The Jacksonville Jaguars go on the road to Houston and dominate the Texans. Yes, I’ll say it, they dominated them. The final score may not reflect this, but I gotta say that I was impressed by the way that the Jags played, especially on defense. After Gus Bradley’s team had been catching a lot of heat all year about being the NFL’s worst team, they have actually fought their way out of the basement in the AFC South and with this win they are actually elevated to third place. I’ll bet nobody saw this coming. So anyways, how did they do it? What worked well for them? I will investigate these questions below.
Jacksonville- The Good: The Jaguars were awesome on defense. I was very impressed by the way they tackled. Nine out of ten times, the first Jag to the ball was able to wrap up and get the Houston ball-carrier down, thus eliminated their ability to run for additional yardage. The “D” kept all of the plays in front of them and players rallied to make the tackles. I liked the linebackers pursuit to the ball as well. There were only a few times where they were gutted up the middle by back-up running back Dennis Johnson, but other than those I thought the linemen showed good gap integrity. Another positive for this team was the running by Maurice Jones-Drew. He was an active participant in the action early on, catching many passes out of the backfield and finding some nice holes to run though on the ground. I thought the guys up front did an excellent job blocking for him, and fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou was a beast as a lead blocker. I would like to see the Jags run some more isolation plays with a fullback leading the way into the hole. Also, Chad Henne protected the football. His throws were pretty accurate, even when he was under pressure in the pocket. He did not turn the ball over, and also took the Jags down the field for a touchdown on the first drive of the game (for the third week in a row). Solid play out of the quarterback position is something that this team really needs going forward, for it will also help open up holes for their running backs and make their ground game a bit easier to work with. One final thing that was good for Jacksonville was third down. Their defense held the Texans to 4/15 on third down while their offense converted 7/17 attempts. If you can win the third down battle, you can generally win the game.
Jacksonville- The Bad: I didn’t think they did much badly in this game, but there were some things that need to be worked on. For starters, they had some nice drives going in Houston territory, but penalties and sacks would back them out of field goal range and force them to punt. If you go back and look at their games from earlier this season, you will see that this has been a recurring theme and one of the biggest reasons why they average just over 13 points per game. Seven penalties for 63 yards did take their toll on Jacksonville. For this team to be good in the future, they will need to work on cutting their penalties down to about three or four per game. The other thing that I thought could have been better was the pass protection. Chad Henne didn’t have a ton of time to go through his progressions in this game, and thus the offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch had to dial up a lot of screen plays, which the Texans were able to sniff out for the most part. The guards will need to do a better job blocking up the interior as we go forward.
Houston- The Good: Not surprisingly, the Texan defense was pretty good in this game. They, like Jacksonville, did not miss many tackles and were able to create a nice surge up front with their defensive line. J.J. Watt will get credit for pressuring Henne a lot in this game, but Antonio Smith was also a force to be reckoned with. Really, the entire Houston pass rush had a nice game; they were able to tee off on the Jaguars offensive line and make plays in the backfield. Offensively, there was not much for the Texans to smile about outside of Dennis Johnson. In the preseason, I thought he showed some pretty nice burst and so far it has carried over to the regular season. However, he did bite into the 32nd ranked run defense in the league in this game, so we will have to see if he can continue this success going forward against some teams that aren’t so easy to run the ball against.
Houston- The Bad: Offensively, the Texans were pretty bad. Their offensive line was simply out-played in this one. Derek Newton had a rough day on the outside and he was just pushed backwards all afternoon. Interior blocking could have been better as well because the Jags were able to push through to the backfield and force Case Keenum to run for his life. Also, Keyshawn Martin’s drop late in the fourth quarter was ugly. The ball was well thrown with :45 left in the game. Houston had control at the Jaguars’ 41 yard line and were looking for the game-tying score, but the comeback attempt was squashed when the ball deflected off of Martin’s hands and into the hands of defensive end Ryan Davis. That was a catch that needed to be made; one that the great wide receivers would have been able to make. Speaking of great wide receivers, Andre Johnson had a quiet afternoon. He had just two catches for 36 yards. The Texans really should have tried to incorporate this beast into their game plan a bit more than they did. Keenum only targeted him six times in this game. I would have liked to have seen the ball thrown his way at least twelve times in a low scoring game like this.
The Bottom Line: So all and all, it was an impressive outing defensively for the Jaguars. Their offense performed pretty well, but they can improve in certain areas. Anyways, with this win they have matched their win total from last year (with two). Gus Bradley will continue to be positive and continue to have his guys playing hard each week, and that is something that you have to admire about this bunch. And for the Texans, well they are really hurting without Arian Foster. His presence in this game could have changed the outcome. They just do not pack the same punch without him in the backfield. Offensively Houston is a mess, which is something we have not really seen from them in the history of their franchise, hence their franchise-high nine game losing streak. Next week they will try to redeem themselves with the Patriots coming to town. I like their defense, it is just the offense that I have major questions about at this point in the season.