JACKSONVILLE – The quarterback was new.
And many of the results were encouraging. Very encouraging.
The important result for the Jaguars, though, was all too familiar in rookie quarterback Jake Luton's first NFL start. A struggling defense made some big plays and allowed some big plays, too – and Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson keyed a 27-25 Jaguars loss at TIAA Bank Field Sunday afternoon.
"I told the players I understand there's no moral victories and we're pros and everybody's fighting hard and we understand that you don't need to go there," Head Coach Doug Marrone said. "I said, 'We're going to keep doing what we're doing, meaning: hanging in there, playing our [expletive] off, playing hard, finding ways that we can get better and improve as the year goes on.'''
It marked the Jaguars' seventh consecutive loss after a Week 1 home victory over the Indianapolis Colts. The Texans improved to 2-6, with both victories over the Jaguars.
"I told them, 'We may think how hard it is because we're in the NFL and we're playing and we're trying to get it, but I try to put it beyond [that],''' Marrone said. "There's going to be a lot of things, a lot of adversities that we're dealing with in our lives, and everything that we're going through right now is going to be part of that foundation that's going to be able to make us better.
"At the end of the day, whatever happens at the end of it, we'll be better coaches and better players for it."
Luton, a sixth-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, completed 26 of 38 passes for 304 yards and a touchdown and also ran for a touchdown in his first NFL start and first NFL appearance. He replaced quarterback Gardner Minshew II, who was inactive Sunday with a thumb injury after starting the first seven games of the season.
"It felt really good to get out there," Luton said. "I felt like we played really hard and I'm really proud of how we played. I wish we could have finished it off, but it was awesome just getting out there."
Luton led an impressive late drive that ended with a 13-yard scramble that pulled the Jaguars to within the final margin with 1:30 remaining. His two-point conversion pass to wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. fell incomplete.
Watson completed 19 of 32 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, and he also rushed 10 times for 50 yards. The fourth-year veteran now is 6-0 as a starter against the Jaguars, with the Texans sweeping the Jaguars each of the last three seasons.
Luton's 73-yard touchdown pass to Chark came on the game's third play, giving the Jaguars a 7-0 lead with 14:08 remaining in the quarter. It marked the Jaguars' first first-drive touchdown this season. Chark finished with seven receptions for 146 yards and a touchdown.
The Jaguars had 412 yards offense and 22 first downs Sunday to 374 and 19 for the Texans.
"We were able to move the ball well, but at times, we didn't move it when we were supposed to," Chark said. "We moved it enough to stay in the game, but we didn't move it enough to win the game."
The Jaguars tied the game 13-13 on a one-yard second-quarter touchdown run by rookie running back James Robinson, but the Texans retook the lead shortly before the second quarter and the Jaguars never led or tied the game again.
Robinson rushed for 99 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries, narrowly missing his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game and third such game this season.
"This was the best game we've probably had," Robinson said. "From Jake, that was a great game by him. I mean, obviously, you guys saw it, and he just did great. It's just being comfortable and confident in himself. He showed everyone that he can do that, so I like it going forward."
The Jaguars registered two sacks Sunday, with defensive end Josh Allen and middle linebacker Joe Schobert combining to sack Watson on the final play of the first quarter and cornerback Tre Herndon sacking him in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars now have eight sacks this season, and Sunday marked their first game with multiple sacks this season.
"I felt like we had a real good game defensively," Allen said. "There's a couple stops that we could have prevented. Overall, we get rid of those us-beating-ourselves plays like the penalties, pass interference, jumping offsides. We get rid of those, I feel like we're in the game. Kudos to everybody, but next week we've got to forget about this game, learn from this game and come back next week ready to play against Green Bay."
Step by step:
*The Jaguars took a 7-0 lead on a 73-yard touchdown pass from Luton to Chark; the pass came on the third play of the game and the second pass of Luton's NFL career. The Texans tied the game two plays later when Watson passed short to wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who turned the play into a 57-yard catch-and-run touchdown with 13:33 remaining in the first quarter. Texans kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn's 54-yard field goal with 9:48 remaining in the first quarter gave the Texans their first lead, 10-7.
*Fairbairn converted a 30-yard field goal with 12:27 remaining in the second quarter to give the Texans a 13-7 lead. Robinson's one-yard run with 5:41 remaining tied the game, 13-13, and a missed extra point preserved the tie; Robinson rushed for 56 yards on the 75-yard drive. A one-yard run by running back Duke Johnson with :27 remaining in the second quarter made it 20-13, Texans. Lambo's franchise-record-tying 59-yard field goal came on the final play of the half and made it 20-16, Texans.
*The Texans pushed the lead to double digits early in the third quarter. First, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves intercepted an errant pass downfield from Luton. Watson three plays later passed deep down the sideline to Will Fuller, who beat rookie cornerback CJ Henderson for an easy 77-yard touchdown pass and a 27-16 Houston lead with 6:05 remaining in the third quarter. Lambo cut the lead to 27-19 with a 30-yard field goal with 1:11 remaining in the third quarter.
*Luton's scramble with 1:30 remaining marked the only points of the fourth quarter. The Texans recovered the ensuing onside kick and Watson kneeled to run out the clock.
Notable: Minshew II was among seven Jaguars players ruled out before kickoff, with the others being running back Devine Ozigbo (hamstring), cornerback Josiah Scott, cornerback Luq Barcoo, linebacker Dakota Allen (ankle), defensive end/linebacker Aaron Lynch and defensive lineman Cauron Reid. … Defensive tackle Taven Bryan was not in the starting lineup Sunday for the first time this season. …
Injury report: Jaguars rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. sustained a first-quarter hamstring injury and did not return. … Jaguars defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale sustained a third-quarter ankle injury. … Jaguars defensive tackle Doug Costin was evaluated for a concussion in the fourth quarter.
What's next: The Jaguars are scheduled to play the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., Sunday at 1 p.m.