By Deepi Sidhu, Texans Insider and Lead Writer
JACKSONVILLE – DeMeco Ryans’ first career win as head coach came with plenty of highlight-worthy plays in Jacksonville. The Houston Texans 37-17 win over the Jaguars had a blocked field goal, a kickoff returned for a touchdown, two defensive takeaways and an offensive shootout on the road.
“I asked our guys before we went out, playmakers have to step up and make plays for us to win games in this league and that’s what our guys did today,” Head Coach DeMeco Ryans said. “We had a lot of playmakers, a lot of different guys stepping up in different spots, making plays and we had a great week of practice and it resulted in a win because guys came out to work today.”
With four starters out on the offensive line, including Laremy Tunsil, as well as defensive starters LB Denzel Perryman, Jalen Pitre and Derek Stingley Jr., the Texans put together an impressive game offensively, defensively and on special teams for their sixth consecutive win at TIAA Bank Field.
C.J. Stroud completed 20-of-30 passes for 280 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 118.8 passer rating. Tank Dell led the team with five catches for 145 yards and a touchdown.
The Texans defense came up with an interception by LB Blake Cashman, who also had a fumble recovery. QB Trevor Lawrence completed 27-of-40 passes for 279 yards, one touchdown and one interception. CB Shaquille Griffin, who started for Stingley, led the team with 10 tackles (seven solo) in his first start as a Texan.
Special teams dominated with Will Anderson Jr.’s blocked field goal and an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by FB Andrew Beck.
“Starting with the special teams, two game-changing plays, the blocked field goal by Will and then the return by Beck for a touchdown, you talk about special teams impacting the games,” Ryans said. “Credit to Coach (Frank) Ross and what he’s done with that group. They’ve done an outstanding job.”
After going three-and-out on his first series, Stroud found the endzone on his second drive, connecting with Dell on a deep 46-yard pass to get Houston to first-and-goal from the two-yard line. Two plays later, Dameon Pierce punched in a one-yard run for a touchdown. The Texans took a 7-0 lead in Jacksonville with 7:35 left in the first quarter.
The second quarter kicked off with a heavy dose of Jaguars RB Travis Etienne on three of four plays. In his first game as a Texan, Jimmie Ward landed a big hit on WR Calvin Ridley. Anderson blocked the Jaguars 51-yard field goal attempt. LB Jake Hansen recovered and the Texans took over at the Jacksonville 41-yard line.
Stroud threw a 24-yard pass to Robert Woods to start the drive and finished with a touchdown pass to Brevin Jordan to take a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.
Houston’s defense forced a punt and another turnover on the next two Jaguars possessions. With just 1:13 remaining in the first half, Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars were driving down the field in Houston territory. S Eric Murray forced a fumble on WR Jamal Agnew on a 15-yard pass play, Cashman recovered at the Houston 34-yard line.
Now with just 1:04 remaining and all three timeouts, Stroud and the offense marched down the field, connecting with Dell and big 14-yard third-down pass to Woods. Nico Collins added a 29-yard gain to get the Texans into field-goal range and called a quick timeout. Capping off a nine-play, 56-yard scoring drive that lasted 1:04, Ka’imi Fairbairn kicked a 28-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.
The Texans headed into halftime with a 17-0 lead in Jacksonville.
The Jaguars scored 10 unanswered points to kick start their offense in the second half. RB Tank Bigsby scored on a one-yard touchdown run for the Jaguars first points of the day.
Brandon McManus added to the Jaguars lead with a 33-yard field goal, but the ensuing kickoff ended in a big score for Houston. Beck muffed the catch but scooped it up and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown. The Texans took a 24-10 lead with 4:19 left in the third quarter.
Cashman intercepted Lawrence on the next Jaguars offensive possession for the Texans second takeaway of the game. Stroud threw passes to Pierce and Dell for back-to-back first downs to get Houston to the Jaguars 22-yard line. Fairbairn kicked a 26-yard field goal to give the Texans a 27-10 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Bouncing back from his interception, Lawrence threw his first passing touchdown of the day on a quick drive that lasted just 1:56. Christian Kirk’s 26-yard touchdown catch moved the Jaguars to within two scores. Houston held onto a 27-17 lead.
Stroud fired back with an even quicker drive, a three-play series that ended in Dell’s second score of the season in as many weeks. The rookie-to-rookie connection ended in a 68-yard touchdown to Dell and a 34-17 lead.
Fairbairn made his third field goal of the day, a 33-yard kick, to extend the Texans lead 37-17.
Backup veteran QB C.J. Beathard entered the game for Lawrence for the Jaguars final series.
(Photo by Zach Tarrant/Houston Texans)