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Harris Hits: Jacksonville Jaguars | Week 12


The Texans just don't know how to play a game that doesn't come down to the final minute of action. Unfortunately, Sunday's game ended the wrong way for the good guys as Matt Ammendola's potential game tying 58-yard field goal hit the crossbar, falling to the turf inches short in a grueling 24-21 loss to the AFC South Division leading Jacksonville Jaguars. Let's get into my Harris Hits from Sunday, painful or otherwise.

I have to remind myself consistently that this is still a young team, coached by a rookie head coach with plenty of rookie players and rookie coordinators and coaches. There were some rookie moments on Sunday, no doubt. Two timeouts had to be burned in the second half because the offense didn't get out of the huddle until eight seconds on the play clock on one play and because the punt return team had 12 players on the field on the final Jaguars punt of the game.

Now, I'm not saying that had the offense had all three timeouts that they would've gone down and scored a game winning TD or kicked a much easier game tying field goal. But, it changes the calculus of how that drive is potentially executed. In the end, the Jaguars made the big plays that the Texans didn't.

The Jaguars pass rushers, in particular Josh Allen, were part of a larger problem on Sunday. QB C.J. Stroud was often moving off of his spot during the game. He very rarely threw from a clean pocket. That said, Allen had 12 pressures according to Next Gen Stats and he was the problem that we all knew he was going to be but it really didn't have to be that way. Two of his sacks were gimmes. His first, in the third quarter, came after he was completely unblocked. Then, his second full sack came on a screen that got blown up in the fourth quarter. 

The Texans OL lost LG Tytus Howard to injury early in the game and rookie Juice Scruggs had to step in. At first glance, Juice held his own throughout the game and is only going to get better week after week if he continues in that role due to a potential longer term injury for Tytus. The gist of Sunday's matchup is that the Jaguars did a much better job making life difficult on Stroud than in week three, even though the Texans rookie still threw for 304 yards, sacking him four times for 43 yards.

Allen's 2.5 sacks accounted for 31.5 yards on Stroud/Texans. Yards are yards whether the offense generates them or the defense takes them away, so consider the fact that Allen would've been the team's second longest "rusher" behind Travis Etienne.

View the best photos from the Week 12 matchup between the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars.

The bigger issue was that the Texans just couldn't run the ball effectively throughout the game to take pressure off of the passing game. The Jaguars run defense is one of the best in the NFL and showed why on Sunday - violent, speedy and excellent striking/tackling. Ironically, the Texans ran for more than the Jaguars give up on average, but C.J. Stroud accounted for over half of those run yards on scrambles.

Defensively, the Texans couldn't have played the run any better. Holding the explosive Etienne to just 56 yards on the ground on 20 carries? I would've taken that all day long. But, the Texans defense just couldn't stop the explosives. The Jaguars generated four plays of 42 yards or more, which accounted for 42% of their entire offensive output (186 yards out of 445). Those explosive plays were just killers for the defense. Take it one step further - throw in the two 20+ plays and the Texans gave up well over 50% of the Jaguars total offense on just six plays. 

The Texans also gave the Jaguars four first downs on penalty. I don't know that I've seen that in a long time. Two were called on the Texans as they led 14-13 in the third quarter. Neither one of them were seemingly even close but the fact that they came on third and relatively long made them killers. All three pass interference calls came on third down for the Jaguars. A defensive holding was called on Steven Nelson on a key third and seven at the end of the third quarter. It was NOT on Nelson, that's for sure - there was a holding, that I can assure you, unfortunately. Either way, four key interference/holding calls gave the Jaguars extra opportunities that they probably shouldn't have gotten.

That said, the one play defensive stand on the final play of the first half set NRG Stadium OFF. Jaguars WR Christian Kirk's 57-yard catch and run put the ball at the Texans one yard line with one second remaining. The Jaguars eschewed the field goal to go for the gusto to put the nail in the Texans' coffin before the half. But, instead of just relying on 6-6 QB Trever Lawrence to get 36 inches again, just as he did earlier in the game, the Jaguars got a bit creative on the play call and pitched the ball to Travis Etienne who, again, needed  just one yard for the touchdown. And…

…he got nothing. Jalen Pitre drove through an OL's block to turn Etienne back inside. Then, Desmond King II came up and drilled Etienne as the Jaguar back tried to power into the end zone. King II stoned him and got a little bit of help from his pals to end the half with one of the most energizing defensive plays in recent memory.

Overall, the Texans just couldn't get out of their own way. In the first quarter, Stroud threw one of the best bombs I've ever seen at NRG Stadium to Tank Dell. The crowd went absolutely BONKERS, an eruption of noise and excitement. But…flag on the field. Dell wasn't set in his stance before the ball was snapped so a five yard illegal shift penalty wiped out one of the best plays of any day this season.

(Side note: some of the best catches I've seen Texans WR make have been negated because of the WR's own penalty - DeAndre Hopkins v. Giants in 2014 - lined up wrong, Hop v. Miami in 2018 - offensive PI on Hop, Tank v. Jaguars yesterday - moving at the snap)

NRG Stadium is back to being the raucous, difficult environment that was so vital to the team's success the first 16-17 years of its existence. I'm telling you it EXPLODED throughout the day and was just awesome to FEEL that vibe and HEAR that sound. It was evident how hard Lawrence had to work to communicate with his offense. I can't thank the fans enough for responding and energizing these players thus far this year.

Lawrence was so quick getting the ball out of his hand that the Texans front four just couldn't get to him in the pocket. He took only two QB hits and only one from a defensive lineman (Jon Greenard). He did get some pressure at times, but most of that pressure was moot as the Texans committed penalties in the defensive backfield, unfortunately.

I love how much LB Christian Harris is growing in this defense. He led the team with 12 tackles, then added a TFL and one of the two hits on the quarterback. It's clear that he's getting more and more comfortable and playing explosively fast on every single play.

His Baton Rouge compadre Derek Stingley Jr. came up with another interception with some help from Jalen Pitre (and the refs who missed a blatant holding call on Jalen). Either way, Stingley Jr. has three interceptions in his career and two of them are from Lawrence. He also has two in the last two games at NRG Stadium. He should've had another one later in the game and I don't even know how he missed an INT that Calvin Ridley caught for a first down. Steven Nelson had one that went through his hands at a key spot in the fourth quarter as well. The Texans could easily have had three INT in this game and that could've really helped their cause. Either way, Stingley Jr. continuing to make plays for this defense is a tremendous development over the past two weeks.

There's not much more to discuss about this gut punch loss so we'll cut it there. What I love about this game, not specifically the Jaguars game, but the game of football, is how a squad bounces back from a performance that I know they won't be happy with when they see the film on Monday. Either way, it's time to flush it (not before learning tons from it) to get ready for the HOT Denver Broncos to come into town. See ya then, everyone.

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