The fight was there for the Jaguars, and so were the opportunities.
A lot of fight. And multiple opportunities.
What wasn't there was a victory, with the Houston Texans pulling away from a gutty – and very beat-up – Jaguars team in the second half for a 30-14 victory at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday afternoon.
It was the first victory of the season for the Texans, playing their first game with Romeo Crennel as the interim coach after the team fired Head Coach Bill O'Brien Monday. The Jaguars lost a fourth-consecutive game after a Week 1 victory over Indianapolis.
"I'm pulling for these guys," Head Coach Doug Marrone said. "I'm pulling for these three phases to come together. We're working on that and we talk about that. But we're not able to do that play-in and play-out right now. We're not able to, and it's not like we don't have opportunities.
"There's opportunities out there. We just haven't been able to take advantage of it."
Missed opportunities hurt the Jaguars. Kicker Stephen Hauschka missed from 24 and 49 yards in the final 35 seconds of the first half, and rookie running back James Robinson fumbled in the red zone while attempting to pass on fourth down late in the third quarter.
The Jaguars, after trailing 20-7 early in the fourth quarter, pulled to within 20-14 on a four-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Gardner Minshew II to wide receiver Collin Johnson with 10:18 remaining. Ka'imi Fairbairn's 46-yard field goal on the following drive pushed the lead to nine.
Texans edge rusher Whitney Mercilus sacked Minshew on the ensuing series, forcing a fumble that gave the Texans a first down at the Jaguars 34 and set up a 28-yard touchdown pass from Watson to wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
Cooks caught eight passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. Watson completed 25 of 35 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. The Jaguars failed to score after either Texans turnover.
Minshew completed 31 of 49 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Robinson rushed 13 times for 48 yards and no touchdowns.
The Jaguars' defense registered one sack Sunday – by defensive end Dawuane Smoot. The Jaguars now have five sacks this season.
Jaguars cornerback Sidney Jones intercepted a pass and defended three others passes, and his deflection in the third quarter led to an interception that safety Jarrod Wilson returned to the Texans 27. That drive ended when Robinson – after taking a direct snap on 4th-and-1 and looking to pass – lost a fumble that Texans defensive end J.J. Watt recovered at the Houston 10.
The Texans led 13-7 at the time of Robinson's fumble.
"We just have to work as a whole," Marrone said. "The effort of how they're playing – I can't ask for more. Now we can play smarter and we can make some plays, yes, and these are the things that we're going to have to do. And we're going to have to go out and get ourselves a win because it stinks. We've lost now four in a row.
"These guys work hard and they have got to learn to take advantage and we have got to learn to win some of these games and learn to get this momentum back in our favor. And these are the things that we have to do to win and we're not doing it right now."
Step by step:
*The teams were tied 0-0 after the first quarter, the first time this season the Jaguars had been in a scoreless tie after the first quarter.
*Fairbairn's 36-yard field goal capped a 17-play, 73-yard drive and gave the Texans a 3-0 lead with 14:11 remaining in the second quarter; Watson twice escaped pressure for key first downs on the drive. The Jaguars took a 7-3 lead when Minshew passed 13 yards to wide receiver Keelan Cole with 6:33 remaining in the second quarter; Minshew completed eight of eight passes for 62 yards on the drive. Watson's 44-yard touchdown pass to tight end Darren Fells capped a four-play, 75-yard drive on the ensuing series and gave Houston a 10-7 lead with 4:32 remaining in the half. Hauschka missed from 24 yards on the ensuing series, then Jones' interception set up Hauschka's half-ending attempt.
*Fairbairn's 33-yard field goal capped the opening drive of the second half and gave Houston a 13-7 lead with 11:35 remaining in the third quarter.
*Watson passed 19 yards to wide receiver Will Fuller with 14:16 remaining in the fourth quarter, giving the Texans a 20-7 lead – their largest of the game to that point. Minshew's touchdown pass to Johnson on the ensuing series cut the lead to six.
*Notable: *Starting defensive end Josh Allen (knee), starting linebacker Myles Jack (ankle) and starting cornerback CJ Henderson (shoulder) all missed Sunday's game after entering the weekend listed as questionable on the injury report; Allen was ruled out Saturday when he didn't travel to Houston with the team while Jack and Henderson were deactivated 90 minutes before kickoff. … The Jaguars' other three inactives Sunday: rookie quarterback Jake Luton, defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale and wide receiver Dede Westbrook. … Rookie K'Lavon Chaisson started for Allen, with Dakota Allen starting for Jack and rookie Chris Claybrooks starting for Henderson. … Wilson started at free safety after being on injured reserve with a hamstring injury the last three games and reserve linebacker Quincy Williams returned after being on injured reserve with a core muscle injury. … Jaguars safety Josh Jones was ejected early in the third quarter for a helmet-to-helmet hit; rookie safety Daniel Thomas replaced him in the lineup.
Injury report: Jaguars safety Andrew Wingard sustained a core muscle injury in the second quarter and did not return. … Jaguars tight end Tyler Eifert sustained a neck injury in the third quarter and returned. … Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. sustained an ankle injury in the fourth quarter and did not return. … Jaguars center Brandon Linder was evaluated for a concussion in the first quarter and cleared to return; he had missed the previous two games with a knee injury.
What's next: The Jaguars will play host to the Detroit Lions at TIAA Bank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.