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Jacksonville kicker Josh Scobee gave his team its first win of the season last week. Running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, however, were just as important in bringing the Jaguars the victory.
After a dominant rushing attack and a late field goal helped them barely avoid their first 0-3 start in five years, the Jaguars look to build on their first victory when they host the winless Houston Texans on Sunday.
Scobee connected on all three of his field-goal attempts and both extra-point tries Sunday. The biggest of those kicks came with four seconds left, a 51-yard field goal that gave Jacksonville (1-2) a 23-21 road win over Indianapolis.
Scobee, 7-for-8 on field goals with two from 50-plus yards, was given the game ball - an honor that could easily have gone to Taylor or Jones-Drew.
Taylor had 121 yards on 26 carries, while Jones-Drew ran 19 times for 107 yards and a touchdown. It was the second time in franchise history that two backs delivered 100-yard performances in the same game - the same duo accomplished the feat in a win over Indianapolis on Dec. 10, 2006.
Jacksonville’s success on the ground was a welcome sight for coach Jack Del Rio, whose team has struggled with injuries on the offensive line. The Jags ranked second in the league with 149.4 rushing yards per game last season and third with 158.8 in 2006.
Despite continuing to play without starting linemen Brad Meester, Vince Manuwai and Maurice Williams, the Jaguars had 236 rushing yards against the Colts after totaling 131 in losing their first two games.
While Meester could return against Houston, Williams and Manuwai are done for the season. That, however, won’t stop the Jaguars from trying to establish the ground attack.
“There’s certain things that we believe in,” Del Rio said. “We want to run the football. Running the football allows us to possess the ball, allows us to get the ball in our best playmakers’ hands and gives us some third-and-manageable situations.”
As devoted as Del Rio is to the run, he knows he’ll need to strike a balance with the passing game. Jacksonville ran 48 times last week, two shy of the franchise record, while attempting a season-low 22 passes.
For now, however, Del Rio doesn’t seem inclined to change too much after his team rallied for an important win over a division rival last week.
“Going up and beating Indy on the road certainly ought to give you a little confidence,” he said. “That’s something you can build on, something our guys can gain some confidence from having that experience. We do have the ability to come back and put together a drive and win a game.”
The Jaguars should be particularly confident hosting a Texans team that’s given up an average of 34.5 points and 168.5 rushing yards in its first two games. Houston allowed 343 total yards in a 31-12 loss to Tennessee last Sunday.
The offense shoulders just as much of the blame. The Texans converted three of 15 third-down plays and were held to 12 points despite getting inside the Tennessee 14-yard line six times. Matt Schaub was 17-for-37 with three interceptions, and coach Gary Kubiak wasn’t happy with a couple of dropped touchdown passes early in the game.
“We had our chances in the first half to make some big plays,” Kubiak said. “We were poor on third down and missed some third downs. Overall, we were poor in the red zone.”
Kubiak had to be encouraged by the first career start for Steve Slaton, a third-round draft pick out of West Virginia. The 5-foot-9, 201-pound running back had 116 yards and his first touchdown on 18 carries.
This will be the third consecutive road game for the Texans, who had their home opener postponed by Hurricane Ike. They’re 12-38 all-time away from home, including 4-22 since the beginning of the 2005 season.
Houston, however, has split six road games against Jacksonville. The Jaguars won the last meeting at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, running for a season-high 244 yards in a 37-17 victory Oct. 14.
With Taylor, Jones-Drew and a number of other starters resting for the playoffs, Jacksonville lost 42-28 in Houston in the teams’ 2007 regular season finale Dec. 30.