HOUSTON—At the same podium in 2005, Jack Del Rio stood and beamed about his team's win over the Houston Texans and the playoff berth it clinched. Last year, Del Rio stood at that podium and talked about his team's first-round playoff opponent. Last night, Del Rio stood at the same podium and lamented a season of disappointment.
"We recognize that it's been a disappointing year," Del Rio said following a 30-17 loss at Reliant Stadium on Monday Night Football. It is the Jaguars' fifth loss in the last six games and it leaves them at 4-8 and in last place in the AFC South.
Three turnovers against the Texans left the Jaguars with eight in the last two games. That's not a formula for winning.
After falling behind quickly, 10-0, and twice trailing by 13 points, the Jaguars had a chance to cut the Texans' lead to six points but gained only a yard in four tries from the six-yard line. On fourth and goal, quarterback David Garrard tripped and fell as he retreated to pass. Garrard's fall was a metaphor for a fallen season.
"We got stepped on a couple of times tonight. I'm not sure why that happened," Del Rio said of Garrard's left foot coming in contact with center Brad Meester's feet.
Garrard's performance improved sharply in the second half and left him with 287 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a 93.4 passer rating, but much of that was built in garbage time.
"The quarterback is going to get more than his share of blame and more than his share of credit. David is at his best when we're running the ball well and he can use play-action. We just haven't been able to do that this year for any length of time," Del Rio said.
Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew combined for more than 100 yards rushing for one of the few times this season, but they were blown away by Texans rookie Steve Slaton, who rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Slaton also caught two passes for 52 yards.
"He's a blazer. I didn't know he was that fast," Taylor said of Slaton, who scored late in the game on touchdown runs of seven and 40 yards. He was untouched on both occasions.
Taylor averaged 7.4 yards per carry and scored a touchdown for the first time this season. It is Taylor's 70th career touchdown and makes him the Jaguars' all-time touchdown leader. He needs 19 rushing yards to pass O.J. Simpson and move into 17th place on the all-time NFL rushing list.
"I'm thankful," Taylor said of his touchdown mark. "I probably could've set it four or five years ago. You can fill in the blank," he joked.
Jones-Drew turned in another solid dual-role effort. He rushed 12 times for 49 yards and caught three passes for 22 yards, but he spoke candidly about a personal regret.
"I just haven't been running physical like I usually do. I wasn't breaking tackles like I usually do. I have to get back to that," he said.
The Jaguars have four rugged games remaining, the first of which will take them to chilly Chicago next weekend. The Bears trail the Vikings by a game in the NFC North title chase.
"We just weren't able to generate any points. We were able to run it pretty well. We weren't able to get it done," Del Rio said.
The Jaguars may have lost cornerback Rashean Mathis for a time. Mathis missed the second half of Monday's game after sustaining a knee sprain.
Del Rio remained aggressive in his pursuit of victory, springing a surprise onside kick attempt in the third quarter after the Jaguars had cut Houston's lead to 13-3. The Texans turned the onside kick recovery into a field goal that pushed their lead back to 13 points.
"We thought we had something there and just didn't execute it well," Del Rio said of the onside attempt.
The Jaguars' most critical failing in the game may have occurred early in the second quarter. On a third-and-three play from the Houston 25-yard line, Garrard hit wide receiver Jerry Porter in the hands over the middle, but the ball bounced out of Porter's hands. Josh Scobee then sailed a 43-yard field goal attempt wide to the right.
"You have to make those simple plays," Del Rio said.
"It's very disappointing; high expectations for this season and we haven't fulfilled them," Garrard said. "We were getting all those last year; we were making all the plays. We were even getting the lucky plays."
All of that is gone now. This is very different year.