HOUSTON, Texas – The Jaguars' plan worked perfectly – and quickly.
Running well and playing dominant defense, the Jaguars took an early lead on the Houston Texans Sunday and held steady for 29-7 victory over the two-time defending AFC South Champions in front of 71,710 at NRG Stadium in Houston in the 2017 regular-season opener.
The Jaguars took a nineteen-point halftime lead, then maintained the large lead way they built it – with a consistent running game and pressuring, aggressing defense.
Jaguars rookie running back Leonard Fournette set an early tone – and a dominant Jaguars' defense not only limited the Texans' offense, it created 14 points in a game-turning stretch just before halftime.
Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue's second-quarter sack fumble set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Fournette, then Dante Fowler Jr. recovered a second sack/fumble by Ngakoue and returned it 53 yards for a touchdown that gave the Jaguars a three-score halftime lead.
A third-quarter sack/fumble by Fowler was recovered by Ngakoue as the Jaguars' defense held off the Texans. The Jaguars finished with 10 sacks and three forced fumbles.
The sacks total set a franchise record for sacks in a game.
Fournette, the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries in his NFL regular-season debut.
The defense sacked Houston quarterback Tom Savage six times in the first half. Defensive end Calais Campbell registered a career-high four sacks for Jacksonville, 3.5 in the first half.
Savage was replaced by rookie Deshaun Watson at halftime. Watson led a touchdown drive on his first series, then finished completing 12 of 23 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown with an interception.
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles completed 11 of 21 passes for 125 yards and a touchdowns with no interceptions. The Jaguars' offensive line did not allow Bortles to be sacked.
The Jaguars produced 280 yards offensively; the Texans had 203 total yards. The Jaguars' total-yardage advantage was 178-46 at halftime.
The Jaguars finished with four takeaways. Safety Tashaun Gipson intercepted Watson to maintain the Jaguars' lead at 26-7 with 3:31 remaining.
Step by step:
*The Jaguars took an early 6-0 lead with an impressive early performance by the offensive line and defense. Field goals of 42 and 25 yards by Jason Myers capped long drives, and the Jaguars led 6-0 after the 25-yarder with 14:49 remaining in the first half. The Jaguars had a 139-23 total-yardage advantage after the first quarter.
*The Jaguars extended the lead with a tough drive late in the first half that came after a fumble recovery by nose tackle Abry Jones gave them possession at their 47. They then drove 53 yards in nine plays, with Fournette's one-yard touchdown on 4th-and-goal make it 12-0 with 2:02 remaining in the half. Fowler's 53-yard fumble return came on the ensuing series and gave the Jaguars a 19-0 lead with :49 remaining in the half.
*The Texans got their first points early in the second half. With Watson replacing Savage, the Texans drove 75 yards on the half's opening possession and made it 19-7 with a four-yard touchdown pass from Watson to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The Jaguars appeared to stop Houston twice on the drive, but a roughing-the-passer penalty on Ngakoue extended the drive early and a hands-to-the-face penalty against Fowler negated an interception by linebacker Myles Jack. Hopkins' touchdown came a play after Fowler's penalty.
*The Jaguars' answered the Texans' first score impressively, with Bortles capping a 75-yard drive with a 1-yard pass to Tommy Bohanon to extend the lead to 26-7 with 4:14 remaining in the third quarter. Myers' 38-yard field goal with 3:11 remaining made it 29-7, Jaguars.
Notable: Ngakoue's first-half sack fumble that Jones recovered marked Ngajoue's third consecutive game with a sack dating to last season. … Safety Tashaun Gipson started for the Jaguars after being listed as questionable with an ankle injury on the week's final injury report. …While Fournette set the tone for the Jaguars' offense, veteran Chris Ivory also ran impressively with 42 yards on nine carries.
Injury report: Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson left the game with a knee injury in the first quarter and did not return. … Running back T.J. Yeldon missed the game after being questionable (hamstring) on the week's final injury report; other Jaguars inactives Sunday were cornerback Jalen Myrick, safety Calvin Pryor, linebacker Blair Brown, offensive lineman Josh Walker, offensive lineman William Poehls and defensive lineman Michael Bennett.
What's next:The Jaguars are scheduled to play host to the Tennessee Titans at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.