HOUSTON, Texas – Senior writer John Oehser examines Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson's post-game press conference following the Jaguars’ 24-21 victory over the Houston Texans in a 2023 Week 12 game at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday.
1. "A great win." First things first – and Sunday for Pederson was above all else about a late-season division road victory. Those typically are hard-earned in the NFL – and if the Jaguars' victory Sunday was just that, it also was satisfying and really important. The Jaguars (8-3), who on Sunday won their franchise-record eighth consecutive road game, lead the Texans (6-5) and Indianapolis Colts (6-5) by two games with six regular-season games remaining. They currently hold tiebreaker advantages on both teams, having swept the Colts and having a better division record than the Texans. "You take every win and every loss humbly and that's what we have to do," Pederson said answering the first question of Sunday's post-game press conference. "It's a great win for our team. It puts us a few games up and that was our goal this week, obviously."
2. Finishing strong. Pederson spent the first half of the 2022 season – his first as the Jaguars' head coach – discussing the Jaguars needing to learn how to win. Consider that lesson learned. The Jaguars after last season's 2-6 start have won 16 of their last 22 games, including seven of their last eight since a Week 3 loss to the Texans in Jacksonville. They have trailed just twice in those seven victories and trailed for just 3:41 Sunday, winning when Texans kicker Matt Ammendola's 58-yard field goal bounced off the cross bar and back into the field with :29 remaining. "Our guys battled for 60 minutes," Pederson said. "We knew it was going to be a tough football game. It's a really good football team here in Houston that plays tough, plays hard and plays to the end. Our guys have learned how to learn how to finish. I'm really proud of our guys. They hung in there today."
3. No-sack zone. The Jaguars' offensive line has improved dramatically over the last two games, allowing just one sack since allowing five in a Week 10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. That statistic included a game Sunday in which the offensive line allowed no sacks and two quarterback hurries, allowing quarterback Trevor Lawrence to complete 23 of 38 passes for 364 yards and a touchdown with one interception. Left tackle Cam Robinson left the game with a first-quarter knee injury, with left guard Walker Little moving to left tackle and veteran Ezra Cleveland finishing the game at left guard. "Quarterbacks feel comfortable when they're getting protection, so my hat's off to the offensive line," Pederson said. "We had to shuffle Walker out and Ezra coming in, and proud of those two guys for taking on that role. They did a great job, and really the whole offensive line did a great job keeping Trevor clean and upright and to have the type of day."
4. Big impact. The Jaguars on Sunday won without forcing a takeaway for the first time this season with a big reason for the victory four sacks on Houston quarterback C.J. Stroud. Outside linebacker Josh Allen had 2.5 sacks Sunday, all in the first half, with a sack and a half coming on the Texans' final drive. Allen and second year outside linebacker Travon Walker shared a key sack that pushed the Texans back nine yards three plays before Ammandola's last-minute missed field goal. "The defensive line had to continue to fight through the whistle and same with the defensive backs," Pederson said. "He (Stroud) can extend plays. We saw it today, and his eyes are always down the field. He's always looking for the big play. For our D-line to run all over the field sometimes it felt like to make plays, it's just a credit to them and just the 'no-quit mentality,' and Josh had a heck of a game today, particularly here at the end."
5. Pederson on winning on the road in the division in November: "We knew coming down here that this crowd was going to be energized for the way they've been playing, and rightfully so. The way their quarterback has been playing – and again, rightfully so. We knew that coming here. I felt like our guys really, for the most part, handled the noise really well. The communication was good. It's a tough place to play. This fan base is jazzed up like they were today, it's hard to hear. It's loud on the field. But great road win for us to come here and do what we did today."