HOUSTON -- Once the initial fan exuberance subsided following a clamored change under center, Texans backup quarterback Tom Savage was left with one objective that, if unmet, would have nullified the raucous cheering that greeted his entrance.
Win the game.
With ineffective starter Brock Osweiler benched and watching from the home sideline, Savage paced a fourth-quarter comeback and led the Houston Texans to a critical 21-20 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at NRG Stadium.
Savage replaced Osweiler with 8:31 left in the first half after Osweiler tossed two interceptions that the Jaguars (2-12) converted into 10 points and a 13-0 lead. Texans kicker Nick Novak booted four field goals (39, 45, 43 and 27) before Savage engineered an eight-play, 52-yard drive that culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by Lamar Miller with 2:51 to play. Novak converted the go-ahead PAT for the win.
"I wouldn't be suited up if I wasn't mentally ready to go out there," said Savage, who last played Dec. 14, 2014, at Indianapolis. "That's what this team deserves. They deserve someone to go in there and perform. And when they called my name, that's what I tried to do."
The Texans (8-6) remained tied atop the AFC South with the Tennessee Titans (8-6), who rallied to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs 19-17. The Indianapolis Colts (7-7) beat the Minnesota Vikings to remain one game back in the division title chase.
Jaguars receiver Marqise Lee followed the second Novak field goal with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown at the 6:50 mark of the third quarter for a 20-8 lead. However, that score wasn't indicative of the Texans' stellar defensive performance.
"None of us panicked," said Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who posted five tackles, three for lost yardage, two quarterback hits plus a sack and a pass breakup. "Nobody hit the panic button on our sideline. We already knew what we had to do -- go out there and keep making stops. We had a lot of good three-and-outs."
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles finished 12 of 28 for a season-low 92 yards and a season-worst 36.6 passer rating. His lone interception came with 61 seconds left on a pass picked off by safety Quintin Demps. Jacksonville amassed 150 yards and nine first downs en route to its ninth consecutive defeat.
"Today was not a good day for us," Lee said. "Defense did great once again, and offense ... messed it up. We've got to come together and figure it out. We say it every week, but we really need to figure it out."
Savage finished 23 of 36 for 260 yards. Tight end Ryan Griffin and receiver DeAndre Hopkins collected eight receptions each for 85 and 87 yards, respectively.
The Jaguars mustered precious little offense save for an 11-play, 56-yard drive that bridged the first and second quarters and resulted in a 26-yard Jason Myers field goal with 13:36 left in the first half. Osweiler provided Jacksonville all the momentum, and field position, needed to build that lead to 13-0 before his benching.
Savage immediately provided a spark off the bench, spearheading a drive that stalled at the Jaguars 1-yard line on an inexplicable fade pass to Hopkins on fourth down before leading the way to the first offensive score following a Texans safety.
"That's a terrible play call and that's my fault," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "Should have run the football and not throw a fade down there. That was a horrendous play call."
Novak drilled a 39-yard kick with 49 seconds left in the half to cap a six-play, 40-yard drive that followed a hold in the end zone on Jaguars tight end Nate Sterling.
"We have to own the fourth quarter," Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. "We had the lead going into it last week (against the Vikings) and then this week again. When you have opportunities in the fourth quarter, all three phases have to come through."
Houston activated rookie LB Brennan Scarlett from injured reserve to replace LB Whitney Mercilus (back). Before landing on the injured reserve/return player list (hamstring), Scarlett had five tackles. He finished with four on Sunday.
Jaguars SS Johnathan Cyprien recorded his 100th tackle on the season in the first quarter, marking his third consecutive year with at least 100 tackles.
Texans QB Brock Osweiler tossed his 16th interception on the season before being benched in the second quarter. Chargers QB Philip Rivers entered Sunday with the most interceptions in the NFL (17).
With his 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter, Jaguars WR Marqise Lee delivered Jacksonville its first kick return for a score since Maurice Jones-Drew did so against the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 4, 2007.