Jaguars vs. Texans Take Two: Defense Optional in Houston

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistNovember 19, 2012

As Derek Cox streaked toward Houston territory with the ball from Matt Schaub's second interception in tow, he had to be thinking he had just won the game for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The biggest upset of the season nearly took place in Houston in Week 11, as the Texans narrowly defeated the Jaguars 43-37 in overtime.

How did the Jaguars keep the game so close? After Cox's pick, how did they still lose the game?

A second look at the tape reveals all.


The Real Story

The Texans' defense played a terrible game.

The unit that has been the most consistent all season failed the Texans time and again against Chad Henne and the Jaguars.

The Houston offense had a terrific day, despite three turnovers. On the whole, it's difficult to argue with 34 points scored in regulation, especially considering Shayne Graham missed two field goals in the process.

This near-upset was all about the physicality of the Jacksonville wideouts. Justin Blackmon was simply too much for Kareem Jackson and friends to bring down. Cecil Shorts showed his ability to turn a short gain into a long one as long as he can make the first man miss.

Blackmon towered over the Houston corners and made big play after big play. Henne stood in well against the Houston pass rush and kept the ball advancing downfield.

In the long run, this is a game with larger ramifications for the Jaguars than the Texans. What it reveals about the source of the problems plaguing their offense all season could send shockwaves through the organization.

For Wade Phillips' boys, chalk it up as a rough afternoon and move on. If Calvin Johnson eats them up like a turkey drumstick on Thanksgiving day, there might be cause for concern. Until then, there's nothing to worry about in Houston.



Jacksonville can obviously count Henne and Blackmon as the biggest stars of the day, but the play of Shorts should not be overlooked. He's on pace for a 1,000-yard season and continues to improve each week.

Marcedes Lewis showed why could be an effective target in another offense. His leaping touchdown illustrates what an inviting red-zone target he is.

Schaub will get attention for his big-yardage day, and he unquestionably made some nice throws. His two interceptions were both terrible throws, however, so it wasn't an unblemished day.

The real hero of the day was Andre Johnson. From the first pass to the last for Houston, he was the story. Jacksonville never had an answer for him, and he put up one of the great performances of a legendary career.

Keshawn Martin also deserves attention for his excellent special teams performance. He had 238 return yards on seven punt and kickoff returns and chipped in a touchdown reception in what was easily the finest day of his young career.



Everyone on both defenses should be embarrassed by their play. Even for players like Derek Cox who had moments of glory, he had an equal share in allowing huge gains in the passing game.

Arian Foster struggled all game, averaging less than three yards a carry and coughing up a near fatal fumble deep in Houston territory.

Shayne Graham's two missed field goals nearly did in the Texans.


Secret Play

As well as Henne played, he wasn't perfect. There were plenty of off-target throws and missed opportunities.

On the Jaguars' first drive of the second half, they faced a 3rd-and-2 from the Houston 22.

Henne threw slightly behind Michael Spurlock on a short pass. Johnathan Joseph came in strong and caused Spurlock to bobble and drop the pass. Jacksonville settled for a field goal.

Henne did have Spurlock open, but the angle wasn't an easy one. He missed a wide-open Blackmon right in front of him.

It's hard to overly fault the decision, but at the very least the throw was poor.

It was a play Spurlock has to make, but his quarterback didn't help out.

A conversion there could have made a big difference in a nip-tuck game.


Coaching Notes

Gary Kubiak did his level best to lose this game for Houston with one of the worst all-around coaching performances of the year.

When people express concern over Kubiak's game management, this game will be exhibit A.

Early in the second quarter, Kubiak elected to punt on 4th-and-6 from the Jaguars' 36. Four plays later, the Jaguars had a touchdown. This has to be in the top five for worst punting decisions of the year.

In the third quarter, he elected to kick a field goal on 4th-and-1 from the nine-yard line.

At the end of regulation, Houston moved the ball to the Jaguars' 30 with 33 seconds left. Kubiak called two runs, drained the clock and elected to kick on third down.

It didn't go well.

Kubiak's coaching helped keep the Jaguars in a game they had no business being in.

Mike Mularkey's big roll of the dice came in overtime when he elected to go for it on 4th-and-10 from the Houston 47.

At the time, there was only 2:36 left to play in the game, so a punt would have resulted in no chance for the Jaguars to win as they were out of timeouts.

Instead of playing for the tie, he opted to let Henne go for it. Given the Jaguars' circumstance, it's hard to fault him.

His other option would have been to allow Josh Scobee to try a 64-yard field goal.

The odds were probably in favor of going for it.

Mularkey was aggressive all game, as he should have been. He let the Jaguars go for it at the end of the first half, which was the right call even though it nearly backfired.



Houston makes a quick turnaround, hopping on a jet to take on the Detroit Lions in the traditional Thanksgiving Day game.

It marks the first of three straight road tests for the Texans as they enter the toughest part of their schedule. They play four games against teams with winning records and two more against 4-6 teams.

The bad outing by the defense will most likely be forgotten if they can come out strong against Detroit. One game does not constitute a trend.

Jacksonville will have to answer their quarterback question soon. They may claim Gabbert is hurt, thus punting the choice.

They have five of their final six games against teams with a record of 4-6, so they are all winnable, but difficult affairs.

The challenge for the Jags is to put on a good showing at home. If they can't beat Tennessee in Jacksonville in Week 12, they may not win a home game in 2012.


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