The Houston Texans had some impressive moments during their season-opening win, but coach Gary Kubiak still sees plenty of room for improvement.
Houston goes for its fourth straight victory in this AFC South series while the Jaguars try to win their third consecutive home opener Sunday.
After making their first playoff appearance in 2011, the Texans (1-0) defeated visiting Miami 30-10 last Sunday. Shayne Graham kicked a 35-yard field goal, Arian Foster rushed for two touchdowns and Matt Schaub threw a 14-yard TD to Andre Johnson during a 6:55 stretch of the second quarter.
All of the scores came off turnovers, but the defending division champs managed six points and 26 rushing yards in the final 30 minutes.
“That’s the mark of a good team - you’ve got to run it and finish the game,” said Kubiak, whose team was second in the NFL last season with 153.0 rushing yards a contest. “We didn’t do that.”
Houston also had special teams issues, with Trindon Holliday totaling 61 yards on four returns and the team giving up a 72-yard punt return for a TD.
“We did not play well on special teams - we didn’t cover well, we didn’t return well,” Kubiak said.
The Jaguars (0-1) didn’t fare well against Minnesota’s running game in a 26-23 overtime road loss Sunday, giving up 123 yards and two rushing scores.
Jacksonville’s pass defense also failed late in regulation, allowing two quick completions before the Vikings kicked a tying 55-yard field goal with 20 seconds left.
“Defensively, we had that game in our hands and let it slip away,” linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “If we want to be a great defense, that has got to be the knockout punch right there.”
Despite the defensive shortcomings, the Jaguars have to feel good about Gabbert’s 2012 debut. The second-year QB, who completed 50.8 percent of his passes in 2011, went 23 for 39 for a career-best 260 yards and two TDs.
Without the benefit of a timeout, Gabbert led a six-play, 76-yard drive in the final minutes of regulation that was capped by a go-ahead 39-yard scoring pass to Cecil Shorts.
“He operated as a quarterback and a leader of a team should operate,” left tackle Eugene Monroe told the Jaguars’ official website. “He was poised and confident.”
That wasn’t the case in two losses to Houston in 2011 when Gabbert completed 39.0 percent of his passes and was picked off three times. Former coach Jack Del Rio benched him in the fourth quarter of a 20-13 home loss to the Texans on Nov. 27 after he was sacked six times and threw an INT.
While Gabbert seems to be better prepared in his second season, he could face plenty of pressure from a Texans defense that recorded three sacks, three picks and two forced fumbles in Week 1.
The Jaguars offensive line could have its hands full with end J.J. Watt, who deflected two passes and notched 1 1/2 sacks in the opener after missing most of training camp with a dislocated left elbow.
“He could’ve played the last two weeks of the preseason, but that wouldn’t have been very smart,” Kubiak said. “He’s just an excellent football player, very well-conditioned, and he played a lot of football today.”
Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew will return to his starting role Sunday. Backup Rashad Jennings could be sidelined two weeks with an injured knee suffered last week, though he hasn’t been ruled out of this game.
Expected to be a third-down option after ending his 38-day holdout a week earlier, Jones-Drew carried 19 times for 77 yards against Minnesota.
“They knew he was going to be ready to go when he came back. Obviously yesterday showed that,” Kubiak said of Jones-Drew, who needs one rushing TD to move past Fred Taylor for the team record with 63. “They had a game in their grasp yesterday with what 15 seconds left to play in the game? So I know that was a very difficult game for them and they’ll be ready to go.
“It’s always tough for us when we go there.”
Without an injured Schaub, Houston ended a four-game losing streak in Jacksonville last season.