PerspectivesCole Pepper Jacksonville Today Contributor
Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) and Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, center rear, greet each other on the field after their team's NFL football game in Houston, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

SPORTS | Jaguars survive in Houston, stay in chase for AFC top seed

Published on November 26, 2023 at 9:54 pm
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It came down to a matter of inches, but the Jaguars emerged from a trip to Houston on Sunday with a 24-21 win over the Texans to improve to 8-3 on the season.

Houston kicker Matt Amendola’s 58-yard would-be game-tying field goal glanced off the crossbar in the final minute, giving Jacksonville a measure of revenge after losing at home to the Texans earlier this season.

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The win was highlighted by one of Trevor Lawrence’s best games of his career and the best pass rush the Jaguars have shown this season.

Lawrence finished with 364 passing yards, the second most of his career.

Josh Allen led the way with 2.5 sacks for the Jaguars defense. They harassed Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud for most of the game.

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It was clear that it would be an “earn it” game in the second quarter. After the Jaguars took a 10-0 lead on a Lawrence quarterback sneak for a touchdown, Houston responded with a five-play, 75-yard drive that took just 3:06. The final play saw Houston quarterback Stroud keep a play alive for 9 seconds, buying time and finding Tank Dell for a touchdown to cut the Jacksonville lead to 10-7.

The Jaguars took a 13-7 lead into halftime, but it could have been more. With 10 seconds remaining, Lawrence found Christian Kirk on a 57-yard completion down to the Texans’ 1-yard line. Doug Pederson opted to go for it instead of kicking the field goal. It was a bold decision that was not followed by a bold play call. A toss-play to Travis Etienne was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage. Instead of stretching the lead to 9 or 13 points, the margin remained 6 at the break.

The Jaguars had the first possession of the second half, but a Lawrence interception that should have been nullified by a defensive pass interference call, wasn’t. Houston turned the interception into a touchdown when Stroud ran it in from a yard out to give the Texans their first lead of the game.

The results of those two drives made a huge difference in the game played out. Instead of the Jaguars taking control of the game, it came down to the final minute and that missed field goal.

The Jaguars responded on the following drive, aided by two pass interference calls on the Houston secondary. Lawrence capped the drive with a touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley. Then the duo added the 2-point conversion to give Jacksonville a 21-14 lead.

Josh Allen’s sack just before the 2-minute warning was big, as was the sack Allen and Travon Walker shared later in the drive that pushed Houston back to force a longer field goal attempt.

The win gives the Jaguars a two-game pad in the division and eliminates the head-to-head tiebreaker Houston had earned with the week-three victory in Jacksonville. Before Kansas City and Baltimore played later in the day, the Jaguars held the top seed in the AFC. That will certainly change, but the way the Jaguars have positioned themselves, they can look to the final six games with a chance to earn the top seed in the conference and with it, a first-round playoff bye and home field advantage in the playoffs.

And it wouldn’t have been that way but for a few inches on a field goal attempt.

Lead photo: Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) and Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, center, greet each other on the field after their game in Houston, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023. | AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith

author image Jacksonville Today Contributor

Cole Pepper has covered sports in Jacksonville since 1996, most recently for News4Jax. He is currently broadcast director for Sporting Club Jacksonville and has called play-by-play for a number of teams, including the Suns, Tomcats, Jacksonville University, Sharks and The Bolles School football. He also served as the studio host for the Jaguars Radio Network.

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