LONDON – This was a chance to tighten the AFC South.
It was a chance to get into the postseason conversation, and a chance for a good feeling entering the bye.
The Jaguars took advantage of none of it Sunday, struggling offensively and allowing a few too many big plays at key times by Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. The result?
A 26-3 Texans victory in front of 84,771 at Wembley Stadium.
“I think offensively we didn't have a lot clicking, and this is a league where you're going to have to score points, especially when you play Houston,” Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said. “We weren't able to do that.”
The Jaguars, who entered the game on a two-game winning streak, slipped to 4-5 entering their bye next weekend. The Texans improved to 6-3 and won their fourth consecutive game against the Jaguars.
Watson, considered by many a Most Valuable Player candidate, played like it for much of the game Sunday. The third-year veteran consistently eluded an effective Jaguars pass rush, completing 22 of 28 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Watson rushed for 37 yards on seven carries.
“I look at it as ‘That guy is just unbelievable,’’’ Marrone said. “His fluidity -- I don't know if that's even the right word -- of when he gets hit or when he gets grabbed and he can move and escape, I don't -- I've seen him do it against everyone.
Jaguars rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II, making an eighth consecutive start in place of injured starter Nick Foles, completed 27 of 47 passes for 309 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions. He now is 4-4 as a starter with Foles eligible to return from injured reserve in the Jaguars’ next game – November 17 at Indianapolis.
Minshew’s two interceptions came in the fourth quarter as the Jaguars threw on nearly every play trying to cut into a double-digit Texans lead. The Jaguars committed turnovers on three consecutive fourth-quarter possessions, with Minshew also losing two late fumbles.
“I think when you get behind and you're trying to make plays and you're moving around in the pocket and the ball sails a little bit, those things are going to happen,” Marrone said. “You don't want it to happen. I'm sure we're not trying to do that. But those balls got high and they were able to get interceptions. It's unfortunate. It's not what they're playing for. But he was moving around there a little bit, so that always plays into it, too.”
Texans running back Carlos Hyde, who spent the last part of last season with the Jaguars, rushed for 160 yards on 19 carries. He had a late fumble forced by safety Jarrod Wilson go through the end zone following a 58-yard run, resulting in a touchback and possession for the Jaguars.
Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette, who moved into the NFL rushing lead during the game, rushed for 40 yards on 11 carries. Jaguars wide receiver Keelan Cole caught a season-high five passes for 80 yards.