Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' 26-3 loss to the Houston Texans in Week 9 of the 2019 season at Wembley Stadium in London Sunday
LONDON – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' 26-3 loss to the Houston Texans in Week 9 of the 2019 season at Wembley Stadium in London Sunday
1. Deshaun Watson was what they thought he was.The Jaguars knew entering Sunday what the entire NFL knows – that Watson, the Texans' quarterback, is as dangerous a player as there is in the NFL at creating production from disaster. Watson showed that again Sunday, constantly evading a Jaguars pass rush that was far more disruptive than the statistics showed at game's end. Watson's escapability and playmaking ability were the only reasons the Texans had points at halftime, at which time they led by a score of 9-3. He finished the day completing 22 of 28 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions but saved the Texans at minimum 50-to-75 yards avoiding pressure from edge rushers Josh Allen and Yannick Ngakoue. Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell this week called Watson special and said he was as difficult to sack as any quarterback in the NFL. He also said the key wasn't pressuring him, but tackling him once the pressure occurred. He couldn't have been more right on both accounts.
2. Rough time for a rough game.Maybe the Jaguars really missed wide receiver Dede Westbrook. Or maybe the lack of productivity at tight end is catching up. Whatever the reason, Jaguars rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II had one of his rougher games in eight starts Sunday, completing 27 of 47 passes for 307 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions and a lost fumble. Minshew got little help from receivers at times, but a Texans defense that had struggled mightily against the pass in recent weeks because of a depleted secondary limited the Jaguars' downfield passing game. This was Minshew's least-productive performance since a loss to New Orleans in which he lost three fumbles, and Minshew should be credited at least somewhat Sunday for taking care of the ball – until a disastrous, three-turnover fourth quarter – and keeping the Jaguars in the game despite an overall shaky performance by the offense. What will this mean when Head Coach Doug Marrone decides between Minshew and Week 1 starter Nick Foles when Foles is eligible to return against Indianapolis November 17? That remains to be seen. But there was a feeling entering the game that it would be hard to play Foles over Minshew if the Jaguars won Sunday. Foles starting seems more likely now.
3. This was opportunity lost in a big way.There's no other way to describe the feeling throughout the second half Sunday as the Texans pulled away. The Jaguars entered this game with a chance to move over .500, a chance to become a factor in the AFC South and a chance to be very much in the postseason conversation in the AFC coming out of next week's bye week. They also were playing a team in the Texans that had a beat-up secondary and a beat-up offensive line. Considering the play of the Jaguars' offense and pass rush in recent weeks it was a matchup many observers – this one included – believed favored the Jaguars. But instead of getting a lead early and pressuring Watson, the Jaguars fell behind 9-0 and allowed Watson to control the game's momentum with his escapability and poise. The Jaguars also let a real opportunity to get back in the game early in the third quarter get away when they settled for a field-goal attempt, then fumbled on the attempt to give the Texans a short field. Houston turned that into a two-score lead, and the Jaguar never really threatened again. Now, it's onto the bye with a big decision – and a big deficit in the standings – looming.
1. Minshew Magic was fun while it lasted, but now it's time to catch Foles Fever.Gardner Minshew commented early in the week that he was looking forward to playing the Texans again this season which was the first time he's seen a team a second time in 2019. The Texans obviously felt the same way. They clearly had a plan for the rookie quarterback and understood how to defend him. He held the ball far too long despite open receivers and seemed indecisive which left him to try and make a play with his legs and too often he was running back into defenders which caused another set of problems. The turnovers were late when the game was already decided so no need to pile on, he was trying to make a play, they happen. He seemed to sense the inevitability of Foles return to the starting job himself when he answered just a single question before walking off the stage in the post-game news conference. Gardner is a talented guy and it's not a stretch to say he's got a bright future, but the present belongs to Nick Foles whose career was revitalized the last two years in Philadelphia by leading the Eagles on two successful late season playoff runs. Minshew would leave the line-up 4-4 which seems more than the Jaguars could possibly have asked for on Opening Day when Foles went down plus he leaves them with the idea or maybe it's just hope that they have their long term answer for the position.
2. It wasn't just Minshew, the whole team had a bad day.A mishandled snap on the field goal on the opening drive of the third quarter set the tone. From that point forward it was missed tackles, interceptions, fumbles, dropped passes. It was surprising for a team that felt like they had matchups that worked with the absence of key players on both sides of the football for Houston. They Jaguars started slow and stumbled throughout the game. Call it a rhythm or tempo but the running game never got in a groove which threw off the play action timing. On defense they couldn't handle Deshaun Watson whose uncanny playmaking ability and sense of timing is becoming legendary. Two Jaguars had him near the ground on the second quarter touchdown drive and he dumped the ball off to Duke Johnson as he was going to the ground for a first down to extend the possession.
3. This one might have killed the Jaguars playoff hopes.A lot can change but the way it looks today the Jaguars would have to go 6-1 and beat the Colts twice and the Titans a second time to win the final wild card berth. Honestly, the team that showed up today has no business even talking about playing in January right now. There's a lot of football to be played but when you start looking at schedules and tiebreakers it's not hard to wonder how the Jaguars can overcome two losses to a team that looks good enough to make a deep playoff run let alone challenge the Colts for the division title. If you look at the schedule left to be played in the AFC you have to think the Bills will earn one of the two wild card berths and that leaves the second place team in the AFC South in a strong position for the other.