The Texans methodically handled an opponent they were expected to beat on Sunday, and moved one step closer to their first division title.
Arian Foster rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown, and Houston shut down rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert and the NFL’s worst offense in a 24-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Matt Schaub threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score for Houston (5-3), off to its best eight-game start. The Texans also took one more step toward the franchise’s first division title and playoff berth by improving to 3-0 in the AFC South.
Houston rushed 39 times for 156 yards and has won 28 of its last 31 games when rushing at least 30 times. The Texans have outscored three division opponents by a total score of 99-28.
The Jaguars (2-6) couldn’t carry momentum from their surprising 12-7 win over Baltimore on Monday night. Maurice Jones-Drew scored with 5:15 left, but the Texans used nearly the rest of regulation to set up Neil Rackers’ 39-yard field goal.
Gabbert, making his sixth career start, completed 10 of 30 passes for 97 yards with two interceptions. He left briefly in the first quarter with bruised ribs.
The Texans got off to another fast start, scoring on their opening series for the fifth time. Schaub went 4 for 5 and then sprinted for a 2-yard touchdown with 8:21 left in the first quarter.
Jacksonville’s sixth-ranked defense held Baltimore to 34 yards rushing Monday night, but Houston matched that total on its first three possessions. The Texans have outscored opponents 57-13 in the opening quarter this season.
Gabbert was hurt on Jacksonville’s first series. Forced to scramble, he slid awkwardly at the end of an 11-yard run and was hit by safety Glover Quin and linebacker Brian Cushing.
Trainers helped Gabbert off the field, and Luke McCown replaced him. McCown was benched after throwing four interceptions in a 32-3 loss to the New York Jets in Week 2.
Gabbert returned on Jacksonville’s next possession, then threw five straight incompletions. But the Texans’ offense bogged down, too, failing to convert three consecutive third downs.
A slick play by Jacksonville’s defense midway through the second quarter created the Jaguars’ best scoring chance of the game.
Clint Session sacked Schaub and forced a fumble, triggering an impromptu double-lateral. Defensive end Matt Roth scooped it up, then flipped the ball backward to defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. Knighton chugged 7 yards, then pitched to Session who reached the Texans 10 before Foster tackled him.
Two snaps later, Gabbert threw a short TD pass to Jason Hill, Jacksonville’s first touchdown since the third quarter of a 17-13 loss to Pittsburgh two weeks ago.
The Jaguars were lucky to be tied at halftime after producing only 113 yards in the half.
Jacoby Jones returned a punt to the Jaguars 44 early in the third quarter, and Schaub threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Joel Dreessen.
The Texans’ defense dominated the third quarter, holding Jacksonville to one first down and one completion on three possessions.
Jason Allen intercepted Gabbert’s pass to Mike Sims-Walker on the first play of the fourth quarter, and the Texans stretched the lead on Foster’s 4-yard touchdown run.
Houston seemed to have the game in hand until Ben Tate fumbled, and safety Dwight Lowery recovered and returned to the Texans 41. Jacksonville moved inside the 5, and Jones-Drew scored to cut the deficit to 21-14.
Schaub completed a 30-yard pass to Owen Daniels and Foster ran 14 yards before the two-minute warning. Rackers’ field goal ended the scoring.