Offense Saves The Defense:
This is not an excuse because they still should have performed a lot better, but the worst case scenario on Sunday was having Blaine Gabbert leave the game with an injury. I have no doubt that if Gabbert had stayed in, and I don't think the injury was the only reason why he didn't return, the Texans would have won comfortably just like they did in their week two meeting. Again, a defense like the one the Texans have should have stopped Henne as well, but yesterday had to prove to even the most optimistic Jaguars fans (if they exist) that Gabbert simply isn't the answer. Henne in his career has completed right at 60% of his passes with just under a 1/1 TD/Interception ratio (36/38); not great or even good, but he's got some ability. Compared to Gabbert at least, who has completed only 53% of his passes.
To the Texans, I think the only way to explain their performance is to say they survived a trap game. I give the Jaguars credit because they played well, but the Texans barely looked like they had a pulse through most of the game on defense. It is a little concerning that they played down to their level of competition, but I won't worry until it becomes a trend. Bottom line, it's a team game. It's a cliche phrase that's used too often, but it's fitting here. We've seen the Texans defense carry the team to a win in previous games, this week it was the turn of the offense to carry the team across the finish line. If you didn't worry after the defense carried them to wins over the Titans, Jets, and Bills, don't worry about the offense taking a turn.
The Texans running game struggled on Sunday, running for 136 yards on 3.8 yards per carry. It wasn't an awful performance, but I think we all expected a lot more; they ran for 216 yards on 4.5 yards per carry in their week two meeting. Justin Forsett actually boosted the numbers and made them look a little better, Foster averaged just 2.75 yards on his 28 carries. However, like I said in the preview, the Jaguars might load up to stop one part of the offense, but they couldn't stop everything. Matt Schaub tied Warren Moon for the second most passing yards in a single game and Andre Johnson set a franchise record for receiving yards with 273. As the game went on, the Jaguars got less and less pressure and Schaub picked them apart.
First round pick Justin Blackmon had only 250 receiving yards through nine games for the Jaguars, but managed to almost double his season total in one game with 236 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. Having a quarterback not named Gabbert helped Blackmon break out, but I think the better explanation is that the Texans pass defense just had a down game. The Jaguars had no running game with Maurice Jones-Drew out, and they don't have many other big time receiving targets, so why Blackmon wasn't doubled on every play once he got past 100 yards I have no idea. One note that could be a concern, especially on a short week, is that Johnathan Joseph left the game in the second half with a hamstring injury. At the time I wrote this article, I hadn't seen an update to the severity of the injury or if he might miss the Lions game, but I hope the Texans are cautious with him. They're capable of still getting a bye in the playoffs without him on the field for a few games. Joseph missing several games may cause them to be the two seed instead of the number one seed, but I'd trade that to have Joseph 100% healthy for the playoffs.
The only real concern I have going forward with the defense is the pass rush. Through nine game Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin have combined for only 4.5 sacks, that's 1/2 sack combined per game. That's simply not good enough, rookie Whitney Mercilus has three sacks by himself with way fewer snaps. The sack number isn't the only stat that should be used when evaluating a pass rusher's performance, but I don't think a case can be made that Barwin and Reed are having the type of season that the fans, coaches, and most of all themselves thought they'd have. They both need to step up their level of play to help out the secondary.
Special Teams: C
Until yesterday the accuracy of Shayne Graham's kicks wasn't a question, it was just his leg strength. Hopefully the Tim Wakefield knuckleball he kicked after a false start backed them up on the potential game winning kick was just a fluke. I trust him inside 40 yards, but anything over that scares me.
In the return game, Keshawn Martin didn't find the endzone but showed flashes of why the Texans valued him in the draft with returns of 54 and 71 yards. I know some fans got upset after seeing Trindon Holliday return a couple kicks for touchdowns for the Broncos, but it was the correct move. Martin has ability as a return guy, the Texans needed to make a cut so they could add a linebacker after Brian Cushing was injured, and with Holliday as their return man, the Texans had the worst kick return average in the NFL.