The amazing news is the Texans remain in first place in the AFC South after they held on Sunday to defeat Jacksonville 20-13 on the road.
But the troubling news is Texans injury-plagued season continues and this one could hurt much more than others folks. Quarterback Matt Leinart, who was playing in first game for injured Matt Schaub, was knocked out of Sunday’s game late in second quarter with an injury to his left throwing shoulder.
Early reports out of Jacksonville are that Leinart suffered a broken collarbone and is likely done for the season. While there is still no official word from head coach Gary Kubiak, Leinart told reporters that there is a “pretty good possibility I won’t be coming back this season.”
Leinart’s injury put the ball in the hands of untested rookie T.J. Yates on Sunday and possibly for the remainder of the season. That can’t be good for a team fighting to stay on top of its division and looking to make its first playoff berth. Yates, who was active for the first time this season against the Jaguars, was just good enough Sunday to allow the Texans (8-3) to hold on for their fifth straight win of the season and their first win in Jacksonville since 2006.
Yates took over late in the second quarter with the Texans leading 17-10 and promptly led the offense on a field goal scoring drive that gave them a 10-point at halftime. But Yates failed to lead the Texans to any points in the second half, which could potentially paved the way for a comeback had the Jaguars not had quarterback issues of their own.
The Texans No.1 ranked defense was again superb as the unit kept the Jaguars in check with a relentless attack on the quarterbacks. Led by outside linebacker Connor Barwin’s three sacks, the Texans sacked rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert six times and then got to back up Luke McCown once after he entered the game midway through the fourth quarter.
The Texans gave up a few big plays to Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew (99 yards on 18 carries), but held an opponent to under 20 points for a club-record fifth straight game. The defense didn’t allow a touchdown throughout the game. Jacksonville’ only touchdown came after Texans running back Arian Foster fumbled the football and Ashton Youboty scooped the ball up and ran 28 yards for the touchdown to put his team up 7-0 in the first quarter.
But the Texans will need some offensive help these new few weeks with the Atlanta Falcons heading to Reliant Stadium next week followed by a tough road game at Cincinnati and then rookie sensation Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers come to Houston on Dec. 18.
It’s unclear the severity of Leinart’s injury at this point. But the left-handed quarterback could not return to the game and was on the sideline with his left arm in a sling. And with Schaub on injured reserve with an injured right foot, that leaves the Texans with just Yates and Kellen Clemens, whom they signed off the street last week.
If Leinart’s injury is serious, it’s likely the Texans will sign another of the free agent quarterbacks they had workout last Monday when they chose Clemens.
This definitely isn’t the situation a team trying to remain at the top of its division wants to be in at this point of the season. Yates did look serviceable at times Sunday, completing 8 of 15 passes for 70 yards, but he certainly isn’t polished and does not pose as a real passing threat to opposing defenses.
Even with the return of All-Pro receiver Andre Johnson for the first time in six games, the Jaguars loaded the box and dared the Texans to throw the ball in the second half. That made life difficult for Ben Tate and Foster, who had their worst game in a month rushing the football as a tandem.
The normally sure-handed Foster carried the football 22 times for 65 yards and a touchdown, but also had two costly fumbles. Tate gained just 26 yards on five carries.