JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Houston Texans came to Jacksonville thinking about piecing together their first winning streak. They left without the victory, without a single point and claiming a newfound respect for the Jaguars.
Tony Brackens had two sacks Sunday to lead Jacksonville's improving defense to a 27-0 victory, handing the Texans their first shutout and turning rookie quarterback Dave Ragone's debut into a total dud.
The Texans (5-8) played without starting quarterback David Carr and running back Domanick Davis. That hurt, they agreed, but several in the locker room felt the reasons for the shutout went deeper.
"That was, by far, the most physical defense I've ever played against, seen or heard of," said Texans tight end Billy Miller, a fourth-year veteran. "I don't know what the head coach told those boys, but from the first game to this game, I think they went out and got 11 new guys on defense. I've never seen such a transformation."
Indeed, it was quite a change from Week 4, when Jacksonville surrendered a touchdown with no time left to lose 24-20 to Houston and fall to 0-4.
The Jaguars (4-9), who came in with the league's sixth-ranked defense, held Houston to 124 yards. They got their first shutout since Dec. 3, 2000, a 48-0 win over Cleveland.
"It felt like it was just something that was waiting to happen," defensive tackle Marcus Stroud said.
The offense was good, too.
Fred Taylor broke a late 62-yard run to finish with a season-high 163. Jimmy Smith caught a 32-yard touchdown and Byron Leftwich threw for 194 yards to lift Jacksonville to its first winning streak since last November.
The Texans, meanwhile, lost a good chance to put together the first winning streak in the franchise's 29-game history. But really, they never had a chance.
Subbing for Davis, whose thigh injury kept him out, Tony Hollings ran for 19 yards on 18 carries. Carr was suffering from the flu and didn't even get a chance to test his injured shoulder during warmups. Ragone took his place. The rookie from Louisville went 11-for-23 for 71 yards and an interception.
"You have to rally around the guys who are in there," offensive lineman Steve McKinney said. "It seemed like we were going backward all day."
While Ragone failed to lead the Texans to a score, he did get one thing some quarterbacks wait years for -- his first career reception. He caught his own pass, which had been deflected by Stroud at the line.
An on-the-ball scoreboard operator reacted by quickly flashing Ragone's receiving stats on the big board. It was a welcome moment of comic relief on a flat-feeling day at Alltel Stadium. A crowd of 43,363 showed up on a calm, brilliant, 56-degree day in Jacksonville -- the worst home attendance in the nine-year history of the club.
Despite the lack of fan support, the Jaguars are shooting up the NFL rankings. They'll probably move up from sixth in overall defense, and their second-rated run defense could improve, too; the Texans managed only 70 yards rushing.
More good news for the Teal Curtain: The Jaguars have allowed only 33 points over their last four games.
"I know there was a turning point, but I didn't mark it down on my calendar," coach Jack Del Rio said. "I just kept my head down, grinded through things and pushed and demanded because I felt this group is capable if they'll make the commitment."
Smith caught a long touchdown pass for the second consecutive week to put the Jaguars ahead 7-0.
Taylor surpassed 100 yards for the fourth time in five games. His 62-yard run in the fourth quarter set up rookie LaBrandon Toefield's first touchdown run for the 24-0 lead.
Leftwich completed 18 of 29 passes, a decent outing, but nothing spectacular.
It was better than Ragone, though, who had more yards rushing than passing (42-41) after the third quarter. In fact, with 51 yards rushing, Ragone more than doubled Hollings, who didn't break anything longer than 5 yards on his 19 attempts.
Jaguars RB Fred Taylor runs for yardage as Marcus Coleman moves in to make the tackle. (AP)
|TD||Jimmy Smith, 32 Yd pass from Byron Leftwich (Seth Marler kick is good), 5:24. Drive: 6 plays, 63 yards in 3:03.|
|FG||Seth Marler 35 Yd, 3:24. Drive: 11 plays, 36 yards in 4:34.|
|TD||Fred Taylor, 2 Yd run (Seth Marler kick is good), 0:15. Drive: 9 plays, 84 yards in 1:34.|
|TD||LaBrandon Toefield, 1 Yd run (Seth Marler kick is good), 10:21. Drive: 5 plays, 80 yards in 2:43.|
|FG||Seth Marler 28 Yd, 1:55. Drive: 13 plays, 72 yards in 7:10.|
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