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Jags Battled Houston Until the Texans Were Red

miller-article1The Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5) defeated AFC South rival Houston, 23-18, at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on Sunday. The Jaguars swept the season series with the Texans (5-7). The last time Jacksonville won both games against Houston was the 2005 regular season.

The Jaguars started hot by getting off to a 17-0 lead into the second quarter. At halftime, Jacksonville led 20-7. The Houston Texans outscored the Jaguars, 11-3, in the second half.

Both teams matched up almost evenly in every offensive category. Jacksonville did win the turnover battle, 3 to 1. And, the Jaguars’ defense held the Texans to 68 rushing yards.

Jacksonville is home this Sunday, December 13, at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. The Jaguars play the Miami Dolphins.

During the preseason, on August 17, Jacksonville lost to Miami by a score of 12-9. Sunday’s kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.

Now, on to the Awards…

Best Play of the Game: In the fourth quarter, safety Gerald Alexander intercepted a Chris Brown pass at the Jaguars’ 2-yard-line. If Houston had scored, it would have been 23-18 with about eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. Brown has essentially gift-wrapped two wins for Jacksonville this season. He fumbled near the goal line during the Week 3 matchup. The interception kept the Texans out of the end zone on a key drive.

Best Director (goes to Jaguar coach or coordinator): Mel Tucker, Defensive Coordinator – With the effective 4-3, the Jaguars’ defense held Houston to 68 yards on the ground. Three interceptions and two sacks helped rattle the duo of Matt Schaub and Rex Grossman. Also, Jacksonville’s defense hit the quarterback on six separate occasions. In addition to impressive line play, the secondary knocked away nine passes. The defense is gaining confidence weekly.

Best Jaguar in a Leading Role: David Garrard, starting quarterback – Garrard continued throwing sharp passes on Sunday. He hit nine different receivers for 238 yards through the air and two touchdowns. However, Garrard took a beating from the Houston defense – four sacks, nine quarterback hits and a safety. He was hit everywhere from his ribs to his knees. Tomorrow morning will be rough for the Jaguars’ quarterback. The key is for Garrard to get protection – when he does, he can be very good. It was the 17th career game with multiple touchdown passes for Garrard.

Best Jaguar in a Supporting Role: Maurice Jones-Drew, starting running back – He had nothing close to a 150-yard game and three touchdowns. However, Jones-Drew’s gutsy running in the fourth quarter sealed the deal for Jacksonville. He converted three first downs on the final drive – allowing Garrard to take three kneels once the game reached the two-minute warning. Houston keyed in on Jones-Drew, who ran the ball 24 times for 76 yards, with its linebackers. Every yard was hard-earned by Jones-Drew. His powerful running will be essential in the playoffs. With a second-quarter six-yard catch, Jones-Drew increased his streak to 47 consecutive games with a reception.

Mediocre Jaguars: The Jacksonville Jaguars offensive line – There was no individual Jaguar who stood out as having a bad game. But, the offensive line could have performed much better. With two rookie tackles, I think the line has played above average. A miss-handled snap between center Brad Meester and David Garrard led to a safety on the next play. It’s obvious that Garrard needs better protection. Like guard Uche Nwaneri told me after the game, the offensive line has goals that it has yet to reach, and it’s heading upward. The linemen understand Garrard cannot take crushing blows each week.

Best Texan in a Leading Role: Matt Schaub, starting quarterback – The Houston Texans need Schaub. He is the team’s heartbeat. After going down on the Texans’ first offensive play, Schaub went to the locker room with a left shoulder injury. Former Chicago Bear Rex Grossman took Schaub’s place for 1½ quarters. Grossman was an abysmal 3/9 for 33 yards with an interception and a 5.6 quarterback rating. Fortunately, for Houston, Schaub returned before the half and led his team on a 10-play, 82-yard drive, which resulted in a Chris Brown touchdown run. Throughout the second half, Schaub utilized Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, David Anderson and Ryan Moats. Schaub is a special talent.

Best Texan in a Supporting Role: Andre Johnson, starting wide receiver – I still consider Johnson the best wide receiver in the league. Sadly, he has never appeared in the playoffs. On Sunday, Johnson had seven receptions for a respectable 99 yards with one touchdown grab. The seventh-year wide receiver broke the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the fourth time in his career. Johnson’s 53-yard fourth-quarter catch was reminiscent of Terrell Owens’ 98-yard touchdown two weeks ago against Jacksonville. What I like the most about Johnson is his lack of ego. But, his ego could emerge if the Texans don’t make the playoffs this season.

Best Sound Editing: “Yeah, we have a little half-back pass that we have been working on for a while. We had what we wanted, but it didn’t work out. That’s a tough spot to put Chris in so it just ends up being a bad call by me – just a poor call.” – Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak on the Chris Brown interception. Brown fumbled near the goal line with little time remaining when these two teams met in Week 3.

Best Animated Short (goes to the player with the most passion on the field): Derek Cox, starting rookie cornerback – Through 12 games, Cox resembles nothing like a rookie. The William & Mary product tied his season-high with two passes defended. The 23-year-old Cox also contributed six tackles. He primarily kept stud wide receiver Andre Johnson in check. Johnson caught only seven balls even though he was targeted 17 times. Those numbers are a tad deceiving considering Schaub threw the ball out of bounds numerous times in the vicinity of Johnson. But, I can tell you Johnson will remember the name Derek Cox.

Tweet of the Week (Twitter post): “We need to do better if we want to get in this thing!!! LET’S STEP IT UP THIS WEEK!” – rookie left tackle Eugene Monroe on Tuesday, December 1. Monroe is obviously referring to the NFL playoffs.

Jaguar inactives:
Safety Sean Considine (concussion)
Offensive guard Kynan Forney
Cornerback Rashean Mathis (groin)
Offensive lineman Paul McQuistan
Defensive tackle Greg Peterson
Wide receiver Tiquan Underwood
Defensive end Julius Williams
Cornerback Brian Witherspoon

Other Jaguar notes:

Tyron Brackenridge started in place of the injured Rashean Mathis. Mathis missed his third consecutive game with a groin injury. Brackenridge recorded six total tackles and was credited with a pass defense.

Second-year defensive end Quentin Groves started instead of Julius Williams, who was inactive Sunday. Groves was electric on the playing field as he was in on three tackles and hit Schaub once.

Rookie tight end Zach Miller caught three balls for 74 yards. He tied his season-high for receptions and shattered his previous best for receiving yards by 60.

Miller’s 62-yard reception in the second quarter led to an Ernest Wilford touchdown. Miller was also horse-collar tackled on the play – adding another 15 yards.

Along with tight end Ernest Wilford’s four-yard touchdown, he had one more catch for seven yards. It was the first touchdown of the year for Wilford.

Mike Sims-Walker only had one catch for 12 yards. He was thrown to eight times, the most for any Jaguar receiver. It was the worst showing for Sims-Walker at home this season.

Wide receiver Nate Hughes caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from David Garrard in the second quarter. The score put Jacksonville in the lead, 10-0. It was Hughes’ first career touchdown catch.

Rookie Mike Thomas touched the ball five times for 25 yards. His end-arounds were kept in check by Houston. In the third quarter, Thomas muffed a Matt Turk punt. The Texans recovered at the Jaguars’ 16. Five plays later, Houston scored on a Kris Brown 32-yard field goal.

With the three interceptions on Sunday, Jacksonville now has 12 on the season. Mathis still leads the team with three.

Tight end Marcedes Lewis had one reception that went for 47 yards in the first quarter. For his career, he has 13 career receptions of 25 or more ards. It is the most by a tight end in Jaguars’ franchise history.

Defensive tackle John Henderson left the game in the third quarter with a shoulder strain. Even though Henderson had no tackles or pressures, his mere presence bolstered the Jacksonville defense.

Linebacker Justin Durant and defensive end Derrick Harvey recorded sacks against the Texans. This season, Jacksonville has 12 sacks.

Kicker Josh Scobee was 3/3 (51, 46 and 24) on field goals. He redeemed himself after a poor outing last week against San Francisco (1/3). The 51-yarder was booted into a stiff northeast wind. And, on the ensuing kickoff, Scobee nailed the ball for a touchback. He has his confidence back.

The tickets distributed for the game totaled 42,079.

The turnstile count at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium was 36,794.

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