ReFo: Texans @ Jaguars, Week 14
This wasn’t the most attractive game heading in with a 3-9 team hosting a 2-10 team in a battle to obtain or avoid (depending upon your view point) the No. 1 overall pick but as is so often case the NFL has this way of delivering. There were big plays, trick plays, big performances by big time players and a comeback that fell short when the replacement quarterback threw a shocking interception just before the two-minute warning. If you could get past this being the 2-10 Texans and the 3-9 Jaguars there was plenty to enjoy and take from this game.
After earning the victory last night and moving to 4-9 the Jaguars now hold the AFC’s longest winning streak at three wins and are tied with the Patriots and the Broncos for the best record in the last five games. After a 0-8 start you wouldn’t have expected to hear that and with this strong month of play they are starting to move past the Texans on their own merit, not just because of the precipitous and catastrophic collapse by last year’s AFC South champions.
The story of the game for the Texans was the repeated dubious decision by Gary Kubiak to pull starting quarterback Case Keenum for former starting quarterback Matt Schaub. Though Keenum again struggled, there seemed to be little credible motivation for the move but it did payoff with Schaub establishing a greater rhythm in the passing game and helping to bring Houston back into the game. In the end, though, he matched what Keenum did in the first half, throwing a shocking interception to gift the Jaguars’ three points just before the end of each half. I’ve been guilty of backing the Texans a few too many times to pull out of their slump that now sits at 11 straight defeats, at this point the realization has to be that they are more likely to lose out and hit 14 straight losses rather than notch a win to break that sequence.
Houston – Three Performances of Note
Musical Chairs at Quarterback Leaves Everyone Standing
Less than a month after pulling Case Keenum midway through a defeat to the Oakland Raiders, the Texans repeated the trick last night against Jaguars getting Matt Schaub back on the field in a move that raises all sorts of confusion as to what motivates this team and this franchise in the final month of the season. If they are looking to the future why was Keenum, yes he played a poor game and threw a rotten interception to Alan Ball late in the first half, pulled after a fairly inconspicuous three-and-out midway through the third quarter? If they view Schaub as the best option to win games — which Kubiak may need to do to keep his job (by pulling Keenum twice mid-game you could at least make the suggestion that they hold that opinion) — then why isn’t Schaub starting? The move nearly worked this week with Schaub playing reasonably well until the awful interception that basically ended the game as a contest, but the chop and change at quarterback speaks to the rudderless nature of this team and this franchise as it tries to come to terms with how far and how fast it has fallen in the last three months.
Lessons to be Learned for Swearinger
As a rookie in the NFL you are always going to have your rough outings and games that you need to learn and move on from. Rookie safety D.J. Swearinger certainly had one of those nights last night making life as difficult for himself as Jacksonville made it for him. On consecutive plays to end the second quarter, Swearinger was accountable for keeping the Texans on the field when they made plays to get off the field. The first of those was a third-down stop on a pass defense by Kareem Jackson where Swearinger felt the need to jaw at the Jags as they left the field, pointing them the way off; 15 yards and a first down. He followed that up immediately by getting beat by Marcedes Lewis on a double move, responding with a hold that prevented Lewis from reaching the pass and in turn wiped out Eddie Pleasant’s diving interception.
Though he certainly made his share of solid plays in the game (leading the Texans with a career-high five stops) for the most part he couldn’t stay out of his own way including wiping out one of his own good plays (a tackle for loss on Maurice Jones Drew) with his third penalty. That play led immediately to the Jaguars’ trick play touchdown with Swearinger unable to get to Jordan Todman as he pulled in Ace Sanders’ pass. There was solid play in this game for Swearinger in both run and pass game, but on this night it was outweighed and over shadowed by his ill-discipline and missed tackles.
Johnson and Watt Continue to Deliver
The two consistent positives for Houston throughout their decline this season have been Andre Johnson on offense and J.J. Watt on defense. Once again the two stars of the rosters delivered in defeat with Johnson contributing the small matter of 154 receiving yards on 13 receptions (a season high 21 targets) and Watt delivering another formidable display of both run defense and pressure as a pass rusher. This was Johnson’s sixth 100 yard game of the season and featured eight first downs in his 13 receptions as well as drawing a pass interference penalty from Alan Ball late in the second quarter. On defense all Watt did was deliver another performance (+8.0) that would be a career day for just about any other 3-4 defensive end but is only his sixth-highest single game grade of the season. As a pass rusher he notched another seven pressures including three hits which takes his season total to 31, five more than he had all of last season including the Texans’ two playoff games. His sack and batted pass total might be down but Watt is still playing better than any other defensive player in the league, the dominance he brings to the field is about so much more than just those headline numbers.
Jacksonville – Three Performances of Note
Early End to Jones-Drew’s Big Night
Until a hamstring forced him out of the game at the end of the third quarter Maurice Jones-Drew had been the best offensive player on the field and served us all a reminder of the terrific all-around runner he was before injury robbed him of the majority of the 2012 season. On 14 carries he racked up 103 yards including a 48-yarder that featured a quartet of missed tackles as he scythed his way through the Houston secondary. His offensive line and the Houston defensive line gave him a decent head start with 2.2 yards per carry before contact and he made the most of that adding an extra 5.1 yards per carry after first contact. Jones-Drew got his best gains heading right with 97 yards on 10 carries heading right compared to 6 yards on four carries heading left. Adding an extra 20 yards through the air, Jones-Drew earned his second-highest single game grade of the season with more strong play in pass protection, still no pressure allowed since 2011, to round out his performance.
Davis Closes Out the Texans Again
When the Jaguars went in to Houston to start their now three-game win streak, they closed out the win courtesy of a terrific diving interception by Ryan Davis. In his fourth game of the season Davis had the best game of his career as a pass rusher notching five pressures including two sacks, both beating his season total entering the game. His first sack saw him come free to help Andre Branch finish off Schaub with six minutes left in the final stanza before his second sack closed out the game, beating Duane Brown outside before chasing Schaub back off of an already deep drop to take the Texans’ second signal caller down at his own 5-yard line. Davis got his other three hurries from the inside beating the Texans’ left guard rotation of Ben Jones and Wade Smith for a hit and two hurries.
Tough Night for Gratz
With Andre Johnson putting up yards and first downs on the other side, someone in the Jacksonville secondary had to be on the receiving end and one of those was Dwayne Gratz who had one of his tougher outings since entering the starting lineup. Against Johnson he surrendered four completions on six targets for 50 yards on one of those catches ending up on the ground as Johnson made the catch while missing a tackle on an earlier target. His -3.3 coverage grade was his lowest of the season as Johnson’s chief victim this time around with the remainder of Johnson’s catches and yards spread among six other Jacksonville defenders.
– Paul Posluszny earned his highest run defense grade of the season (+2.8) and notched six stops, his second-highest mark.
– The Texans rotated at two spots on the offensive line. At left guard Wade Smith played 52 snaps to Ben Jones’ 32 while at right tackle Derek Newton played 48 to Ryan Harris’ 36.
– Eight of the Texans’ nine defensive penalties were conceded by the starting secondary with Johnathan Joseph joining D.J. Swearinger in surrendering three.
PFF Game Ball
His early departure lost the Jaguars’ their most important tool in running this game out more comfortably than they managed but in three quarters Maurice Jones-Drew added the spark that many wondered would be there in this game.
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