HOUSTON, Tex. – _This_close.
“I thought I got in,” running back Leonard Fournette said.
“It looked from our angle like he got it,” defensive end Calais Campbell said.
That was the Jaguars’ consensus after a 13-12 loss to the Houston Texans at NRG Field Sunday – that Fournette crossed the plane of the goal line on a two-point conversion attempt with :30 remaining. Officials ruled otherwise, and the Texans clinched the game by recovering the ensuing onside kick.
A replay review did not overturn the call, though some angles appeared to show the ball may have been over the plane before Fournette was on the ground.
“I know it has to be definitive on those rulings,” Campbell said. “I wonder if they had called it a touchdown on the field if it would have stood as a touchdown. I think it would have had to. I don’t think they could have changed it either way.”
Another thing on which the Jaguars agreed afterward was that going for two in that situation was the right move. Head Coach Doug Marrone told reporters after the game he had decided to go for two well before quarterback Gardner Minshew II’s four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. made it 13-12.
Campbell emphatically supported the decision to go for two.
“Yes,” he said. “Yes, yes, yes. … It hurts, but two yards with Leonard Fournette is doable. Very doable. We’re going to win that more than we lose. I like the aggressiveness. I prefer to win the game, but I definitely agree with the call.”
Said Fournette: “He [Marrone] believed we could win it. We believed we could win it. It’s not just that play. We had a lot of plays before that on both sides. It’s football. Things happen.”
Marrone said Minshew went to the line of scrimmage with the option of a run or a pass, with the formation of the defense determining the call. If the Jaguars got man-to-man defense, the play called was a draw to Fournette.
“We felt really good about the call,” Minshew said. “We had the right look. Leonard was close on the field. I thought he got it. That’s how it goes sometimes. I’d bet 10 times out of 10 for him right there to get in there.”
The Jaguars missed an opportunity for possession deep in Texans territory early in the third quarter. A snap bounced off Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson’s leg, and the ball bounced free for several seconds in the backfield. Campbell was one of several Jaguars players who had a chance at the ball before Texans offensive lineman Tytus Howard recovered at the Houston 21. The Texans punted and the Jaguars didn’t score in the second until just over six minutes remained. “That’s a play I make 99 percent of the time,” Campbell said. “It is what it is. I don’t even know how I missed it. There were a lot of plays out there that I would have liked to have back, where I didn’t play to my standard.”
Neither Marrone nor cornerback Jalen Ramsey discussed a first-quarter incident in which the two exchanged words. “There was a lot of emotion in the game,” Marrone said when asked what prompted the incident. “I can’t recall.” Ramsey during the previous drive had appeared to get upset when Marrone didn’t challenge a completed pass to Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. “We have a process,” Marrone said when asked why he chose not to challenge. “We’ve done a very good job. Since I’ve been a head coach, we’re the best ones at winning them. We have a process that we have to confirm it, because timeouts are big. We had no one able to confirm if the ball was knocked out or not. I couldn’t see it because [Hopkins] he had his back to me.” When Ramsey approached the sidelines, he brushed Marrone away. When Marrone approached Ramsey moments later, safety Ronnie Harrison got between Marrone and Ramsey and the incident ended soon thereafter. Ramsey did not speak to the media following the game.
Minshew: “The encouraging thing was we didn’t play even close to what we should have, and we were right there in the game and could have won – and should have won.”
Campbell: “We made a lot of mistakes. We didn’t play as good as we could have, but we still had a chance to win the game. It’s something we can learn from. We’ll grade the tape and try to keep getting better. We still had opportunities we didn’t capitalize on. There were plays out there that we could have made that normally we make. We still have a ways to go.”
Wide receiver Dede Westbrook on the late-game drive that brought the Jaguars to within one with :30 remaining: “That pretty much shows the determination of the offense. We had a slow start, a rocky start. For us to come down under two minutes and move the ball and get down there and score a touchdown – and compete for the game-winner – that’s huge for the offense and a huge step going forward.”
Marrone on Marrone: “You could see the poise the kid has. He was able to go down the field and score. Like I’ve told you guys before: ‘He’s not a guy who gets rattled. He’s fine on the sideline. He understands what we’re trying to get accomplished and what we want to do.’ I couldn’t be happier with him.”