JACKSONVILLE – The Texans are 2-0 after using a familiar formula to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field.
Relying on a smothering defense and dominant running game, the trademarks of their 2011 playoff season, the Texans pounded their division rivals 27-7 in their first road game of 2012.
"If we do what we're supposed to do and play our defense the way it's supposed to be played, I don't think it can be stopped," Texans defensive end Antonio Smith said. "Our goal in this defense is to be the number one defense in the league."
The Texans allowed just 117 yards, a new team record, as they took advantage of a depleted Jaguars offensive line and made life miserable for quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Jacksonville was 0-of-9 on third down and had just 43 yards, including -4 passing, in the first half. The Texans ran 83 plays overall and set a team record with 43:17 in time of possession.
Defensive end J.J. Watt had a monster game for the second consecutive week with 1.5 sacks, two passes defensed, a fumble recovery and a team-high five tackles. Texans running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate combined for 184 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The Texans ran for 216 total yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry.
"Just a great all-around team effort," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "We played good physical football, road ball. Protected the ball all day."
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub directed an up-tempo, quick-huddle offense for much of the game. It started on the first drive, when Schaub completed five short passes for 42 yards. The Texans gained 66 yards in 13 plays for a 31-yard field goal by Shayne Graham.
The Jaguars drove into Houston territory on their first drive, but Watt tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage on third down to force a punt. Jacksonville had two false starts on its next drive, leading to a three-and-out. Trindon Holliday returned the ensuing punt 36 yards to the Jaguars' 41-yard line.
Four plays later, Tate stiff-armed a would-be tackler and burst up the right sideline for an apparent 26-yard touchdown. A replay review showed that Tate stepped out at the two-yard line, but Foster scored from one yard out two plays later to put the Texans up 10-0 late in the first quarter.
Watt deflected another pass on the Jaguars' next drive, then combined with Smith for a drive-ending sack. The Texans took a 17-0 lead midway through the second quarter after Tate plowed up the middle for an eight-yard touchdown run.
With heavy rain coming down near the end of the first half, Brooks Reed sacked Gabbert at the Jacksonville 1-yard line with 2:28 remaining. That helped the Texans go to halftime with a 242-43 advantage in yards.
The weather improved in the second half, but the Texans got worse. They forced a three-and-out on the Jags' first drive but were flagged for an illegal block on their punt return. The Texans' first drive began with a false start, leading to a three-and-out of their own.
An 18-yard punt return gave the Jaguars possession at Houston's 37-yard line. Gabbert completed a 32-yard pass to Laurent Robinson and a five-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Jones-Drew. All of a sudden, it was a 17-7 game three minutes into the second quarter.
"We couldn't play any worse as a team the first three minutes of the third quarter, but what this group was able to do was grab something and say, 'Hey, that wasn't good enough; let's get back to ourselves.' And that's something you've got to do in this league."
The Texans responded with a 17-play, 80-yard drive, chewing 9:14 off the clock. Tate kept the drive alive with a cutback run after the catch for a three-yard gain on third-and-one from the Jacksonville 36. Six plays later, Tate scored on a two-yard run to push the lead back to 24-7.
Graham made a 37-yard field goal with 7:20 remaining to provide the final margin. Watt recovered a fumble near midfield with 5:09 remaining, and the Texans ran out the remainder of the clock with several runs by Justin Forsett and a couple of kneel-downs by Schaub.
Foster finished the game with 28 carries for 110 yards (3.9 average). Tate had 74 yards on 12 carries (6.2 average). Schaub was 26-of-35 for 195 yards and an 87.2 rating. Tight end Owen Daniels led the Texans with 47 receiving yards on six catches.
Gabbert was 7-of-19 (37 percent) for 53 yards and a touchdown before leaving in the fourth quarter with a leg injury. He had a passer rating of 62.8.
The Texans improved to 12-9 all-time against the Jaguars, including 5-6 at EverBank Field. They have won four consecutive games in the series for the first time.