JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton look back at the Jaguars' victory over the Houston Texans and ahead to this week's matchup against the Tennessee Titans
1. Reviewing the preview. Jaguars-Texans was an easy game to preview. My three keys were obvious –that the Jaguars had to block J.J. Watt and the Texans' defensive front, that Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles had to play efficiently and that the Jaguars' defensive line had to disrupt and force mistakes. I thought if the Jaguars could do one of the three they would have a chance, and if they did two of three they would win. They did all three, with the Jaguars' offensive line allowing the Texans no sacks and the defensive front so thoroughly disrupting the Texans that they registered 10 sacks, three sack/fumbles and a 53-yard fumble return for a touchdown. The lines dominated against Houston to an extent few outside imagined possible; when lines dominate to that degree 29-7 road victories over division opponents happen.
2. As I saw it.This was as big a victory as this franchise has had in at least five years. That's true because of the opponent, the opening-day timing and the manner in which it happened. The Jaguars are now in first place in the AFC South for the first time since they last started 1-0. That was 2011. But it was the manner in which the victory happened that was most significant. The Jaguars were tough. They controlled the lines of scrimmage. When adversity happened in the form of a Texans touchdown early in the third quarter, the offense responded with it best possession of the game for a 75-yard touchdown drive. That's big-boy stuff and it was as good a sign as happened Sunday.
3. Looking ahead, briefly.The biggest game is the next game. That's a cliché, but it will hold true Sunday. The Jaguars were dominant against Houston, but they now must face a very good, ascending Tennessee team that many observers consider the division favorite. The Titans will be motivated for several reasons. They need to avoid an 0-2 start after a loss to Oakland Sunday, and they'll need a victory to avoid falling two games out of first place. And they won't overlook the Jaguars – not a loss in Jacksonville last December eliminated them from playoff contention. For the Jaguars, this game is huge. It will be days after Hurricane Irma. It will be a chance to go 2-0 in the division. It will be a chance to show hometown they really are the team they showed in the opener. Is this a big game? Yes, and that's no cliché.
1. Reviewing the preview. The Jaguars ability to go into Houston and overcome not only the Texans and a top defense but also the emotions on display as a result of Hurricane Harvey rested on their ability to control the tempo. I thought they had to be able to slam the ball into the Texans' defense to slow them down – and with 155 yards rushing, they did that. The Texans couldn't touch Bortles all afternoon and the mere threat of Leonard Fournette and Chris Ivory had a lot to do with it – that and an offensive line performance that had to be seen to be believed. It was clear they couldn't repeat history with turnovers and added offensive possessions for the Texans … again, they did not. It also helped that the defense put Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson on the run – and on the ground a franchise-record 10 times. This was an easy game to call; however, it might be the same thing week in and week out because that's what this team is currently built to do.
2. As I saw it.I thought the Jaguars' defense would be able to handle the Texans' undermanned offensive line and underwhelming offense – and they did. Ten sacks and four turnovers knocked the Texans out of the game at key moments and allowed the Jaguars to set the tempo, which is what I thought it would take. I didn't account for the defensive touchdown and I didn't think it would be such a one-sided game with the Jaguars putting up 29 points.
3. Looking ahead, briefly. The Titans are another story altogether. They have one of the best offensive lines in the game, two bruising backs and an exciting young playmaker at quarterback in Marcus Mariota. This will be a big challenge for a defense that is today near the top of the statistical standings. Dick LaBeau brings a scientist's mind to his attacking defensive scheme and he'll stack the box and make Blake Bortles throw the ball more than 21 times. It's early, very early, but a 2-0 start in the division – against the two teams that finished with winning records and fighting for the division title last season –would be an incredible way for the Jaguars to open 2017.