“It was a missed opportunity for us,” Ryans said. “We didn’t play our best and it’s like I told our guys, when you don’t play your best and don’t execute against a really good team then this Is what happens. There’s no need to hold our head down or sulk, we have to do something about it."
Houston hadn’t been in a game this important since 2019.
The Texans were in a huge spot on Sunday, win and you are in first place in the AFC South, with a clear path to the playoffs and big tiebreakers in their favor within the division.
But lose and you go a step back in the wildcard race and two games back of a very good Jacksonville Jaguars team, with games ahead in the schedule becoming ever more important as the season heads deeper.
Houston came inches away from getting the result they needed, but fell just short, losing to the Jaguars 24-21 to go to 6-5 on the season and two games back in the AFC South.
“There are things we need to clean up and ultimately we have to play better,” said Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans. “We had self inflicted things today that we have to be better at. We have to get the right people on the field quicker, we have to execute, all those things have to be better than today.”
Houston’s offense struggled early. The Texans got the ball first but couldn’t get anything going, but the teams defense stepped up after the punt, limiting Jacksonville to a field goal. The Texans still couldn’t get anything going on their next two drives though and the Jaguars finally got to the endzone early in the second quarter, getting a pass interference penalty to put the ball on the 1-yard line before Trevor Lawrence ran in a quarterback sneak.
Houston’s offense responded after that, marching down the field on five plays and gaining 75 yards before the drive was capped off with a 7-yard touchdown pass from CJ Stroud to Tank Dell. Jacksonville came back and increased its lead with another long field goal, Houston put together a two-minute drive just before the half to try and trim the lead, but a long field goal went wide to the right. The Jags moved the ball inside the one-yard-line after that, but Houston’s defense stepped up again. Stopping a first and goal with one-second left to keep the Jaguars lead at 13-7 going into the locker room.
“That was a really big play for us,” Ryans said. “It kept us in it and I thought that momentum that the defense gave us would carry over to the second half. But we let them converting on third downs and driving. For us, we knew to win this game we had to be better than we were today and better on third downs.
The Jaguars marched down the field again to start the second half and were helped once again when for the second time in the game a questionable pass interference in the endzone put the ball at the one-yard-line. Jacksonville converted it into eight points with a touchdown pass from Lawrence to Calvin Ridley and a two-point conversion using the same connection. Houston couldn’t answer back on its next drive, with it stalling after a sack near midfield. Jacksonville added a field goal early in the fourth quarter to make it a 10 point game. Jacksonville and Houston’s defenses traded stops before Houston drove down the field and scored on a 17-yard pass from Stroud to Nico Collins, trimming the deficit to three. The Texans defense again came up big, forcing a punt, but with a chance to drive to tie or win the game, Houston’s offense stalled and was forced into a long field goal and it came up inches short, bouncing off the uprights and back in play as the Jaguars closed out the win and claimed first place in the AFC South.
Houston will continue its homestand next week with another important one as they face another AFC wildcard foe in the Denver Broncos. The Texans have now had seven straight games decided on the last drive of the game.
“It was a missed opportunity for us,” Ryans said. “We didn’t play our best and it’s like I told our guys, when you don’t play your best and don’t execute against a really good team then this Is what happens. There’s no need to hold our head down or sulk, we have to do something about it and we have to get out there on the field, execute and play better. If you play better you win the game, today we didn’t deserve to win because we didn’t play to that level.”