JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars changed quarterbacks Sunday.
That meant a brief surge for a struggling offense, but it didn't mean a Jaguars victory in an important mid-October AFC South game.
Cody Kessler, replacing starting quarterback Blake Bortles, threw a third-quarter touchdown pass and the Jaguars cut into what had been a twenty-point deficit – but the Houston Texans comfortably held on for a 20-7 AFC South victory in front of 66,534 at TIAA Bank Field Sunday afternoon.
Kessler entered the game for Bortles with 10:50 remaining in the third quarter, with Bortles' lost fumbles at the start of the first and third quarters leading directly to 10 Texans points.
Bortles, the No. 3 overall selection by the Jaguars in the 2014 NFL Draft, has started the last 68 Jaguars games. This was the first time he had been pulled from a game so early during his time as a starter.
Bortles completed six of 12 passes for 61 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions Sunday. The Jaguars were shut out in the first half Sunday for a third consecutive game, the first time in franchise history they had failed to score in the first half in three consecutive games.
Kessler, acquired by the Jaguars in an offseason trade with the Cleveland Browns, completed 21 of 30 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown with an interception Sunday. His five-yard touchdown pass to running back T.J. Yeldon with 2:18 remaining in the third quarter made it 20-7, Texans.
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, playing with a lung injury, completed 12 of 24 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. The Jaguars sacked Watson once, and the second-year quarterback's 10-pass to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins gave the Texans a 20-0 lead.
Running back Lamar Miller rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries for the Texans, and his five-yard second-quarter touchdown gave Houston a 13-0 lead.
The Jaguars (3-4), the defending AFC South Champions, now have lost three consecutive games and missed a chance Sunday to take over sole possession of first place in the AFC South.
The Texans (4-3) moved into first place with their fourth consecutive victory.
The Jaguars committed three turnovers to none for the Texans, and are now minus-12 giveaways-takeaways for the season.
Step by step:
*The Texans pushed ahead on their first two first-quarter drives with first-quarter field goals of 44 and 48 yards by kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn. A fumble by Bortles while scrambling on third down was recovered by Texas linebacker Jadeveon Clowney to set up the first field goal, and wide receiver Keelan Cole dropped a third-and-four pass from Bortles to force a punt on the Jaguars' ensuing possession. Cole dropped a third-and-seven pass on the ensuing possession, and the Jaguars finished the first quarter with 50 yards offense and a 6-0 deficit.
*The second quarter started and finished no better for the Jaguars, with Jaguars rookie Logan Cooke mishitting a 26-yard punt midway through the second quarter that gave Houston possession at its 40. Houston turned its ensuing 60-drive into a five-yard touchdown run by Miller and a 13-0 lead at halftime. The Jaguars at that point had been outscored 57-0 in their last three first halves.
*Bortles fumbled to end the Jaguars' first possession of the second half, with Watson throwing 10 yards to Hopkins two plays later for a 20-0 Houston lead. Kessler replaced Bortles on the ensuing Jaguars possession. Kessler's six-yard touchdown pass to Yeldon came two possessions later and capped a 47-yard, 10-play drive.
*The Jaguars failed to score in the fourth quarter. They drove into Texans territory midway through the quarter, but a pass from Kessler went through Yeldon's hands and Texans safety Tyrann Mathieu intercepted with 5:37 remaining.
Notable:The Jaguars on Sunday played without running back Carlos Hyde, who was acquired Friday in a trade from the Cleveland Browns for a fifth-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Jaguars' six other inactives Sunday: running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring), cornerback D.J. Hayden (toe), cornerback Tre Herndon (hamstring), tight end James O'Shaughnessy (hip), defensive end Dawuane Smoot and nose tackle Eli Ankou. Fournette has missed three consecutive games and five of the last six while Hayden has missed five consecutive games with Herndon missing three consecutive games; O'Shaughnessy was injured this past Wednesday in practice.
Injury report: Jaguars nickel cornerback Tyler Patmon was evaluated for a concussion early in the second quarter and was ruled out with a neck strain. … Reserve linebacker Donald Payne sustained a second-quarter knee injury. … Defensive end Calais Campbell sustained a stinger in the fourth quarter.
What's next:The Jaguars are scheduled to play the Philadelphia Eagles at Wembley Stadium in London Sunday, October 28 at 9:30 a.m.