For a few minutes late Sunday afternoon, everything we thought we knew about the NFL was being challenged. The Jacksonville Jaguars had held a 14 point fourth quarter lead at Houston in a game in which they were double-digit underdogs. Meanwhile the Indianapolis Colts offense was playing the role of hot knife to the New England Patriots' defense's butter, having just marched for their second consecutive 80 yard plus scoring drive. This wasn't supposed to be happening.
Then the universe righted itself. We all know what happened to the Colts, but if you missed the Jaguars/Houston Texans matchup, here's how both teams showed that, in the NFL, the cream eventually does rise to the top and the grounds usually settle to the bottom.
The Texans predictably jumped on top as Matt Schaub marched Houston down the field for a touchdown in less than three minutes on their opening drive. Everything looked to be going as planned. Blaine Gabbert went down with an injury in the first quarter though, and everything changed.
Somebody forgot to tell Chad Henne that the Jags were supposed to roll over for the Texans. Henne not only matched the Texans early, but eventually put the Jags in the lead and forced the Texans into the unfamiliar role of playing from behind.
At halftime the game was tied 17-17. By the middle of the third quarter, the Jags held a 10 point lead. With a little over 12 minutes left to play in the game, the score was 34-20 Jaguars. Could this be happening?
It was happening because Henne got hot. His completion percentage was below 50 percent, but he threw for four scores, and most importantly, didn't turn the ball over to a Houston defense known for causing their opponents to give them the ball.
For their part, Houston turned the ball over three times. Even the normally fumble-proof Arian Foster lost one on Sunday. Matt Schaub contributed two interceptions. But it was Schaub who would bring the Texans back.
Schaub has thrived in Houston partly because their success has never been entirely on his shoulders. The Texans formula has been to pound opponents with the run, force turnovers, get a lead, and then force them into desperation. On Sunday, it was the Texans who were desperate. Instead of using the fourth quarter to run the football and the clock, the Texans needed to come up with two touchdowns without surrendering another one.
Schaub delivered in a big way. With the help of the aging, but still lethal WR Andre Johnson, the Texans tied the game with 1:34 left when Schaub delivered his fourth TD pass of the day to little-used Garrett Graham.
In overtime, we saw the first occasion where the new overtime rules were fully played out. Shayne Graham booted a field goal to put the Texans up three, but the Jags took advantage of their opportunity to match Houston and netted a Josh Scobee field goal. Both opening drives consumed clock, and with 4:21 left, the Texans knew they likely had one chance to win the game.
Schaub found Andre Johnson with two minutes left and he streaked 48 yards for the game-winning score. On the day Schaub threw for over 500 yards and five touchdowns. Johnson, who has been limited by injuries the past two seasons, looked like a rookie again as he grabbed 14 catches for 273 yards.
The victory, combined with the Colts loss, effectively gives the Texans a stranglehold on the AFC South. They will play in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day trying to hold the top spot in the AFC. The Jags will come back home to play the Tennessee Titans who were on their bye last week. Chad Henne's performance has to cause the Jags coaching staff to question their commitment to Blaine Gabbert.
For a little while on Sunday, both the Jags and the Colts were very good. The problem is, when it counted, the Texans and the Patriots found the ability to be great.
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