Texans Defense Spoils Jags

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December 26, 2004
Texans Defense Spoils Jags

by Dave Sabo

If the Jaguars’ Christmas morning played out like their game with the Texans on Sunday, then it is safe to assume the Jags found plenty of coal in their stockings. Behind the stellar play of both a rejuvenated defensive unit and a surging Domanick Davis, the Texans recorded the first shutout in franchise history and all but ended the Jaguars bid for a post-season berth.

Early in the week, Jacksonville head coach Jack Del Rio begged the locals to sell out Alltel Stadium and create a “sea of teal” to welcome the Texans. Well, a sea of teal it was; teal seats, that is, as an announced paid crowd of 66,227 left enormous blocks of seats empty. With the home crowd a non-factor, the Texans took the opening kickoff and mounted a devastating 10-play, 65-yard scoring drive.

Looking to establish the run early, Houston handed the ball to Domanick Davis six times on the initial drive. Davis accounted for only 10 yards, but the strategy had Jacksonville biting on the play-fake time and again. David Carr completed all three passes he attempted, and the drive culminated with a one-yard plunge by Davis. From there, the Texans never looked back.

The Texans’ front seven on defense was relentless. In the face of Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich all day, the unit forced a fumble and interception off of Leftwich and twice forced him to the sideline; once, early in the first quarter after being sacked by Robaire Smith and, eventually, for good in the fourth. Leftwich completed just 6 of 14 passes for a paltry 54 yards.

Jaguars backup quarterback David Garrard fared no better, completing 4 of 7 passes for 19 yards. He and Leftwich were sacked three times and both were hurried and knocked down all afternoon.

The Texans reached the endzone midway through the second quarter on a gorgeous 10-yard pass from Carr to newly minted Pro Bowl wideout, Andre Johnson. The scoring strike was set up by a 16-yard completion to Johnson. A 44-yard run by Davis followed, totally deflating the Jaguars defense and opening the floodgates for Davis, who finished the day with a personal and team record of 155 yards on the ground.

With a 14-point lead and a non-existent return game (thanks to the genius decision to inactivate J.J. Moses, who may have still be suffering the effects of an injury), the offense took the second half off, leaving the game in the capable hands of the defense. Despite only recording three sacks, the defense managed to rattle Leftwich, harassing him out of the pocket and putting him on the turf all afternoon. Outside linebacker Antwan Peek gave Jags tackle Ephraim Salaam fits and had him resorting to holding him on nearly every down. Rookie linebacker Jason Babin laid the most devastating lick on Leftwich late in the first half, de-cleating the Jaguar quarterback and forcing an interception.

By the fourth quarter, the Jaguars were a whipped and humiliated team going through the motions. Their starting quarterback had been knocked out of the game, and Garrard was desperately trying to make something happen. With 3:33 left in the game, he completed a short pass to Troy Edwards who was drilled by Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, cornerback Dunta Robinson. Edwards coughed up the rock, and Peek scooped it up, rumbling 66 yards for a final touchdown. Forty-two seconds later, linebackers Jamie Sharper and Babin teamed up for a forced fumble and recovery to put the game and the Jags playoff hopes on a deep freeze. Merry Christmas!

With the win, the Texans set themselves up to post their first ever three-game win streak next week at home against the 3-11 Browns and can possibly avoid a losing season for the first time in franchise history. The Jaguars are left to wonder what might have been, as they travel to Oakland where they’ll need a win and a lot of help to reach the postseason.

What Went Right?

The Running Game Chris Palmer and Dom Capers were bound and determined to pound the rock today. While it paid few dividends on the ground early, it did open up the passing game as the Jags bit on the play fake constantly. Eventually, Davis got untracked and had his best day as a pro, carrying 30 times for 150 yards, a personal and team record. Jonathan Wells even got into the act with 34 yards on 6 carries including one punishing 13-yard run on a crucial third and three situation late in the game.

The Pass Rush The Texans made it a long day for Byron Leftwich and David Garrard. Constantly forced out of the pocket and hit on nearly every passing play, the Jags quarterbacking tandem was held to 31 net yards through the air on a combined 10 of 21 passing with three sacks and an interception. Antwan Peek continues to make his case for more playing time.

Defensive Third Down Efficiency The Jaguars ran ten third down plays and converted on just one. The Texans simply dominated the Jags on third down. Of course, when your average third down situation is third and ten, the defense can just pin its ears back. The only third down the Jags offense converted was on a third-and-three.

What Went Wrong?

Not-So-Special Teams Gaffney’s and Glenn’s efforts at trying to return punts were a complete joke. If the Texans had lost this game because of special teams turnovers, the villagers would be gathering at Reliant Park with torches and pitchforks. There’s no excuse for that kind of incompetence. Kris Brown’s field goal attempt was equally horrendous. They got away with it this week, but special teams need to tighten up.

Run Defense Luckily, the Texans jumped out to good lead early and forced Jacksonville to abandon the run. Three different backs averaged over 4 yards a carry and not one of them was named Fred Taylor. Even a gimpy Leftwich got in on the action with 19 yards rushing. Consider it another bullet dodged.

Um, well… I don’t know… Carr’s Awful Pass? It’s been a good day when you’re searching for a third “What Went Wrong” candidate. We’ll go with Carr’s horribly underthrown pass to Andre late in the second quarter. Maybe Andre should have come back to it, but it was a pretty awful pass. Thankfully, the only damage was to David’s passer rating.

Key Play Of The Game

With just over six minutes gone in the second quarter, the Texans lined up for first and ten at their own 45. Davis carried off tackle, ran over wannabe tough guy, Donovan Darius and was run out of bounds 44 yards later at the Jags 11. The only thing Jacksonville had done all day was contain Davis, but with that run, what little wind remained in their sails died. Three plays later Carr hit Johnson for a 14-point lead, and the Jags playoff hopes began to flicker.

Week 15 Robaire Smith gets help from Kailee Wong to bring down Byron Leftwich. Final Score Houston Texans 21 Jacksonville Jaguars 0 Lookin’ Good

Pass Rush
Hey, who were those guys getting after the quarterback today? The Texans had Leftwich and Garrard on the run all afternoon. Peek forced Salaam to hold him constantly, while Jason Babin and Robaire Smith delivered devastating hits on the Jag QB’s. Great effort by a front seven that “doesn’t scare anybody”.

Oh, my eyes!

Glenn and Gaffney
Remember that kid in Little League who was always told to bunt because he had a snowball’s chance of getting a hit? Well, you saw the NFL equivalent today as Glenn and Gaff were, apparently, told to let every punt drop to the turf. Who thinks J.J. dresses next week?

2004 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.14 Dallas 18-0 08.21 at Pittsburgh 3-38 08.27 at Denver 17-31 09.02 Tampa Bay 9-17 Regular Season 09.12 San Diego 20-27 09.19 at Detroit 16-28 09.26 at Kansas City 24-21 10.03 Oakland 30-17 10.10 Minnesota 28-34 10.17 at Tennessee 20-10 10.24 BYE — 10.31 Jacksonville 20-6 11.07 at Denver 13-31 11.14 at Indianapolis 14-49 11.21 Green Bay 13-16 11.28 Tennessee 31-21 12.05 at New York Jets 7-29 12.12 Indianapolis 14-23 12.19 at Chicago 24-5 12.26 at Jacksonville 21-0 01.02 Cleveland 14-22   Overall Record 7-9