Justin Blackmon didn't surprise Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey a bit Sunday.
The rookie wide receiver didn't surprise himself, either.
Blackmon, the No. 5 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, caught seven passes for a career-high 236 yards and an 81-yard touchdown in a 43-37 overtime loss to the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday afternoon.
Blackmon's previous best game this season was six receptions for 67 yards.
"He's had the light going on," Mularkey said. "Every press conference I've had (in recent weeks) I've talked about his preparation. Each game he's taken another step. He has gotten better and better every week."
Blackmon, the Biletnikoff Award winner for college football's best receiver each of the last two years, entered the game with 26 receptions for 250 yards and a touchdown in nine games.
"I've been very patient," he said. "I'm not one that's going to get down on myself just because I'm not doing stuff on the field Sunday. When my name's called, number's called, I just have to get out there and make plays."
Blackmon's average of 33.7 yards per reception set a franchise record, but Mularkey said there was no unusual effort to get Blackmon involved.
"It just happened that way," Mularkey said. "It just unfolded that way. Justin made some big plays for us."
PLAY OF THE GAME
For one of the first times this season, there were just about too many big plays for the Jaguars to make a choice here. But considering the day Blackmon had, you have to go with his 81-yard touchdown reception that put the Jaguars ahead, 34-20. On the play, the Jaguars faced 3rd-and-21 from their 19. Henne threw deep to Blackmon, who leapt and caught the ball high around the 50. He then made a move to his left, got a block from wide receiver Cecil Shorts and scored to give the Jaguars a two-touchdown lead on a team that entered the game ranked No. 2 in the NFL in total defense.
The Texans took momentum early, taking a 7-0 lead with a 9-yard pass from Matt Schaub to Keyshawn Martin. The Jaguars responded. With quarterback Gabbert out, Henne moved the Jaguars 81 yards, capping the four-play drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis. The quarter ended 7-7.
Henne continued to move the Jaguars effectively in the second quarter, giving the Jaguars a 14-7 lead with a 67-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass to Cecil Shorts. The Texans tied it with a 1-yard touchdown pass from Schaub to tight end James Casey before the teams exchanged field goals to close the half tied, 17-17.
The Jaguars took the lead with an inspired third quarter, as Henne threw his career-high third touchdown pass – a 1-yarder to Marcedes Lewis that gave Jacksonville a 27-17 lead. Scobee had given the Jaguars a 20-17 lead with a 40-yard field goal. Shayne Graham's field goal late in the third quarter made it 27-20, Jaguars.
The Jaguars took a 34-20 lead on Blackmon's 81-yard touchdown, but the Texans tied it with 1:34 remaining after touchdown passes of 1 and 5 yards from Schaub to tight end Garrett Graham. Shayne Graham missed a chance to win it when he missed from 47 yards on the final play of regulation.
The teams traded field goals early, with Graham converting from 25 yards and Scobee converting from 33. After the Jaguars failed to gain a yard on four plays from the Texans 47 with just over two minutes remaining, Johnson turned a short pass from Schaub into a 48-yard game-winning touchdown.
"He (Henne) did a lot of good things. What he did was give our guys some chances to make some plays on the field and our guys made some plays. He took command of it."
QB CHAD HENNE SAYS
"It's never easy. I understood my role. It was to help Blaine (Gabbert) get better, push him, compete against him and do everything in my power to help Blaine. If you asked Blaine, I think he would say, 'He (Henne) helped me tremendously.' It has to be like that in this business."
"It's exciting, but if you don't win the game, it brings you down. We want to win football games here. We have the talent to win football games. It just hasn't rolled our way."
If you think the NFL isn't a tough man's game, you didn't see Paul Posluszny after a loss to the Texans Sunday. The Jaguars' middle linebacker played much of the second half with blood smeared on his face, and he had the same look after the loss. Posluszny, who forced a turnover that led to one touchdown and had an interception that led to another, said the blood came when his helmet was shoved down onto his nose, and while the scene wasn't pretty Posluszny said he wasn't concerned. "My fiancé said she likes me for my charm, anyway," he said. "It doesn't matter."
STAT OF THE GAME
The Jaguars' 458 yards were eye-catching and a season-high, but the key statistic of the game was put up by the Texans. Houston, which entered the game ranked No. 17 in the NFL in total offense, finished the game with 640 yards of offense. That was a franchise record for most yards allowed by the Jaguars, who also lost for the first time in franchise history after leading by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The Texans had 39 first downs, with wide receiver Andre Johnson catching a career-high 273 yards. The Texans also ran 92 offensive plays.
This game had more than its share of key moments and turnarounds, but in the end, it came late in overtime. The Jaguars had 1st-and-goal at the Texans 6 after Jalen Parmele broke free around the left side of the Texans' defense for a 28-yard gain. He lost four yards on the next play, then after a five-yard motion penalty on left tackle Eugene Monroe, Henne threw incomplete to Laurent Robinson and Cecil Shorts. The Jaguars settled for a field goal when a touchdown would have won the game.
Gabbert left the game with an elbow contusion, and while he was originally listed as probable to return, he did not play after leaving. Cornerback Aaron Ross left the game with an ankle injury in the second quarter and returned.* *
*Parmele rushed for 80 yards on 24 carries, including a 28-yarder in overtime that nearly gave the Jaguars their second victory of the season. He was playing in place of Rashad Jennings, who had started the last three games in place of injured pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew. "We just felt like we needed to get our run game going," Mularkey said. "We went with Jalen and I thought we got some hard-earned carries from him."
*Despite the record yardage allowed by the Texans, Mularkey said the team believed it had the correct game plan entering the game. "I told them this morning we had a very good game plan," he said. "That's a very good offense. They've been doing the same things for a longtime. They have some weapons that it's hard to stop all of them. When plays were there to be made, they made them. Those are the things we have to do consistently to end up on the right side of the outcome."
*The Jaguars' points and touchdowns were season-highs.
*Lewis' two touchdowns in one game was the first time he had done that since October 31, 2010. It was the fourth time in his career he has had two or more touchdowns.
*While cornerback Derek Cox covered Johnson much of the game on what turned out to be a career day for the perennial Pro Bowl receiver, he had an interception in overtime that put the Jaguars in range for what would have been a game-winning score. "I thought he did the best he could – I really did," Mularkey said of Cox.
The Jaguars play host to the Tennessee Titans Sunday.
This loss hurt players and coaches. Even at 1-9, they all hurt, and you could hear it in Mularkey's voice when he talked in the postgame about how much he wants this team to have success. But while there are no moral victories, this was still a better showing than the Jaguars had had in some time. Given the quality of the opponent, it may have been the best performance of the season. It wasn't enough, and it didn't make for a good feeling, but for a team that had had too many one-sided losses this season, there was at least some pride Sunday after having nearly beaten a team many consider the best in the AFC.