Texans 20, Jaguars 3
Texans clinch AFC South after 20-3 win over Jaguars
The Texans clinched the AFC South title with Sunday's 20-3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars and now wait to see who their first playoff opponent will be. It started slowly for Houston's offense with the usual three-and-out to start the game, but they turned it around quickly with another stellar performance from Deshaun Watson and never looked back. It helped that the Texans' defense completely shut down Jacksonville's offense, whose only points were a field goal after a Houston special teams fumble that the Jaguars recovered at the Houston 10-yard line.
J.J. Watt and the defense got pressure on Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles early and often, including Watt's league-leading seventh forced fumble of the season. He finished the game with a half sack, giving him 15 for the season, and four seasons of 15 plus sacks in his career. Bortles finished the game with only 107 yards passing and the Jaguars offense managed only 119 total yards of offense.
Houston's offense didn't put up a lot of points on the scoreboard, but they didn't need to. They had a bad series inside the red zone after five plays on their second possession put them inside the 20. They made it first and goal at the five-yard line and two plays later looked like they had a touchdown run by Watson. Upon review, he was ruled down at the 1-yard line. They failed to punch it in on third down and were forced to settle for a field goal, the 36th one made by Ka'imi Fairbairn this season and a team record for most in a season. He added number 37 in the fourth quarter and with the two extra points he made, he added to his league leading points scored total to finish with 150.
While the defense was dominating Jacksonville in the first half, the Texans were able to string together two touchdown drives of 51 and 63 yards to go up 17-3 at the break. The first one came after the special teams made up for their earlier turnover that gave the Jaguars three points. After a three-and-out forced a Houston punt, and it was muffed by Jacksonville's returner Dede Westbrook and linebacker Zach Cunningham secured it at the Houston 49-yard line. Watson led a quick four play drive that he finished himself with a five-yard touchdown run. Later in the second quarter, the offense put together a nine play, four-and-a-half-minute drive that ended with Lamar Miller lowering his shoulder for a seven-yard touchdown.
All of the Texans' offensive success ran through Watson, but he got a lot of help from one of best wide receivers in all of football, DeAndre Hopkins. Watson ended the game 25 of 35 for 234 yards and a rushing touchdown and 12 of those completions went to Hopkins, who turned them into 147 yards. That's almost 50% of the passing game going through Hopkins. He didn't score today but he made everything Houston did possible. His season ends with 115 receptions (tied for franchise record with Andre Johnson), 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns.
It wasn't a complete success though. Watson had a rough day behind his offensive line. He was sacked six times, for a total of 62 this season, the most an NFL quarterback has taken since 2006. Offensively Bill O'Brien has been playing with fire regarding Watson's health. The quarterback's running ability has been great for the offense and Watson again led the team in rushing today; but with the sacks and 13 rushing attempts he takes a lot of hits. His arm helped him finish the season with 4,165 yards passing and 26 touchdowns while his legs led to 551 yards and five touchdowns, the second leading rusher on the team. Lamar Miller led the team on the ground for the season, finishing with 973 yards and four touchdowns.
It was a great win for the Texans, who finish the season 11-5, after a 4-12 record just a season ago. They have secured their division again and hope for losses by the Chargers and Chiefs to get a bye next week. Barring that, they are the third seed and will have a home playoff game next weekend.