Texans sacked 10 times in season-opening loss to Jaguars
Fournette, strong defense lead Jaguars over Texans
Leonard Fournette ran for 100 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut, and Jacksonville had 10 sacks and forced four turnovers to help the Jaguars to a 29-7 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday.
Blake Bortles threw for 125 yards and a touchdown, Calais Campbell had four sacks and Dante Fowler returned a fumble 53 yards for a score as the Jaguars snapped a six-game skid against Houston.
The Texans hoped to provide a boost to the area ravaged by Hurricane Harvey with a win. Instead, Tom Savage struggled behind a porous line and was benched in favor of rookie Deshaun Watson at halftime with Houston down 19-0.
J.J. Watt returned after missing 13 games last season after back surgery, but injured his finger in the first half and finished with just one tackle.
A 42-yard field goal by Jason Myers made it 3-0 in the first quarter and he added one from 25 yards early in the second.
The Texans punted on their first four possessions, and the fifth one ended when Savage fumbled on a sack by Yannick Ngakoue and the Jaguars recovered the ball.
Fournette, who was the fourth overall pick in this year's draft, added his 1-yard touchdown after that, but the kick failed, leaving Jacksonville up 12-0.
Savage was sacked six times in the first half, playing behind a line without veteran left tackle Duane Brown, who is holding out. The Texans were also without receivers Will Fuller, who has a broken collarbone, and Jaelen Strong, who served a one-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Ngakoue picked up the last sack of the half, stripping the ball as he pulled Savage down. Fowler scooped it up and dashed for the score to make it 19-0.
When Houston traded up 13 picks to take Watson 12th overall in this year's draft, many assumed he'd be the starter to open the season. But coach Bill O'Brien insisted he'd back up Savage and raved about the progress of the third-year player.
He had seen enough after Houston's offense failed to move the ball for two quarters during which Savage managed just 62 yards passing and lost two fumbles.
The crowd, who had booed Savage for much of the first half, cheered loudly when Watson, who led Clemson to a national title last season, trotted onto the field for the second half.
He didn't waste any time getting going, throwing a 4-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins on his first drive to cut the lead to 19-7 early in the third quarter.
Tommy Bohanon grabbed a 1-yard TD pass from Bortles after that to extend Jacksonville's lead to 26-7.
The Texans coughed it up again late in the third quarter when Watson fumbled on a sack by Fowler and Ngakoue recovered it.
Houston was driving late in the fourth quarter when Watson turned it over again on an interception by Tashaun Gipson, who returned it 67 yards. The Jaguars added a field goal after that to make it 29-7.
Houston linebacker Brian Cushing, tight ends Ryan Griffin and C.J. Fiedorowicz and receiver Bruce Ellington all left the game with concussions. Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson injured his left knee in the first quarter and didn't return.
Jaguars: Host Tennessee on Sunday.
Texans: Face a quick turnaround with a trip to Cincinnati on Thursday.
Jaguars 29, Texans 7
Jason Myers made a 38-yeard field goal with just over 3 minutes remaining in the game to give the Jaguars a 22-point lead.
Jaguars 26, Texans 7
Blake Bortles threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Bohanan with just over 4 minutes left in the third quarter to answer the Texans first score of the game.
Jaguars 19, Texans 7
After Deshaun Watson replaced Tom Savage as the Texans quarterback, the Texans opened the second half with a touchdown-scoring drive. Watson hit Deandre Hopkins for a 4-yard TD with just over 9 minutes left in the third quarter.
Jaguars 19, Texans 0
Dante Fowler Jr. returned a fumble for 53 yards to increase the Jaguars lead to 19 points. Tom Savage was hit as he was attempting to make a throw when the ball fell to the ground.
Jaguars 12, Texans 0
The Jaguars doubled their lead again when rookie running back Leonard Fournette punched in a 1-yard touchdown on fourth down with just over 2 minutes to go in the first half.
Jaguars 6, Texans 0
Jacksonville doubled its lead after making a 25-yard field goal 10 seconds into the second quarter, Myers' second of the game. Fournette was responsible for a couple solid gains on the ground during the drive.
Jaguars 3, Texans 0
The Jaguars got on the board first, taking a 3-0 lead on the opening drive of the game. Bortles connected on a pair of long throws to help Jacksonville get into field goal range. Myers made the 42-yard try with just over 12 minutes remaining in the first quarter.
After a tough week waiting out Hurricane Harvey in Dallas and scrapping their final preseason game, the Houston Texans are home and looking toward Sunday's opener against Jacksonville.
While their thoughts are with the city as it begins its recovery from the storm and subsequent floods, the Texans know they must shift their focus to football this week.
"It's about winning football games," coach Bill O'Brien said. "I think that we'll do whatever we can in our spare time that we have to help the city, but ... as a football team, we're paid to coach and play and to win games. So, that's what our job is and we're going to go back to making sure we do as good a job as we can at our job."
Houston returned to a normal schedule on Monday for the first time since playing its third preseason game in New Orleans on Aug. 26.
From New Orleans the Texans flew to Dallas in advance of the storm and remained there, practicing in the Cowboys' facilities, until piling in busses and driving back to Houston on Wednesday when the roads into town were finally clear enough to return safely.
Players and staff spent Sunday in various locations around the city volunteering before returning to practice on Monday.
NRG Stadium was not damaged in the storm and O'Brien confirmed Monday that Sunday's game against Jacksonville will be played there as planned. He said team officials spoke with Houston mayor Sylvester Turner before making the decision.
"Everyone agrees that our game will not take resources away from other parts of the city and that this game will be an opportunity to continue to bring us all together as Houstonians and as Texans," O'Brien said.
And receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who practiced on Monday after missing time with an injured thumb, believes the game will be a boost to the city.
"In a big way. This is a football state," Hopkins said. "The state of Texas, in general, is a football state, so for us to go out there and get a win, I think that's what this city needs."
Hopkins said O'Brien didn't talk to the team about switching gears this week and he doesn't believe they have to shut out what's going on around the city to be successful on Sunday.
"I'm sure guys are going to go out this week and still (volunteer), even though we have a game Sunday, and I don't think that's going to mess our focus up," he said.
The Texans face a quick turnaround after Sunday's game with a Thursday night game at Cincinnati in Week 2, making preparations this week even more important with the short turnaround looming.
"We're professional coaches and professional football players. The train's not stopping in the NFL," O'Brien said. "Nobody feels real sorry for us, for the football team.
"Obviously there's been a great outpouring of support for the city, but in the NFL, they're moving forward and we have to move forward."
The Texans enter this week with questions on their offensive line with veteran left tackle Duane Brown continuing his holdout. He told reporters at a charity event on Monday that he plans to play this season, but didn't provide any details on when he might return to the team. But it's unlikely that he will be back in time to play on Sunday.
With Brown out, the Texans will look to Kendall Lamm to fill in. Lamm, who signed with the Texans after going undrafted in 2015, is looking forward to the opportunity.
"I'd lie (if I told) you there won't be a little bit of jitters," he said. "But as soon as I make contact the first play, all that goes away and, you know, you get back to football. So, it's exciting."
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