Matt Leinart started slow, completing a few safe short passes but none for a first down.
After a few drives Leinart settled in, making his best throw of the day with about 6 minutes left in the first half on a 20 yard TD pass to Joel Dreessen, giving the Texans a lead they would not relinquish.
All seemed to be on the right track. That is until Jeremy Mincy landed on Leinart’s shoulder just like Antwan Odom landed on Matt Schaub’s a few years ago. And the result was basically the same.
T.J. Yates was thrown into the game and to his credit moved the team 40 yards in 8 plays to help the Texans get a field goal just before half to put the Texans up 20-10.
And that was it for the Texans offense on Sunday.
The Texans second half possessions went like this:
Punt, punt, punt. Punt, punt. Punt, punt.
The Texans ran 23 plays for 54 yards in the second half before getting a gift from Jack Del Rio at the end of the game, allowing them to kneel down and run out the final 1:14 for the win.
Thankfully the Jaguars offense was so bad that the Texans could have kneeled down the entire second half and just let the defense do its thing.
Blaine Gabbert was terrible and the Texans defense had its way with him, sacking him six times before he was mercifully pulled in the fourth quarter in favor of Luke McCown who almost rallied the Jags back from the dead.
But after McCown completed a 25 yard pass to Marcedes Lewis to the Texans 40 yard line with 1:16 remaining, Del Rio (and his OC presumably) opted to hurry-up on a critical 4th and 2, trying a curious pass attempt over the middle to Mike Thomas which fell incomplete, sealing the win for the Texans.
This is one week removed from Del Rio not calling Maurice Jones-Drew’s number from the one yard line for a game winner at Cleveland.
The good news is that the Texans won their eighth game of the season and preserved their two game lead over the Titans in the AFC South.
The other good news is that the Texans have a defense, and it won the game nearly single handed today.
Connor Barwin had a career day with 10 tackles, 4 sacks, 5 tackles for loss and 6 hurries. Johnathan Joesph added an interception and the Texans D allowed only 6 points on the day.
The bad news is the Texans had no offense in the second half and unless Gary Kubiak can get T. J. Yates comfortable and able to run some semblance of an offensive package, those last two games the Texans need to win their first AFC South title may be tough to get.
The Texans could muster only 9 first downs, 88 yards rushing on 31 attempts, and 127 yards passing. Andre Johnson was a non-factor as Leinart then Yates struggled with looks beyond 10 yards.
To Yates’ defense, you can’t expect him to step right in and run the show like a #2. Yates’ first team reps at practice have been nil and his command of the offense is limited.
Kellen Clemens becomes the Texans #2 QB and expect the Texans to sign another QB this week.
You could tell that Kubiak was just trying to get out of this game with a W. His next challenge will be to install some form of Yates Package that will allow the Texans to get a first down every once in a while.
The Texans offense is fueled by flow and misdirection, running pass plays out of sets that look like running plays, and forcing defenses to respect the passing game just enough to make the running game work. Without the ability to keep defenses guessing between the two, the Texans offense becomes one-dimensional and pedestrian very quickly – as you saw in the second half today.
So let’s enjoy this 8-3 record (seems unreal to even type that) because there aren’t many offenses remaining on the schedule that are as bad as Jacksonville’s. The next two are going to be especially difficult and the defense can’t do it all every week.
This is likely the high water mark for the Texans this season, a unique season to say the least. But I’m afraid the Texans ‘next man up’ mantra may have just found its limit.