Any matador worth his cape could have told the Houston Texans that when you flash your red, you'd better not be standing prone behind it.
The Jacksonville Jaguars gashed the Texans' league-worst run defense Sunday for 184 yards and three touchdowns to spoil one of Houston's annual "battle red" uniform days. Amongst their 31 carries, one stood out as the Jaguars' signature.
1-10-HOU 19 (11:32) 32-[Maurice] Jones-Drew up the middle to HST 14 for 5 yards (93-[Tim] Bulman).
NFL.com's play-by-play account of the game, short and to-the-point, does little to document the grunt work put into those five yards by Jones-Drew and the offensive line.
Having given up a touchdown less than a minute before halftime to go down 21-17, Jacksonville started the third quarter by moving 64 yards in seven plays, including a 22-yard reverse and a 28-yard deep pass.
Inside Houston's 20-yard line for only the second time in the game, the Jaguars reverted to their bread-and-butter rushing attack.
After taking the handoff from David Garrard, Jones-Drew plowed straight ahead into the gap between center Brad Meester and left guard Vince Manuwai. He was met at the line by Bulman, who hit him low, and a blitzing linebacker overloading the gap.
With his feet churning, though, Jones-Drew extended the play. Meester and Manuwai dug in, shoving forward behind their persistent running back. Guard Uche Nwaneri and one of the Texans' defensive linemen joined the pile as the play degenerated into a rugby-style scrum.
Locked in over Jones-Drew, the three big Jaguars muscled forward for five yards before the mass of players collapsed. Nwaneri emerged from the pile pumping his fist in the air, ready for second and five.
Two plays later, Jones-Drew bounced off a would-be tackler at the goal line and walked in for six. The Jaguars never trailed thereafter.
Jacksonville did significant damage through the air, passing for 214 yards and on all five of their third-down conversions. Given ample time to throw by rookie tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, Garrard hit the Texans up for chunks of yardage throughout the game.
But Sunday's game was won up front, where the Jaguars' offensive line paved over Houston's outmatched defensive front and undersized linebacking corps to lead a ground game that averaged nearly six yards per carry. They generated push on runs up the middle and sealed well on the ends for sweeps, off-tackle runs, and a pair of end-arounds by rookie receiver Mike Thomas.
Garrard got in on the action, gaining 32 yards and a touchdown on two designed bootlegs as Jacksonville used misdirection to freeze the Texans' defensive secondary.
Houston's quick-strike passing offense kept pace with Jacksonville's grinding ground game for thirty minutes, answering Jacksonville's long drives with three first-half scores.
But when the Texans lost those two crucial shoving matches on the Jaguars' first second-half scoring drive and failed to answer with a touchdown, Jacksonville gained the downhill momentum needed for a 14-3 run over the last two frames to take over the game.