HOUSTON (AP)With so much on the line next week, it would have been easy for the Jacksonville Jaguars to overlook the lowly Houston Texans on Sunday.
It was clear from the start they were not looking ahead to their showdown with the Tennessee Titans for the AFC South crown.
Travis Etienne ran for 108 yards and a touchdown before halftime, Tyson Campbell returned a fumble for a score and the Jaguars snapped a nine-game skid against Houston by routing the Texans 31-3 for their fourth straight victory overall.
Jacksonville (8-8) is in first place in the AFC South and would win the division for the first time since 2017 with a victory at home over slumping Tennessee next Sunday in the regular-season finale. The Titans (7-9) have dropped six straight.
”It was a unique situation in a game that, sure, it might not have meant a whole lot,” coach Doug Pederson said. ”I don’t think I’ve been in a situation where you have a game like this heading into a game for everything. I tell you, it’s a credit to the guys in the locker room, the coaches just to stay focused.”
Trevor Lawrence threw for 152 yards, but played just one possession in the second half, and Etienne didn’t carry the ball after halftime with the Jaguars up 28-3 in what would be the team’s first win over Houston since 2017.
”It was a big win for us,” Lawrence said. ”A lot of distractions around this week and knowing what’s in store for next week, and I thought we handled our business today.”
The Jaguars were up by 21 at halftime and a 3-yard run by Snoop Conner made it 28-0 early in the third quarter.
The Texans (2-13-1) snapped a nine-game losing streak with a win over Tennessee last week but struggled in all areas Sunday against Jacksonville to leave them without a home win for the first time in franchise history.
”When you play like that, it’s not going to happen. We’re not going to win,” coach Lovie Smith said. ”So there’s nothing else to really say on that.”
Davis Mills threw for 202 yards, but couldn’t get the Texans in the end zone and fumbled the ball Campbell returned for the touchdown.
Veteran receiver Brandin Cooks was surprised the team played so poorly Sunday after looking much better in recent weeks.
”No doubt,” he said. ”Just because I feel like we had that momentum. … There’s definitely been strides. So to come out here and kind of revert to what we was putting out there at the beginning of the season is definitely disappointing.”
Houston was stopped on fourth-and-1 from its 45 on the first possession to give Jacksonville great field position on its first drive. The Jaguars took a 7-0 lead when JaMycal Hasty scored on a 5-yard run.
Jacksonville made it 14-0 when Etienne dashed 62 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter. Rookie Jalen Pitre had a shot to stop him at the line, but missed the tackle and Etienne simply outran the rest of Houston’s defenders for the score.
”When I broke, there was nobody there. … It felt really great to be out there and get my sprint on,” Etienne said.
The defense got in on the scoring when Josh Allen sacked Mills on Houston’s next possession and forced a fumble which was scooped up by Campbell and returned 12 yards for a TD to make it 21-0. It was the first touchdown of his career.
Desmond King intercepted Lawrence after that, but the Texans came up empty when Mills threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-5 from the 10.
Houston finally got on the board when Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 56-yard field goal made it 28-3 with about six minutes left in the third quarter.
Riley Patterson extended the lead to 31-3 with a 53-yard field goal with about six minutes remaining.
C.J. Beathard took over after Lawrence went out and threw for 29 yards and was picked off by Pitre, who leads the Texans with five interceptions this season.
Jacksonville’s Christian Kirk had 21 yards receiving to give him a career-high 1,009 this season, making him the fifth player in franchise history with a 1,000-yard receiving season.
”There’s a reason why he had the numbers he does, and it’s because of his work ethic,” Pederson said. ”He’s been great for the room and great for our team.”
Jaguars: Host the Titans next Saturday night.
Texans: Visit the Colts next Sunday.
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