The Houston Texans clinched the AFC South title as Deshaun Watson threw for 234 yards and ran for a touchdown, and DeAndre Hopkins had 147 yards receiving in a 20-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
The Texans (11-5) won nine in a row after starting 0-3 to save their season and will make their fifth playoff appearance after winning the division for the fifth time in franchise history. Houston returns to the postseason for the third time in four years after bouncing back from last year’s 4-12 record in a season where Watson and J.J. Watt sustained season-ending injuries.
Houston built a 14-point lead in the first half behind rushing touchdowns by Watson and Lamar Miller and made it 20-3 on a 24-yard field goal with about 11 minutes left. The Jaguars had a chance to cut the lead later in the fourth period, but Blake Bortles was intercepted in the end zone by Andre Hal.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan issued a statement urging his director of football operations, Tom Coughlin, the keep the status quo with coach Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell — even though the team flopped from a spot in the AFC title game to last place.
The Jaguars (5-11) returned to Bortles as starter after benching the quarterback following a loss to Buffalo on Nov. 25. But he did little to get Jacksonville’s offense going, the Jaguars managing one first down in the opening half and finishing with six. Bortles was 15 of 28 for 107 yards.
Watt sacked him 1 1/2 times to give him 16 this year for his fourth season with 15 or more sacks, second most in NFL history to Reggie White (5).
The performance by Hopkins gives him 1,572 yards receiving and 115 receptions this season, both career highs. His receptions are tied with Andre Johnson (2008) for most in franchise history.
Dede Westbrook muffed a punt late in the first quarter recovered by Zach Cunningham. The Texans got a first down at the 10 after rookie Tre Herndon received a 27-yard pass interference penalty.
Two plays later Watson scrambled 5 yards to make it 10-3 early in the second quarter.
The Texans faced a third-and-6 late in the second quarter when Myles Jack deflected a pass and Hopkins grabbed it for a 13-yard gain. Miller ran 7 yards for a touchdown on the next play, dragging two defenders into the end zone to make it 17-3.
DeAndre Carter fumbled a punt in the first quarter and it was recovered by Jacksonville at the 10. But the Jaguars couldn’t move the ball and settled for a field goal that made it 3-0.
The Texans tied it at 3 with a 23-yard field goal on their next possession.
Hopkins is the fourth player in NFL history (Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison and Brandon Marshall) to have at least 100 receptions, 1,500 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns in multiple seasons. He had 111 receptions for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015.
Watson, who ran for 66 yards on Sunday, is the first player in NFL history to throw for at least 4,000 yards (4,165) and 25 touchdowns (26) and rush for 500 yards (551) and five touchdowns (5) in a season.
Jaguars: Jacksonville was without starting cornerback A.J. Bouye (toe injury) and running back Leonard Fournette was inactive because of an ankle injury.
Texans: Starting cornerback Johnathan Joseph sat out with a neck injury.
Jaguars: Jacksonville must decide what to do with Bortles before next season. Most believe he won’t return in 2019 after going 24-49 in five seasons. The third overall pick in the 2014 draft also is due to count $21 million against the salary cap, and the Jags can save $9.5 million by cutting him with a post-June 1 designation.
Texans: Will host the winner of Sunday night’s Colts-Titans game next Saturday or Sunday, barring a tie between those teams.
Source: The Associated Press