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Texans-Jaguars: What we learned

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HOUSTON — Half a country away, as the Baltimore Ravens finished off the Cleveland Browns and clinched a playoff berth, the Houston Texans experienced dizzying highs and dreary lows almost simultaneously.

Texans quarterback Case Keenum engineered a critical scoring drive in the fourth quarter and rallied Houston to a 23-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the regular-season finale on Sunday at NRG Stadium.

Houston needed a win over Jacksonville and victories by the Kansas City Chiefs and the Browns to qualify for the postseason. The Chiefs obliged with a 19-7 win over the visiting San Diego Chargers but the Ravens rallied for a 20-10 triumph over the Browns in Baltimore to eliminate the Texans, who nonetheless enjoyed a seven-win turnaround.

“It’s tough. It’s a weird situation,” said Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who had three sacks, a safety and forced a fumble. “You’re excited about the win and everything that happened. You’re hoping. But that’s what happens when you leave it in somebody else’s hands.”

Keenum tossed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Andre Johnson with 13:34 remaining to put the Texans (9-7) ahead to stay at 21-17. Watt sacked Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles in the end zone for a safety with 5:37 left.

The Jaguars (3-13) mounted a comeback in the waning moments, with Bortles completing an 18-yard, fourth-down pass to wide receiver Cecil Shorts III that moved the chains before scrambling 34 yards to the Houston 10-yard line on the ensuing snap. But Jacksonville stalled at the 5-yard line on a Bortles pass to Shorts that was caught out of bounds with 1:21 left.

“It hurts when you have four chances at the end zone at the end of the game and can’t capitalize,” Bortles said. “The first play was really good. At the end of the game to have four opportunities — it’s a good thing in football to have. Obviously there’s a lot of plays, a lot of missed opportunities we had throughout the game.”

Both Jacksonville touchdowns came courtesy of Keenum turnovers.

What the Jaguars said:

“I think that’s the biggest thing, being consistent in decision-making and being consistent in making plays and execution. Those are two things we’ve got to focus on and two things that will help us improve.” — Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles on what the offense needs to focus on in taking a step forward next season.

What the Texans said:

“Yeah because we want to get in there and we feel like we’re playing well at the right time. We could have taken care of business earlier in the year then we would have to really worry like we have been, so looking forward from here on out, take care of business earlier and we won’t have that problem.” Texans linebacker Brian Cushing on missing the postseason after Houston won four of five games down the stretch.

What we learned about the Jaguars:

1. Quarterback Blake Bortles showcased the moxie to give Jaguars fans reason for hope. With Texans defensive end J.J. Watt bearing down on him, Bortles completed an 18-yard, fourth-down pass to Cecil Shorts III on the final Jacksonville drive, then followed that effort with a 34-yard run to the Texans’ 10-yard line. The Jaguars fell short, but Bortles displayed the mettle necessary to prove that he is a viable franchise quarterback.

2. The Jaguars lived down to their league ranking on offense, finishing with just 233 yards after entering Week 17 ranked 30th averaging 293.4 per game. Jacksonville averaged 8.6 yards per rush but ran the football just 14 times compared to 34 pass attempts. “I just know the business and know how it works,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said on anticipating personnel changes. “We won’t be able to keep everybody and obviously when you get free agency and draft picks coming in so I don’t know how many guys will be back or who’s not going to be here. I just know it’s the business that everybody won’t be here next year.”

–DT Sen’Derrick Marks was lost to a knee injury in the second quarter and did not return. Marks enjoyed a breakout season, recording more sacks this season (8.5) than his previous five seasons combined (7). He finished two sacks shy of the Jaguars’ single-season sacks record of 10, held by Gary Walker (1999).

–QB Blake Bortles passed for 117 yards and set a franchise mark for passing yards by a rookie with 2,908. Byron Leftwich held the team record of 2,819 set in 2003. Bortles finished second to Oakland QB Derek Carr for passing yards by a rookie this season.

–PK Josh Scobee added to his franchise-record total for 50-yard field goals with his 53-yard kick in the first quarter. Scobee now has 26 50-yard field goals, the fourth-most among active NFL kickers.

What we learned about the Texans:

1. After releasing quarterback Case Keenum prior to the season, the Texans must reconsider whether he fits into their long-range plans. Keenum played unevenly in his two starts but steered the Texans to a pair of wins, including a comeback victory on Sunday that included a fourth-quarter touchdown drive that secured the lead. With their quarterback situation in flux, Keenum remains in the mix with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett and Tom Savage. “We’ve got to sit down as a coaching staff and we’ve got to sit down with our scouting staff, with (general manager) Rick Smith, especially myself and Rick,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “We’ve got to decide where we’re going.”

2. If Texans defensive end J.J. Watt doesn’t earn league MVP honors, he’s most certainly deserving. Watt recorded three sacks on Sunday to bump his season total to 20.5 and become the first player in league history with two 20-sack seasons. Watt, who finished with 20.5 sacks en route to Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2012, was bathed in “MVP” chants after his sack of Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles resulted in a safety in the fourth quarter. “It’s pretty special,” Watt said. “As an athlete, I think that’s one of the coolest things of all time, to have a stadium chant for you.”

–WR Andre Johnson finished with 10 receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown, recording his first and only 100-yard game of the season. Each of his last five 100-yard receiving games have come with QB Case Keenum at the helm. Keenum was making just his second start of the season. Johnson also became the 11th receiver in league history with seven seasons with at least 80 receptions. He finished with 85.

–RB Arian Foster was lost to a hamstring in the first half but departed only after catching a 10-yard touchdown pass. His five receiving touchdowns are the most by a running back in franchise history. Both Domanick Williams (2005) and Steve Slaton (2009) caught four scoring passes.

–DE J.J. Watt not only became the first player in league history with two 20-sack seasons, he also forced a fumble and became the franchise leader in that category. Watt surpassed Mario Williams with his 12th forced fumble, doing so with a sack of Jaguars QB Blake Bortles. Watt finished the season with 20.5 sacks, 29 TFLs, and 50 quarterback hits.


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