JACKSONVILLE – When the 2005 Jaguars showed up in Houston to play the Texans on Christmas Eve, it was a showdown eerily similar to the teams' matchup this Sunday.
The Jaguars at the time were 10-4 and fighting for their first playoff berth since 1999; the 2022 Jaguars are looking for their first postseason appearance since 2017.
Those Texans were then 2-12 and earned the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft; the 2022 Texans have the inside track on the top pick next spring.
If form holds, expect a close game into the second half Sunday.
The Jaguars in the 2005 Christmas Eve matchup trailed 20-17 after Texans quarterback David Carr found All-Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson with a beautiful rainbow pass for a 53-yard touchdown with just over 12 minutes remaining.
The Jaguars, frustrated by their inability to put the woeful Texans away, huddled around running back Fred Taylor before the next drive began. Taylor, one of only four players on the 2005 squad who were in Jacksonville for that 1999 playoff run, was animated and his teammates responded.
Beginning at their 34-yard line, quarterback David Garrard – starting for injured Byron Leftwich – hit wide receiver Reggie Williams for 19 yards, then wide receiver Jimmy Smith made a clutch 20-yard catch into Texans territory. Taylor a few plays later put a move on former Jaguars nose tackle Seth Payne that left Payne standing still, then Taylor raced 15 yards up the middle of the Houston defense for a touchdown and a lead.
Up 24-20 with just over nine minutes remaining, the Jaguars' defense harassed Carr and created pressure and mistakes. Those led to dropped passes and penalties, stalling the Houston drive at the Jaguars 30 with Texans kicker Kris Brown then missing a 48-yard field goal.
Taylor and Co. went back to work in great shape at their 38-yard line. Taylor moved the Jaguars into field-goal range with strong runs of six, eight and five yards before Garrard got involved. He threw to wide receiver Ernest Wilford, who made a beauty of a move against safety C.C. Brown to find himself wide open on his way to a 36-yard touchdown reception.
The Jaguars were up 31-20. But with the way Carr and Brown were finding chunk plays against the secondary, nothing was certain with nearly three minutes remaining.
A secondary that had allowed Carr 300 yards passing, and that had allowed Johnson and Corey Bradford more than 100 yards and a touchdown receiving each, then made a play. Cornerback Terry Cousin jumped a route in front of Johnson at the Texans 35, then returned it to the Houston 21.
Two plays later, reserve running back LaBrandon Toefield ran over right tackle Maurice Williams and didn't stop for 17 yards until he scored his third touchdown of the game and cemented the Jaguars spot in the playoffs with the 38-20 win – and cemented the Texans' spot at the top of the draft.