The last time the Jaguars faced Houston, they were playing at home and looking to move to 4-3 against a Texans team on a five game losing streak. The storylines that week centered more on former Jaguars returning to their old stomping grounds than they did on the competitive nature of the game. This time around the Jaguars are being asked what they have to do to avoid being swept by an expansion team.
They won't say they're playing for 'revenge', but the Jaguars are well aware of their situation. Instead of being tied with division leaders Tennessee and Indianapolis, they are one game back, and now travel to play the team that sent them to the low point of their season thus far, a 21-19 loss.
"It's one of those words, (we) know that you guys are going to put it up in the paper," Jaguars corner Jason Craft said. "They know that we're going to come and play, they know it. So, you want to call it revenge, whatever you want to call it we're going in there to win."
One thing the Jaguars have on their side is momentum. Their win over Steve Spurrier's Washington Redskins on Sunday has the Jaguars riding high entering this week. The Texans, on the other hand, have lost two in a row since their last meeting with the Jaguars, including a 38-3 drubbing at the hands of the previously 0-7 Cincinnati Bengals.
Texans coach Dom Capers, however, won't point to his team's elation following their second-ever win as an excuse for their lackluster play against the Bengals. That, he says, was their own doing.
"It's hard for me to believe we would be over-confident at any point in time, but we did go out and play our poorest football game the next week against Cincinnati," he said. "Really that's probably the only game that I came away just totally disappointed in all phases of our team."
Houston looked much better Sunday in a 17-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans. Houston's offense struggled again, but a solid performance by the defense kept the score close. Tennessee started four drives in Texans territory, but managed a total of just three points in those series. Houston held the Titans to 251 yards in the contest.
That same Houston defense played prominently in the Texans' win in Jacksonville. Fred Taylor managed just 84 yards on 25 carries, and the Jaguars were held below 300 yards of total offense on the day. After the game, speculation was that former Jaguar - now Texans defensive tackle - Seth Payne was calling out Jacksonville's plays before they happened. The Jaguars downplay this factor in Houston's victory, but they won't deny it completely.
"Seth Payne was here for a long time. He played against a lot of these people," Tom Coughlin said. "He was sitting there trying to figure out which direction the play was going in. Sometimes he was right. Sometimes he was wrong. Was it a factor in the game? It depends on who you talked to."
There is no doubt that Payne was trying to give the Texans a heads up prior to plays. The question becomes, how effective was he, or more importantly now, can he be?
"Well I think he knew a few things were going on, but... our offense is extremely complex," tight end Pete Mitchell said. "When you're talking about 60 plays throughout a game, I doubt he knows where every play is going... I think it was our lack of execution that slowed us down the first time."
Coughlin shares Mitchell's sentiments. He noted earlier this week that for all of Payne's motioning, the Texans rarely adjusted on defense prior to the snap. He feels it is more a matter of lining up and beating the man across the line of scrimmage. That may not be as easy as it normally would be against an expansion team. The Texans defense is a veteran group. They are currently fourth in the AFC in total defense, third against the pass. Nine of their current starters on defense were full-time starters on other teams last season.
That is not the case with their offense. The Texans currently have an astounding six rookie starters on offense. It has shown. While they have shown a knack for the big play, Houston ranks at or near the bottom in every major offensive statistical category in the NFL. Most troubling to Texans faithful is the fact that number one draft pick David Carr has been sacked 49 times. Capers, however, is trying to find something positive in that number.
"He's a tough guy mentally and physically," he said. "I think if nothing else he's gained the respect of all of our team and the guys in the locker room. That's a big part, I think, for a young quarterback in terms of becoming a leader."
To try to limit the number of sacks, Houston approached their first game against Jacksonville conservatively. They tried to keep the ball on the ground, running it 31 times; limit their turnovers; and let their defense and special teams win the game for them.
"They did continue to run the ball, even though sometimes they weren't having great success. They were content to play that way...because we basically didn't make enough plays to do anything about that," Coughlin said yesterday.
The Jaguars limited Houston's offense to 242 total yards, but the strategy kept the score close. With just over three minutes remaining in the game, Houston still trailed 19-18 with the Jaguars punting. Jabar Gaffney replaced the Texans usual punt returner, Jermaine Lewis, but none of the Jaguars staff or players noticed. Gaffney received the punt and threw a lateral across the field to Aaron Glenn who raced down the sideline 47 yards to the Jaguars 33. Three plays later kicker Kris Brown hit the 45 yard eventual game winning field goal.
Coughlin has assured the media that won't happen again.
"I think that's pretty much ingrained in the special teams coaches," he said.
That loss has been the valley thus far for the Jaguars, but they know it could have gone either way.
"We're still going to do some of the same things we did, I think we just need to make more plays on the defensive side, of course," Craft said. "Same thing with the offensive side, just make a few more plays and we'll be alright."