Behind Arian Foster, Texans beat Jaguars 27-13 to remain in AFC playoff hunt



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JACKSONVILLE, Florida — Arian Foster started right, found nothing but defenders between him and the goal line, then headed the other way.

It was his best decision of the day.

Foster ran for 127 yards and a touchdown, which came on a nifty cutback move, and the Houston Texans beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-13 on Sunday to stay in the muddled AFC playoff picture.

It gave the Texans (7-6) consecutive wins for the first time in nearly three months.

Foster's 1-yard scamper early in the fourth quarter was the play of the game. After quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick got stuffed on third down, the Texans lined up for a field goal before calling time out and opting to go for it. Foster emphatically told coach Bill O'Brien he wanted the ball.

Foster initially looked he would be stopped for a loss, but he eluded a tackle, headed in the other turned the other way and high-stepped into the end zone.

"I was just screaming for him to give me the ball," Foster said. "We took a step in the right direction."

The Texans didn't gain any ground on AFC South-leading Indianapolis, which edged Cleveland, but they kept pace in the crowded wild-card race.

"We are in a must-win situation now," star defensive end J.J. Watt said. "We have strung two together and we need to continue to do it. We need to go on the road (at Indy) and try to do it again this week."

The Jaguars (2-11) led 13-10 at halftime, but did little after the break.

Jacksonville managed just 4 yards in the third quarter, and Blake Bortles threw his NFL-leading 16th interception of the season. The turnover gave Houston its best field position of the day and led to Foster's TD run.

"If you watch Foster, he's a hard guy to bring down," Jaguars defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks said. "That was a big emphasis, and we didn't do it."

With a chilly, misty rain falling and Jacksonville trailing, fans didn't bother returning to the stands. EverBank Field was mostly empty during the second half, an embarrassing sight for a franchise fighting to overcome attendance problems.

Jacksonville managed 73 yards in the second half, holding the ball for just nine-plus minutes, and Bortles nearly threw three more picks.

"There were probably some drops and mishandling of the ball that were definitely caused by the rain," Bortles said. "But that's part of it. You have to be able to play in all weathers because they're not going to cancel the game."

J.J. Watt created major problems, finishing with three sacks and five quarterback hits. The Jaguars lost starting right tackle Austin Pasztor last week and went with unproven veteran Sam Young. Not surprisingly, Watt dominated the matchup. He was most disruptive once the Texans took a double-digit lead.

Watt interrupted a reporter who asked about his "two sacks."

"How many? Three. Just checking," Watt said. "Those suckers are hard to get."

Fitzpatrick completed 13 of 19 passes for 135 yards. He had a 4-yard run in the second quarter that put the Texans up 10-7.

Jacksonville retook the lead on Josh Scobee's two field goals, the first coming on a fourth-and-inches play at the Houston 16. Coach Gus Bradley, with nothing to lose in another losing season, opted to play safe.

It ultimately backfired.

And the Texans eventually took advantage. They had 124 yards, six first downs and no third-down conversions in the first half. Making matters worse, they lost receiver Andre Johnson because of a concussion.

Johnson left early in the second quarter after being hit in the head by Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith. Teammates rushed to his side and motioned for trainers. Johnson eventually walked off the field under his own power, but later headed to the locker room for good. He ended the day with four receptions for 17 yards.

"It was scary to see Andre lying there," Foster said. "You saw the love and what he means to this team with all the players and coaches out there around him. It showed how much he means to our team. But I talked to him and he said he'll be all right, so that's good."

The Texans regrouped in the locker room — and it showed it the second half.

"It wasn't the prettiest win, but we stuck together and played as a team and got the win on the road," Texans safety Kendrick Lewis said. "We're peaking at the right time. ... This is the time that you want to be playing your best ball and that's what we're doing."

NOTES: Foster topped the 100-yard mark for the 31st time in his career and the seventh time this season. ... Scobee became the first player in franchise history to score 1,000 points. ... Jacksonville now has lost 37 of its last 45 games, including 27 by double digits.


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