Gary Kubiak wanted to send a message. Jack Del Rio wasn't sure what the message would've been had Kubiak's gamble failed.
"We deserved to win the game. Our defense played great out there. I had the players behind me saying, 'Coach, let's go.' We need to be able to feel that way as a football team. That was a football team call," Kubiak, the rookie head coach of the Houston Texans, said following his team's 13-10 win over the Jaguars on Sunday.
Kubiak did something uncommon. He made a decision football traditionalists would describe as outrageous. Facing a fourth-and-one at his 42-yard line with 1:40 to play, Kubiak decided against a punt and gambled on a run up the middle.
For the record, running back Samkon Gado got the yard he needed, though Gado disappeared so quickly in the middle of the line's pile of humanity that where the ball was spotted couldn't have been much more than a guess.
"Gutsy call on their part," Del Rio said. "It might be called other things if it hadn't gone right, but somehow they got it without any type of review. It was obvious to, I guess, the people up in the booth. It wasn't that obvious to me. I would've liked to have seen a replay, at least a look."
Everyone figured the Texans would punt. After all, the Jaguars were without a time out and the Texans had already intercepted David Garrard four times. Kubiak took the aggressive route and it led the Texans to their third win of the season.
The loss left the Jaguars at 5-4 and red-faced. It is their second loss to the Texans in a month. Of course, the Jaguars' embarrassment extended beyond just the defeat.
Two of Garrard's interceptions were the direct result of dropped passes by Matt Jones. Those passes went from Jones' hands to the Texans'. A third interception occurred when Garrard was hit as he threw.
"One play he tried to force it in. That was the only ball he threw that was bad," Del Rio said.
In his third consecutive start, Garrard suffered through a nightmarish afternoon. He completed just 15 of 34 passes for 214 yards, no touchdowns and a 25.5 passer rating.
He was in position to lead his team to victory, however, after moving the Jaguars 60 yards in five plays to cut the Houston lead to three points with 4:32 to play. The Jaguars defense then forced a punt and the Jaguars got the ball back at their 36-yard line with 2:34 to play.
On third and 10, Garrard lofted a pass deep down the right sideline for Cortez Hankton, who had replaced Jones as the Jaguars' third wide receiver. Hankton went high to make a great catch at the Houston 27 and, all of a sudden, the Jaguars appeared to be on their way to nothing less than overtime. Wide receiver Reggie Williams, however, was flagged for offensive pass interference on the play. It was a penalty that killed the drive and whatever hope the Jaguars had of rallying for a win.
"There really is no description for the way today went except that there were a lot of missed opportunities. I need to put the ball in better places in order for our receivers to do their job. It was a tough day for all of us. I am definitely going to stand up here and say I did not play my best," Garrard said.
The Jaguars defense turned in a strong performance, but Texans quarterback David Carr was at his best on third down and Carr added 48 yards to the Texans rushing total of 148 yards. The big statistical difference was in time of possession. The Texans held the ball 15 minutes longer than the Jaguars.
"We know the Texans own us, don't we?" John Henderson said. "They play their hearts out when they play us. Seven more games. We have Tom Coughlin coming in."
Fred Taylor turned in another strong performance, rushing for 63 yards and a 5.3 yards-per-carry average, and catching five passes for 71 yards. Taylor had casually guaranteed a win over the Texans.
"I give that team respect. For some reason, it's expected we should beat them. You hate to lose," he said. "We just have to mature as a team. Play hard the whole game and stick together no matter what happens."
The Jaguars' greatest failing, of course, was dropping passes. They were game-changers.
"We had some extremely costly drops. Some of the interceptions should've been catch and run. Not a good day by the wide receiver group," Del Rio said.
"Until we catch the ball, this offense is not going to reach its full potential," Ernest Wilford said.