JACKSONVILLE – There was a lot of enthusiasm in Jacksonville in December 2017, which is the last time the Jaguars beat the Houston Texans.
The Jaguars the previous week had secured their first winning season in 10 years with an impressive win over the Seattle Seahawks. A win over the Texans on a sunny Sunday just before Christmas would deliver a much-anticipated present – a spot in the 2017 postseason.
It also would keep them a step ahead of the Tennessee Titans in the AFC South title hunt.
On the surface, it didn't look like the Texans had much to offer. They were down to T.J. Yates, their third quarterback of the season after Deshaun Watson was lost to a knee injury. But they still had a talented roster, with wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller and running back Lamar Miller. Their defense featured pass rushers J.J. Watt, Jadaveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus – a trio that had tormented the Jaguars for many seasons.
Jaguar quarterback Blake Bortles was riding high after impressive performances in consecutive wins over the Indianapolis Colts and Seahawks. He was determined to deliver the playoffs and not let the Texans do what they had done to him so often in his young career.
On the Jaguars' second drive of the game, Bortles put together a masterful drive by mixing short passes to tight ends Marcedes Lewis and James O'Shaughnessy with running back Chris Ivory. The Jaguars didn't face a third down on the drive, and they took an early lead with fullback Tommy Bohanon's one-yard touchdown plunge.
The story of the 2017 season wasn't the offense. It was a defense that was perhaps the best in Jaguars history. That unit, too, wanted to use Week 15 as a tune-up for the postseason.
On the Texans' ensuing drive, defensive tackle Malik Jackson registered a sack/fumble on Yates and sent a message despite the Texans recovering that you weren't going to move the ball on the Jaguars' defense that day.
Jaguars wide receiver Jaydon Mickens' ensuing 26-yard punt return set up Bortles and the offense near midfield. On second down, Bortles found wide receiver Keelan Cole running a skinny post. Cole made a beautiful move past the corner and took the ball to the Texans' 15-yard line. Moments later, Mickens was running wide open for a 5-yard touchdown and a 14-0 Jaguars lead.
Jackson then went inside the offensive tackle, rumbled over running back Alfred Blue and sacked Yates, stripping the ball again. Six plays later, after two more electrifying Cole catches. Mickens grabbed his second touchdown pass of the quarter by racing past corner Johnathan Joseph into the end zone.
The crowd went wild and stayed at a frenzy as the Jaguars rolled to a 31-0 halftime lead en route to a 45-7 victory.
The Jaguars rolled up 464 yards of offense and held the Texans to only 186. Bortles threw for 326 yards, with Cole finishing with 186 for the best day of his career. The defense sacked Yates four times, hit him eight more times and intercepted him once.
It was a nice tune-up for what came next. It would, however, be their final win of the regular season. They dialed everything down the following week when the Titans lost to give them their first AFC South Division Title and their first division title since they won the AFC Central in 1999.
It was also the last time they have beaten those Texans.
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