rushing a game, but has since cut that number down to a respectable 120 yards a game. The addition of safety Bernard Pollard has been cited as a major reason for that improvement. His first game as a Texans was the week after the Jacksonville game.
Pollard isn’t focused on what Jones-Drew can do, but more on how Houston’s defense can continue to improve.
“The biggest thing is that it’s not so much about them, it’s about us being on our assignment and us doing our assignment,” he said. “If we play smart football and not put ourselves in the situation we’ve been in the last three weeks where we find a way to lose the game … we will rally and get it done.”
The Texans are still reeling from letting a 17-point lead slip away in last week’s 35-27 loss to Indianapolis and know consistency will be key in moving on from that debacle.
“We have to play a full football game,” Robinson said. “We’ve played for a half a lot of this season, but we haven’t played for two halves. If we could put a complete game together as we have done in some games, we won’t have any trouble coming home with a win.”
In injury news, left tackle Duane Brown did a walk through with the team Wednesday but did not practice because of a sprained knee. Kubiak hopes he’ll return to practice by Friday.