HOUSTON, Tex. – They stayed close and played tough. Then, the rookie quarterback threw in some drama at the end.
That wasn't quite enough.
The Jaguars' defense limited the Houston Texans' high-powered offense most of the game, and an impressive late performance by rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II nearly helped the Jaguars pull out what became a 13-12 Texans victory in front of 71,651 in an AFC South game at NRG Stadium Sunday afternoon.
A late rally led by an impressively poised Minshew fell just short.
The Jaguars took possession at their 32 with just over three minutes remaining trailing 13-6. Minshew drove the Jaguars to the Texans 31 with back-to-back completions to wide receivers DJ Chark Jr. and Chris Conley. Minshew then scrambled 18 yards for a first down to the Texans 13 on 4th-and-10 from the 31.
Minshew capped the drive with a four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. with :30 remaining, but running back Leonard Fournette was stopped inches short of the goal line on the two-point conversion try.
The Jaguars slipped to 0-2; the defending AFC South champion Texans improved to 1-1.
Minshew, a sixth-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft making his first NFL start in place of injured starter Nick Foles, completed 23 of 33 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. He was sacked three times and fumbled three times, losing one.
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson completed 16 of 29 passes for 159 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions. Former Jaguars running back Carlos Hyde rushed for 90 yards on 20 carries for Houston.
A key play came early in the fourth quarter, with Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus beating left tackle Will Richardson on a spin move and forcing Minshew to fumble with a sack. Defensive end J.J. Watt recovered at the Jaguars 11.
Watson's two-yard touchdown run capped the ensuing series to turn a three-point game into a 13-3 Houston lead with 11:35 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Penalties and missed opportunities hurt the Jaguars even before the sack/fumble, particularly in the third quarter and earlier in the fourth.
The Jaguars trailed 6-3 midway through the third quarter when cornerback Jalen Ramsey dropped a catchable interception around the Texans 35. Ramsey appeared to have a chance to score had he caught the pass.
The Jaguars drove to the Texans 41 on their ensuing possession – still trailing 6-3 – when a holding penalty against center Brandon Linder nullified a first-down-converting run by running back Leonard Fournette. Instead of having a first down inside the Texans 40, the Jaguars' drive ended with a punt.
Step by step:
*The Texans edged ahead 3-0 late in a defensive-oriented first quarter, with Ka'imi Fairbain capping a 15-play, 71-yard drive with a 39-yard field goal with 1:54 remaining in the quarter.
*The Jaguars' defense continued to play well early in the second quarter, and the Jaguars pulled even when an efficient, 10-play drive ended with a 40-yard field goal by Josh Lambo making it 3-3 with 3:17 remaining in the half. Fairbain's 22-yard field goal on the final play of the half capped a 71-yard drive and made it 6-3, Texans.
*Neither team scored in the third quarter.
*Watson's two-yard touchdown run gave the Texans a 10-point lead three minutes, 25 seconds into the fourth quarter. Lambo's 32-yard field goal with 6:01 remaining made it 13-6, Texans.
Injury report:Jaguars linebacker D.J. Alexander sustained a hamstring injury in the third quarter.
Notable: The Jaguars registered four sacks Sunday, with rookie defensive end Josh Allen getting his first career sack early in the third quarter. Linebackers Myles Jack and Leon Jacobs shared a first-quarter sack and safety Ronnie Harrison was credited with a sack when Watson ran out of bounds for no gain. Nickel back D.J. Hayden also had a sack. … Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (hamstring) and cornerback A.J. Bouye (hip) were ruled out before Sunday's game, as were wide receiver Marqise Lee (knee), offensive tackle Cam Robinson (knee), tight end Josh Oliver (hamstring), offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi (hamstring) and running back Devine Ozigbo. Tre Herndon started for Bouye at cornerback, Will Richardson started for Robinson, rookie Josh Allen started at defensive end and DJ Chark Jr. started for Lee at wide receiver.
What's next:The Jaguars will play the Tennessee Titans at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Thursday at 8:20 p.m.