Whoever said turnovers come in bunches was right.
The Houston Texans defense put on a show Sunday in London forcing four turnovers in a 26-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. After allowing just a field goal in the first half, the Texans shut out Jacksonville in the second half with an outstanding defensive performance, ending the final four Jaguars drives in a takeaway.
“They did great job of playing team defense,” head coach Bill O’Brien said after the game. “We felt like we had to try to do the best we could to keep (Gardner) Minshew in the pocket because he made so many plays outside the pocket. Such a competitive guy. And then to try to do the best we can to stop (Leonard) Fournette, who is the leading rusher in the NFL, or second-leading coming into the game.”
Minshew, in his eighth career start and second against Houston, completed 27-of-47 passes for 309 yards, no touchdowns, a single-game high two interceptions with a 59.6 passer rating. The Texans defense brought pressure and also added three sacks and forced two fumbles on the rookie quarterback.
“He makes some plays when he’s outside the pocket so the biggest thing for us was a disciplined rush,” Whitney Mercilus said.
Safeties Justin Reid and Jahleel Addae each picked off Minshew on back-to-back drives in the fourth quarter. After Addae's interception, Reid picked off Minshew’s pass at the Jacksonville 40-yard line and returned it 37 yards with 4:43 left in the game. Reid's only regret was that he didn't score a touchdown.
“Man as soon as I saw it come out of the hand, I saw it and I knew that it was going to be mine,” Reid said. “Plucked it out of the air, tried to take it back. I wasn’t going to go down easy, you know, I wanted those three yards so bad, but I’ll get the next one.”
The Texans offense converted the takeaway into quick points. Two plays later, DeAndre Hopkins scored on a one-yard touchdown pass from Deshaun Watson. The Jaguars final two possessions ended in similar fashion. On the next drive, linebacker Jacob Martin forced a fumble on Minshew, recovered by Zach Cunningham. The final Jaguars possession of the game ended in a strip sack by Brennan Scarlett. Dylan Cole recovered the fumble to seal the victory.
"It’s crazy," fellow linebacker Benardrick McKinney said. "A lot of guys made a lot of big plays. The ball kept rolling our way.”
The Texans recently ended their turnover streak, in which they forced a takeaway in 20 consecutive game. Despite playing their first game without J.J. Watt, who underwent season-ending surgery last week, and the secondary missing a number of starters, including Tashaun Gipson Sr., Lonnie Johnson and Bradley Roby, Houston was able to make big plays down the stretch when it mattered most.
“Secondary is doing a great job,” Mercilus said. “We got some guys down and all that but it’s next-man-up mentality. That’s with our front seven and with the DBs and all that, so guys are just going out there and doing their jobs and playing some good football.”
Houston is currently ranked fourth in the AFC and tied for sixth in the NFL in takeaways forcing 14 takeaways (five interceptions, nine fumbles) through nine games this season.