HOUSTON, Texas – Senior writer John Oehser examines five key plays from the Jaguars’ 31-3 victory over the Houston Texans in a 2022 Week 17 game at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday
1.Stuuuuuuffed. The Jaguars took early momentum with a perfect start Sunday, with safety Rayshawn Jenkins and cornerback Darious Williams stuffing Texans quarterback Jeff Driskel for no gain on fourth-and-one from the Houston 45 to end the opening possession. "The defense did a great job," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson said. The Jaguars' offense immediately took advantage, driving 45 yards in eight efficient plays – and operating quickly in the no-huddle offense throughout the drive. "We went a little tempo there to start the game and did a nice job of getting it into the end zone," Pederson said. "That's exactly how we wanted to start the football game." Quarterback Trevor Lawrence completed three of four passes for 29 yards on the drive and also rushed for four yards. Running back JaMycal Hasty capped the drive with a five-yard run up the middle for a 7-0 Jaguars lead with 8:24 remaining in the first quarter. "We knew starting fast would be big for us," Lawrence said, adding of a 13-6 Week 5 loss to the Texans: "It's something we weren't able to do when we played them earlier in the season."
2. All.The.Way. Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. has been oh-so-close to breaking a long run for a touchdown throughout this season. Early in the second quarter Sunday, he broke through and gave the Jaguars a two-touchdown lead. On first-and-10 from the Jaguars 38, Lawrence turned and handed the ball to the second-year veteran. Etienne hit a hole on the left side of the line, broke a would-be tackle by Texans rookie safety Jalen Pitre and broke into the clear. "I broke the tackle and there was nobody there," Etienne said. "I knew I wasn't getting caught in that position." He ran the rest of the way down the left side of the field untouched for a 62-yard touchdown – his longest run of the season – and a 14-0 Jaguars lead with 12:21 remaining in the second quarter. Lawrence, asked what he saw on the play, laughed and said, "Him running." Lawrence added that wide receiver and Zay Jones had a key block on the play. "I don't think Travis had to even cut. He broke a tackle on the second level, then he was gone. Zay and [wide receiver] Christian [Kirk], specifically, did a real good job on the perimeter making that thing go."
3. Scoop and score. If Etienne's run didn't qualify as breaking the game open, the Jaguars' defense effectively did it moments later. Two plays after Etienne's run, on second-and-eight from the Texans 25, Jaguars outside linebacker Josh Allen knocked the ball from Texans quarterback Davis Mills to get credit for a sack and forced fumble. The fumble bounced from the pile, and after Jaguars lineman Foley Fatukasi nearly recovered, cornerback Tyson Campbell picked up the ball. He returned it 18 yards for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead with 11:35 remaining in the second quarter. "Those are proven stats, takeaways and giveaways," Pederson said. "Anytime you can be in the plus category, your chances of winning go up. Defensively, we did a nice job. When you can score on defense, too, like we did, it just helps the cause." The Jaguars held the Texans to 277 yards, 13 first downs and no touchdowns – marking the second consecutive game the defense has not allowed a touchdown. The Jaguars beat the New York Jets 19-3 in Week 16. "I thought the defense did an outstanding job today," Pederson said. "They played well."
4. Broken up. While the three-touchdown lead early in the second quarter felt comfortable, the Texans quickly moved toward the end zone on the ensuing series – and had a very real chance to cut the lead to two scores. The Jaguars kept the Texans from getting momentum with their second fourth-down stop of the game. This one came on fourth-and-five from the Jaguars 10, with Mills passing incomplete to running back Rex Burkhead. Allen defensed the pass in coverage to secure the Jaguars' 21-0 lead with 6:49 remaining in the second quarter.
5. Snooooop. The methodical, one-sided nature of the Jaguars' victory meant there were few "key plays" once the Jaguars controlled the first half en route to a three-score halftime lead. But the Jaguars turned in a nice drive to maintain momentum at the start of the second half, moving 75 yards in 11 plays and taking a 28-0 lead on rookie running back Snoop Conner's three-yard run with 9:28 remaining in the third quarter. The drive marked Lawrence's last appearance Sunday. "I thought the first drive of the third quarter was really good for all of us – just to be clean and go all the way down the field to score there and to finish kind of the right way," Lawrence said. "Obviously a lot of guys still played after that. But for me, I wanted to really have a clean drive because I didn't think we really executed very clean in the first half for the majority of the time."