Senior NFL Columnist

Texans' run game, defense so dominant they barely use stud WR Johnson


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- This is how good things were for the Houston Texans Sunday: They got to keep their Ferrari in the garage.

That's what I told Texans receiver Andre Johnson after his team destroyed the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-7 in a game that wasn't that close. The numbers show why Johnson, arguably one of the top two receivers in the league, wasn't used, catching only three passes for 21 yards.

Take a look:

The Texans had 28 first downs to nine for the Jaguars.

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 Houston ran for 216 yards to 65 for the Jaguars.

 The Texans ran 83 plays to 38 for the Jaguars, which is incredible.

 Jacksonville was held to 117 yards of offense, 42 in the first half.

Why take out the pretty, fast, sleek sports car when you can run a team over with a tank?

"When we were coming in at halftime, I was talking to Coach [Gary] Kubiak about some of the things we were seeing, and I just told him, "Keep running it down their throats,' " Johnson said. "When we're running the ball like we're running it today, we don't need to throw it. Eighty-five plays, man. That's the first time I've been on the field that long ever."

Did the Houston defensive players even need to take showers?

"I took one," Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph said. "But we really weren't out there much today."

Yes, the Jaguars are limited on offense. And, yes, they had injuries on the offensive line, but for the Texans to dominate both sides of the ball the way they did on the road on a hot day is impressive -- no matter who the opponent.

That's the thing about Houston. They can do so many things to you on offense, and they have a defense to back it up. The Texans used an up-tempo offense, with a quick, "sugar" huddle, to help keep the Jaguars off-balance on defense.

"It's really helped us keep attacking," Texans quarterback Matt Schaub said.

Arian Foster rushed for 110 yards on 28 carries to become the all-time leading rusher in franchise history. But Ben Tate complimented him by rushing for 74 yards on 12 carries -- an impressive 6.2 yards per carry -- and scoring two touchdowns.

"It's a credit to our offense that we were only on the field for the time we were," Joseph said. "It makes it easy to do our job."

Outside linebacker Connor Barwin said, "When we're on the field for as little as we were, we better do a good job."

It's scary for offenses to say this, but the Houston defense, which was No. 2 overall last season, is improved. It's not every day that you can let a pass rusher like Mario Williams go in free agency and see the unit improve.

The player who makes it go now is second-year defensive end J.J. Watt. For the second consecutive week, he was a force. He had 1 1/2 sacks, three quarterback hits, two tackles for loss and two passes batted down. He has three sacks for the season and might be staking a claim as the league's best down 3-4 end. Yes, even better than San Francisco's Justin Smith.

His teammates were already talking Pro Bowl for Watt, which is way too early.

His response?

"I hope to not be available Pro Bowl week," he said.

That would mean a Super Bowl, which is very much a possibility for this team.

The Texans (2-0) clearly are the class of their division. And if they play the rest of the way like they did against the Jaguars, they will be the class of the AFC.

"It was fun today," Johnson said. "That was the thing about last week. We harped on not running the ball the way we should have. That's why we came out and had a big game running it."

The Ferrari stayed parked today, but you can bet it will be out soon enough. That's the beauty of this team.

They can run it.

They can throw it.

They can play nasty defense.

"When we do the things we're capable of doing like we did today, we're hard to beat," Joseph said. "And today, that's what you saw."

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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