For the third consecutive game, the Jacksonville Jaguars failed to score in the first half.
And for the third week in a row, that inept showing led to a Jaguars defeat.
Jacksonville has been outscored 90-28 in its last three games including a combined 57-0 in the first half. The deficit is only 33-28 in the second half but by then, the opposing teams had significant leads and were playing prevent defenses, guarding against the Jaguars scoring quickly on a bomb play.
That however, isn't likely to happen any time soon as the Jaguars offensive problems continue to mount. They totaled 259 yards against the Texans after gaining a meager 204 the week before in a 40-7 loss to Dallas. There's not been any finger-pointing going on among Jaguars players, but the frustration is mounting as evidenced by cornerback Jalen Ramsey's comments after the game.
"What you think, man?" Ramsey stated emphatically when asked about the frustration in the locker room. "You all walk in here, you all see how it is in here, you all see how we vibe with each other. You all see how we vibe towards the coaches, you all see how it is. It is no secret what's going on here right now. Ain't nobody going to say it because we can't, but it ain't no secret what's going on and it ain't right right now. It is what it is."
Things got so bad for the Jaguars' offense that for the first time in his five seasons with the team, starting quarterback Blake Bortles was replaced in the lineup. It came after Bortles fumbled away the ball (for the second time in the game) on the opening series of the second half. Houston's Kareem Jackson recovered on the Jaguars' 12 yard line. Two plays later, Deshaun Watson connected with DeAndre Hopkins from 10 yards out for a score that hiked the Texans lead to 20-0.
At that point, Bortles had completed half of his 12 pass attempts for 61 yards, only two of which resulted in a gain of at least 10 yards. Bortles' three-game summary is not pretty -- two touchdowns, five interceptions and three lost fumbles. Only because he was able to pass for a lot of yards in garbage time in the Kansas City game has he accumulated 640 yards in the air, 210 of which came in the last two games.
"It's obviously not what you want to hear as a quarterback," Bortles replied when asked about his initial reaction when he was told he wasn't going back in the game. "Those aren't the words you want the head coach to say to you. I tried to be there for Cody (Kessler). Be there for the guys in any way."
Kessler, who was acquired by Jacksonville in a trade with Cleveland during the offseason, finished the game and completed 21-of-30 passes for 156 yards, a TD and an interception. His third quarter, 6-yard TD pass to T.J. Yeldon was the seventh of his career and first since Nov. 10, 2016.
While Bortles and the rest of the Jaguars struggled, Houston's offense was efficient, using the two Bortles turnovers to convert them into 10 points. They settled for a 44-yard field goal by Ka'imi Fairbairn after recovering the first fumble and added Hopkins TD following the second fumble.
Watson was not spectacular but unlike Bortles, he was reliable. He completed 12-of-24 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown but no turnovers. It was a gutty performance by the Houston quarterback who made a 12-hour trip from Houston to Jacksonville on a customized bus with three other Texans officials because of Watson's bruised lung and injured ribs. The team was concerned about the effect the air pressure on an airplane might have had on Watson.
"It was smooth," Watson said about his ride to northeast Florida. "We just kind of hung out, watched the film, recovery stuff, played a game, watched TV, slept. Stopped and got something to eat. That was pretty much it."
Teammate J.J. Watt who was held in check by Jacksonville to one tackle and no sacks, said Watson's alternative transportation sounded like a good deal and that he might want to join his teammate on the return trip to Houston.
"I'm sure he had some good food, probably a bed you could lay down and sleep in," Watt joked. "Meanwhile we were stuck in coach seats on an airplane. I may see if I can hop in on the way back with him. See if he can ice up some beer and have a good time."
Houston coach Bill O'Brien lauded the way his quarterback responded after what he's been through the past week.
"I give credit to Deshaun because I think he is a very tough individual," O'Brien said. "He has sacrificed a lot over the last couple of weeks to put himself in a position to play. Great teammate, loves to win, loves to play and I think the world of the guy."
Jaguars coach Doug Marrone was despondent over a third consecutive loss after the Jaguars started the season with three wins in their first four games. The Jaguars coached harped on the three turnovers, leaving them at minus-12 in the turnover department, second-worst in the NFL this season.
"The one thing that we talked about all week long, every single day, the one thing that we've been preaching is that we cannot turn the ball over," Marrone said. "Obviously, it's very frustrating. It's also very disappointing when you go out there in the first series, you turn the ball over, the defense does a nice job in holding them to three. After that, there were obviously some dropped balls and things of that nature, short of the first down, not getting the ball vertically down the field when we had those opportunities, protection at times."
The other good news coming out of Houston's locker room was the return to action for Andre Hal. The Texans safety was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in June, putting his football future in jeopardy. But a treatment plan sent the cancer into remission and Wednesday, he returned to practice. He was in the starting lineup for Sunday's game against the Jaguars and was ecstatic about his return to the game he loves.
"It was great to be back, it was a blessing," Hal said. "I didn't know I was going to start, it was just the personnel, it was cool. In pregame warm-ups I just kind of looked up and thanked God."
Hal had more adversity to overcome this week as his father, Andre Hal, Sr., died of a heart attack on Tuesday at age 55.