JACKSONVILLE – A play here, and a play there …
That wasn't the entire story of the Jaguars' 27-13 loss to the Houston Texans at EverBank Field Sunday, but as Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley saw it, it was part of it.
The Jaguars (2-11) led 13-10 at halftime, and despite the Texans (7-6) dominating the second half statistically, there were plays when the Jaguars had a chance to make a play and remain close:
*On 4th-and-1 from the Jaguars 1 on the second play of the fourth quarter, Texans running back Arian Foster reversed field and scored to make it 24-13, Texans.
*On 4th-and-1 from the Jaguars 38 with 10:41 remaining on the ensuing series, defensive tackle Roy Miller jumped offsides. A Texans field goal gave them a 27-13 lead four plays later.
Two fourth downs for the Texans. Two conversions.
Ten key second-half points.
"We have to make those plays, and get us out of those situations," Bradley said.
The Jaguars, after overcoming a 21-point deficit for a 25-24 victory over the New York Giants a week ago, outgained the Texans 189-124 in the first half Sunday. Outside of a 51-yard run by Foster, the Texans had just 73 first-half yards and five first downs.
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, who last week led his first come-from-behind fourth-quarter drive, also played well much of the first half Sunday, completing 12 of 22 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.
"I think we're seeing signs of Blake where he bounced back," Bradley said. "He started off (this season) really strong and then struggled there a little bit but he seems to be back where he was making good decisions. I think there's improvement taking place (overall as a team), but right now it's a little frustrating because we didn't get what we wanted to."
The Texans opened the second half with a momentum-turning, 17-play, 84-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown by running back Alfred Blue with 3:23 remaining in the third quarter. Texans safety D.J. Swearinger intercepted Bortles three plays later.
"I probably should have never thrown it," Bortles said, adding that he may have had wide receiver Cecil Shorts III open on the play. "I probably should have thrown it to Cecil or thrown it over his head, but the guy undercut it and made a good play."
It was Bortles' lone interception of the game, and gave the Texans 1st-and-10 at the Jaguars 26. Foster's one-yard touchdown run six plays later gave the Texans a 24-13 lead.
"The interception gave them another short field to work with and we just didn't make enough plays," Bradley said. "They made more plays than we did, they did a good job with the time of possession and ran the ball very well."
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Marqise Lee, wide receiver Jaguars
If you're picking from the second half, there probably wouldn't be a player of the game for the Jaguars, but Lee played well enough in the first half to be the choice.
Lee, a rookie from the University of Southern California, struggled in the first 10 games of the season, but on Sunday he continued his late-season improvement that began in Week 11.
Lee finished with five receptions for 67 yards, with four receptions for 60 yards coming in the first half. His 31-yard reception on a 2nd-and-10 play with 3:10 remaining in the second quarter highlighted the Jaguars' first half and led to a field goal that gave Jacksonville a 13-10 halftime lead.
"Marqise had a nice big play on our sideline and made some great plays," Bradley said.
Lee now has 27 receptions for 335 yards and a touchdown this season.
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Offense:Bortles had several key completions in the first half, but the highlight of the game – and perhaps of the season – for the Jaguars' offense was the 31-yard reception by Lee. On the play, Lee leaped over Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye and outfought him for the ball just inside the sideline.
Defense:The defense – particularly the front – didn't have the game-changing performance it had the last two weeks, though the unit did have two sacks. On a day that lacked a turnover or memorable sack, a play on 3rd-and-15 early may have been the best defensive play. On the play, cornerback Dwayne Gratz forced wide receiver Andre Johnson back inside after a screen pass and defensive end Chris Clemons tackled him for a five-yard loss to force a punt.
Special teams:Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee's 37-yard field goal with 1:09 remaining in the half not only made it 13-10, Jaguars, at halftime, it gave Scobee 1,000 career points. He became the first Jaguars player with 1,000 career points.
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"We felt like, 'Alright, we've got the ball in the second half and let's do some good things here and play our best ball.' It's frustrating that we missed that opportunity.'''
--- Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley
1.Bradley: "We didn't do good enough things on offense (in the second half and on) defense we didn't get the ball and get any turnovers."
2.Bortles: "It was tough. We did some good things in the first half. We were able to be productive and execute, but we were never able to get anything going in the second half. We never could really get into a rhythm."
3.Bortles: "We probably threw the ball just as much as we would have if it wasn't raining. There were probably some drops and mishandling of the ball that were definitely caused by the rain. That's part of it. You have to be able to play in all weather."
4.Offensive tackle Luke Joeckel: "I can't pinpoint a reason right now (for the team's third-quarter struggles). It needs to get fixed. We've got to see on film. There are different things here and there. It's hard to judge what we did until after we watch film. We just didn't do what we needed to do."
First half images from the Jaguars Week 14 matchup with the Houston Texans.
1.Bradley said overall Bortles did a nice job Sunday handling pressure and keeping the Jaguars out of sacks. Bradley had said last week that Bortles needed to be better throwing the ball away – or "dirting" the ball – when pressured. "I think when you look at tape … I think we'll find out that he did a nice job getting away from some pressure, staying on the move and making good decisions," Bradley said. …
2.Texans defensive end J.J. Watt finished the game with three sacks and had four tackles for loss with five quarterback hurries and a batted pass. "I've said that earlier in the week … he's a caliber player to be an MVP and without a doubt he is," Bradley said.
3.Jaguars fifth-year veteran right tackle Sam Young made his third start of the season and first since Week 4 on Sunday. He lined up opposite Watt much of the game, though Watt moved around on the line. "I thought Sam Young stepped up and took advantage of his opportunities," Bortles said. "He played really well."
4.Young on Watt: "You have to game-plan against a guy like that (Watt). I think especially in the first half the coaches did a great job calling a game where we could neutralize him. In the second half, we got behind and had to start winging and just weren't able to get it together."
5.Bortles' four-yard, first-quarter touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Allen Hurns was his first career first-quarter touchdown pass. …
6.Hurns' first-quarter touchdown reception gave him six for the season, setting a team record for receiving touchdowns by a rookie. Only running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew have scored more touchdowns for the Jaguars as rookies. …
7.Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks' 1.5 sacks give him 8.5 for the season, which leads the team and is a career high. The Jaguars' 39 sacks as a team is their most since 2005.
The Jaguars sustained no major reported injuries Sunday.
The Jaguars will visit the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md., Sunday at 1 p.m.