HOUSTON | Carried by a takeaway- and sack-happy defense and a starring debut by rookie tailback Leonard Fournette, the Jaguars defeated the Houston Texans 29-7 Sunday at NRG Stadium.
It was the Jaguars’ first opening day victory since 2011 (vs. Tennessee) and their first win in a road opener since 2007 (Week 3 at Denver).
The Jaguars’ defense had four takeaways and set a single-game team record with 10 sacks. Defensive end Calais Campbell, in his first game with the Jaguars, had 3 1/2 sacks, a team individual game record.
The Jaguars broke a six-game losing streak to Houston.
Fournette started the game and rushed 26 times for 100 yards.
The Jaguars built a 19-0 halftime lead.
The Jaguars (1-0) will stay in Houston Sunday night and hope to return to Jacksonville on Monday weather permitting. They are scheduled to host Tennessee next Sunday at 1 p.m.
The Texans’ crowd was fired up as multiple players took the field waving Texas state flags. Those cheers quickly turned to boos. Quarterback Tom Savage was benched at halftime, replaced by first-round rookie Deshaun Watson.
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles was 11-of-21 passing for 125 yards and one touchdown.
The win came at a cost, though. Receiver Allen Robinson left the game in the first series with a left knee injury.
The Jaguars got the football first and began to take the crowd out of the game with an eight-play, 51-yard drive. Robinson stepped awkwardly after catching a 15-yard pass and tried to skip off the field before going down. The opening drive stalled at the 24-yard line and Jason Myers kicked a 42-yard drive.
The Jaguars took a 6-0 lead early in the second quarter on Myers’ 25-yard field goal, but it should have been more – the Jaguars had first-and-goal from the Texans’ 9-yard line but couldn’t punch it in.
The defense, meanwhile, punched Houston’s offense in the mouth for the first half, allowing the Jaguars to take a 12-0 lead with 2:02 left in the first half on Fournette’s 1-yard touchdown (on fourth down). Myers missed the extra point.
Dante Fowler’s first career touchdown came on Yannick Ngakoue’s sack/forced fumble, making it 19-0 at halftime and leaving the Texans fans booing Savage and calling for rookie Deshaun Watson.
The Jaguars outgained Houston 178-52 in the first half.
The Texans’ first-round pick started the second half and helped lead a 75-yard scoring drive capped by his four-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins. The Jaguars gave Watson plenty of help Ngakoue was called for roughing the quarterback on third-and-20 and Fowler was called for illegal hands to the face to negate Myles Jack’s red zone interception.
The Jaguars, though, answered. Marqise Lee drew a 20-yard pass interference penalty, Bortles threw 13 yards to Allen Hurns to convert a third-and-8, Bortles rushed for 15 yards and the drive was capped by Bortles’ 1-yard touchdown pass to fullback Tommy Bohanon for a 26-7 lead with 4:14 left in the third quarter.
The Jaguars’ defense then produced a third takeaway – Fowler sacked/stripped Watson and Ngakoue recovered with three seconds left in the third quarter.
The Jaguars had only 13 takeaways in 16 games last year and had more than two just once (loss to Baltimore).
A chance to put the game away, though, was wasted after the takeaway. The Jaguars reached the Houston 21 before two incomplete passes and Myers was wide left on his 39-yard field goal attempt.