Jaguars come up short on the road to Texans

Houston denies two-point try in final 30 seconds, win 13-12

By Justin Barney - Sports Editor
Associated Press

Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew is sacked by Whitney Mercilus in Sunday's loss to the Texans.

HOUSTON, Texas - The Gardner Minshew Era started on Sunday.

It came up a yard short. 

The Jaguars went for a two-point conversion and a win on the road, only to come up a yard shy in a 13-12 loss to the Texans on Sunday.

Minshew, the rookie from Washington State, put the Jaguars in position for an unlikely comeback win, throwing a soft 4-yard touchdown lob to D.J. Chark with 30 seconds to play. Instead of sending in Josh Lambo for the point after, a tie and likely overtime, coach Doug Marrone opted to go for the win. 

The playcall was a questionable one.

Instead of staying with the hot hand in Minshew, the Jaguars called a run up the middle with Leonard Fournette. On a day where the offensive line struggled, it was a curious call. Fournett was stopped a yard short.

The Texans recovered the onside kick and that was that.  

"Again, you come up a couple inches short and we lost the game," Marrone said. "It was a decision that I made prior to us getting the last possession. I said that if we returned the punt for touchdown with DD then I was probably going for go for the extra point. They said if we start driving this football and we score with a certain amount of time left, I said I'm going to go for two."  

It's a quick turnaround for Jacksonville to try and find out how to move the football. The Jaguars host Tennessee on Thursday night with the very real possibility of an 0-3 start looming. 

It wasn't supposed to be this way. 

With Nick Foles signed in the offseason and the defense largely back intact, it was supposed to look quite a bit different in 2019. But Foles broke his collarbone in Week 1 against the Chiefs and is out until at least mid-November. 

That passed the reins to Minshew, a sixth-round rookie from Washington State, whose debut last week was the big story around the league.  

But after a week of Minshew Mania around the NFL, the Texans provided a cold helping of reality.

The Jaguars are 0-2 and going nowhere with this offense. Not if it can't keep pressure off of Minshew. Not if it can't generate any sort of a run game. Not if it can't erase drive-killing penalties. Not if it can't do anything to get a drive going until the final five minutes of a game. 

While Minshew's first start was uneven, he did have an unbelievable final drive. 

The Jaguars converted a fourth-and-1 with two minutes left and Minshew had an 18-yard run on a fourth-and-10 that went down to the Houston 13 with 43 seconds left. Another Minshew run got them to the 4 and he followed with the touchdown pass to Chark. 

He finished 22 of 33 for 213 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 56 yards on six carries. 

"Yeah. Felt really good about the call," Minshew said. "Had the right look. Leonard (Fournette) was close. I thought he got it. That's how it goes sometimes. I bet 10 times out of 10 for him right there to get in there."

The Jaguars defense responded after getting eviscerated last week by the Chiefs, playing well enough to win. 

It limited the Texans to just one touchdown on a short field early in the fourth quarter and kept quarterback Deshaun Watson largely in check. Rookie Josh Allen notched one of Jacksonville's four sacks of Watson and Jalen Ramsey locked up DeAndre Hopkins (no touchdown catches). 

The downside, if there was one, was allowing Jaguars castoff Carlos Hyde to rush for nearly 100 yards. 

Minshew looked like a rookie in spots against the Texans, mixing in a few big plays, but struggling to do much of anything consistently. 

He fumbled three times and lost one, a killer in the fourth quarter, where Whitney Mercilus blindsided Minshew, jarred the ball loose and recovered the ball at the 11. 

Watson scored on a fourth-and-1 play four plays later for a 13-3 Texans lead with 11:35 to play. 

The offensive line, missing normal left tackle Cam Robinson, was barely serviceable facing the pass rush of J.J. Watt and Mercilus. 

"He's great. We've always known Whitney (Mercilus) is a rusher. He's great off the edge," Watt said. "He can do different things off the edge. He's back in his natural position this year, and I think you're seeing the results of when he's in his proper place.

"Hopefully, he continues to do what he does. They have to chip and double somebody. It's nice to see him get it done, and hopefully, he can have many, many sacks on the year."

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