Leftwich was 11-of-11 for 162 yards and a touchdown after the break, directing two long scoring drives in the fourth quarter and rallying the Jaguars to a 21-14 victory over the injury-riddled Texans on Sunday.
“We knew we had to do some different things on offense,” said Leftwich, who finished 19-of-25 for 218 yards. “Instead of trying to take what they were giving us, we started taking what we wanted. We made some big plays.”
Leftwich directed scoring drives of 80 and 82 yards in the final quarter. He hooked up with Ernest Wilford for 26 yards, then found Jimmy Smith for an 11-yard gain on third and long. Leftwich capped the first drive with an 8-yard run on third down to tie the game at 14.
On the next possession, Leftwich and Smith connected for a 23-yard gain on third down. Then Greg Jones, who replaced injured starter Fred Taylor (ankle), scored from 12 yards out to put the Jaguars ahead for good with 2:53 to play.
“It’s all coming along,” Leftwich said. “We are getting an identity on offense.”
Of course, the identity could be that the Jags play to the level of their competition. They almost beat Indianapolis, then knocked off Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. But followed those wins with a 24-21 loss at St. Louis last week when the Rams played without four key starters.
Houston (1-7) had allowed 30 or more points three times in its previous four games, but looked like a dominant defense against Jacksonville in the first half.
The Jaguars (5-3) eventually woke up from their first-half slumber. Still, they tied the NFL record for consecutive games played without scoring 30 or more points. They matched Cleveland’s mark of 58 games set between 1995 and 2002 (the Browns didn’t field a team in 1996-98).
The mark hardly mattered, though.
“The most important thing is winning games,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “We would like to score 21 points in each half, but we’ll take 21 points in the second half because it was enough to get a win. This is a business about winning.”
The Texans continued to have injury problems. Receiver Andre Johnson returned after missing three games with a calf injury, but running back Domanick Davis and kick returner Jerome Mathis were inactive.
“Guys were still battling. There isn’t any quit in these guys,” Texans coach Dom Capers said. “The one thing I do know about these guys is we got fighters. When you fight hard and come up short it takes a lot of guts and determination to fight back, and they fought back.”
Houston gave up consecutive sacks on its opening drive of the second half. David Carr, who has been sacked more than anyone in the league, fumbled on the second one. Bobby McCray recovered, and four plays later, the Jaguars evened the score at 7.
Leftwich found Ernest Wilford wide open on a slant pattern for a 12-yard score. The key play in the drive was a replay. Officials initially ruled rookie Alvin Pearman fumbled on a 7-yard reception, but the call was overturned.
Houston answered with an 84-yard drive. Jonathan Wells ran 7 yards to make it 14-7. But the Jaguars rallied for their first win over their AFC South rival since 2003.
“These hurt because it’s so close,” said Carr, who was 22-of-30 for 219 yards and was sacked six times, four of them in the second half. “We had so many opportunities to win that game.”
Carr drove the Texans to the Jacksonville 42 in the final minute, but his fourth-down pass to Corey Bradford fell incomplete.
“It was unfortunate,” Carr said. “I felt as bad as Corey as I did for anyone else because he was sick about it, too.”
Jimmy Smith caught four passes for 52 yards and passed Steve Largent for ninth on the NFL’s career receptions list with 821. … Houston’s Andre Johnson caught nine passes for 91 yards. … Houston held Jacksonville without a touchdown for 10 quarters before the third quarter Sunday. … Ernest Wilford started in place of former first-round draft pick Reggie Williams and caught four passes for 89 yards.