HOUSTON TEXANS

Texans filled with confidence with Jaguars looming

Houston is in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC South

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Don’t look now, but the Texans have won three straight games and are in a three-way tie atop the AFC South.

Things were low in Houston after the team started with three straight losses, but close wins against the Colts, Cowboys and Bills last Sunday have boosted the record and the morale in the locker room. 

“This is a very, very tough football team,” head coach Bill O’Brien said. “Very resilient team and a team that really cares about each other. I think that’s big. I think chemistry in this league is big. It’s underrated. I think talent is important, don’t get me wrong, I think coaching is very important, but I think that chemistry and toughness in the locker room is big. That’s why we enjoy coaching this team because they fight.”

Deshaun Watson threw for 177 yards and a touchdown, DeAndre Hopkins caught five passes for 63 yards and a score and Jonathan Joseph returned an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to help the Texans beat the Bill at home on Sunday. 

Next up for the Texans is a trip to face off with the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

The Jaguars have had their own struggles the last month, losing three of the last four games, including a lopsided 40-7 loss in Dallas against the Cowboys last Sunday. Quarterback Blake Bortles has thrown five interceptions in the last two games. 

But O’Brien is overlooking the team that made it to the AFC title game a season ago. 

“They’re a great opponent,” O’Brien said. “They’re really good up front, very physical offensive line. Defensively really tough defensive line and linebackers. They’re really strong in all three phases, so we have a big challenge ahead of us.”

Finishing drives has been a struggle for an offensive unit that has been improving the last three weeks. 

Houston ranks second to last in red-zone offense and has scored a touchdown less than 35 percent of the time they get inside the 20-yard line. Houston finished 2-of-10 in the red zone against the Cowboys and Bills. 

“Yeah, we’re in (the red zone), but we’re not getting anything done,” he said. “We just have to continue to work at it and we have to figure out what we can do to get the ball in the end zone because it’s not getting done right now.”

Watson was a lightning rod when he burst onto the scene last season, now he’s just trying to stay on the field. 

The second-year player played with injured ribs on Sunday, and his offensive line didn’t do him any favors as they gave up seven sacks and 12 quarterback hits. The Houston quarterback has been hit 66 times and sacked 25 times this year.

O’Brien said Watson is doing better health-wise than he was early last week and is in line to suit up against the Jaguars. 

“He’s as tough as they come,” O’Brien said. “So, that was something that really stood out and his ability to keep his eyes downfield even when the rush was coming. One of the things that we have to do for him and with him and he has to do is there are times where the ball has to come out a little faster. That’s something that we’re going to really work on in addition to many other things we’re going to really work on this week.”

O’Brien reverted to coach-speak when asked about how difficult it’s been come back from a 0-3 start, saying every week is different and he learned from the loss and applied it to the next game. 

But he did admit he feels good about the way things are moving. 

“We know we have to improve in areas, obviously, but that’s what the league’s all about,” O’Brien said. “I think winning the last three games the way we’ve won them shows a lot about that locker room and what they’re all about. If we can improve and get better in a lot of different areas, maybe we can do something.”

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