*Watch head coach Gary Kubiak's Monday press conference live on Texans TV at 3:30 p.m. CT
The Texans have found a new way to win this season: With their defense.
On their way to a 5-3 record, including 3-0 in the AFC South, the Texans limited the Jacksonville Jaguars to 174 yards on Sunday in a 24-14 victory at Reliant Stadium. They have limited back-to-back opponents to less than 200 yards for the first time in franchise history.
The latest stalwart performance by Wade Phillips' defense helped the Texans overcome two turnovers set up the Jaguars' only touchdowns of the day. Houston has now outscored its three AFC South opponents by a combined score of 99-28 this season.
"There was one thing we couldn't do (today)," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "We couldn't turn the ball over, and we went out there and did it. We did it twice and it led to two touchdowns for them. But we had a defense that stood up today and said, 'We're gonna win the game. We're gonna win this football game.' And they were excellent all day long, exceptional... I'm very proud of how they played."
The Jaguars' 32nd-ranked offense put together only one drive longer than 26 yards on Sunday. Rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert was 10-of-30 for 97 yards with a 26.7 passer rating. Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who entered the game ranked second in the NFL in rushing, finished with 63 yards on an average of 3.5 yards per carry.
Texans inside linebacker Brian Cushing continued his outstanding season with a team-high seven tackles. Cushing and cornerback Jason Allen both picked off Gabbert, and rookie linebacker Brooks Reed recorded his second sack in as many weeks.
"The sky's the limit for this defense," said cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who had one of the Texans' nine passes defensed. "When you look around, from the D-line to the linebackers to the secondary, there's playmakers all over the field... We're pretty stacked with playmakers on this team."
Running back Arian Foster led the way for the Texans' offense with 33 carries for 112 yards, including 71 yards in the second half. His four-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter put the Texans up 21-7.
"We knew they were good up front," Kubiak said of the Jaguars, who boasted the league's sixth-ranked defense. "We just stayed the course and kept banging and kept banging, and he did his best running at the end of the game, which is what good backs do. That's what good teams do."
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub threw for 225 yards and a score. Wide receivers Kevin Walter (70) and Jacoby Jones (59) and tight end Owen Daniels (60) all contributed more than 50 receiving yards with All-Pro wideout Andre Johnson sidelined by a hamstring injury.
Schaub also ran for a touchdown on the first drive of the game. He scrambled in from two yards out to cap a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive that lasted 6:39.
The Jaguars and Texans then traded seven punts before a Texans turnover set up Jacksonville for a score. With 6:41 left in the second quarter, Schaub was sacked by linebacker Clint Session and fumbled at the Houston 35-yard line before wackiness ensued. Defensive end Matt Roth recovered the fumble at the 30 and returned it five yards before lateraling the ball over his head to defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, who ran seven yards to the 18 before lateraling the ball back to Session. Session got 10 yards to the Houston 8-yard line before Foster pushed him out of bounds. The Jaguars scored two plays later on a five-yard touchdown pass from Gabbert to wide receiver Jason Hill.
With less than two minutes to play in the second quarter, Cushing thwarted a potential Jaguars scoring drive when he picked off Gabbert at the Houston 21-yard line. Schaub then completed four quick passes to set up Neil Rackers for a 46-yard field goal attempt, but Rackers missed wide right with four seconds remaining in the first half.
After the Texans' defense forced a three-and-out on the first series of the second half, Jones had a 33-yard punt return to the Jacksonville 44-yard line. Nine plays later, tight end Joel Dreessen caught a seven-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal, snaring a lofted ball over a Jags defensive back.
"I just tried to give ground to let Joel get out of his break, and then I just tried to give him a chance to make a play," Schaub said. "I didn't quite see how it finished, but I just know he caught it."
Allen picked off Gabbert on the first play of the fourth quarter at the Jacksonville 40-yard line. The Texans capitalized on the short field with Foster's four-yard touchdown run, the 23rd rushing touchdown of his career.
The Texans then forced another three-and-out. They were in the driver's seat until another turnover kept things interesting. Backup running back Ben Tate was stripped at the Jacksonville 36-yard line at the end of an 18-yard run, and Jaguars safety Dwight Lowery returned the ball 23 yards. A low block penalty on Daniels tacked on 15 more yards, placing the ball at the Houston 26.
As they did after Schaub's fumble in the second quarter, the Jaguars again scored off the turnover. This time it was Jones-Drew on a two-yard touchdown run that made the score 21-14 with 5:15 remaining.
The Texans needed a couple of first downs to milk the clock, and they got a huge one from Daniels three plays into their next drive. On third-and-five from the Houston 25, Daniels made a shoestring catch on a pass that went just over the head of a referee, who had to duck to avoid being hit in the middle of the field. Daniels picked up 30 yards on the play. Foster ran for 14 yards two plays later, and Rackers made a 39-yard field goal with 18 seconds remaining to effectively end the game.
"I think that this year, as opposed to other years I've been here, we're finding ways to win rather than finding ways to lose," Foster said. "It's early still, but I think you have to start somewhere, and this is a great way to start for us. We're excited about that, but like our coaches told us in the locker room, 'What does five wins get you in this league?' Everybody knows it doesn't get you anything – we could lose the rest. We're going to refocus and come right back here tomorrow, watch the film and get over it and go right back to work for Cleveland." Twitter.com/NickScurfield