Meaningless Game, Meaningless Result

The Jaguars closed their regular season with a 42-28 defeat at the hands of their division rival Houston Texans, in front of paid crowd of 70,660 people at Reliant Stadium, many dressed as empty seats. The Jaguars entered this meaningless game with a crew of mostly backups, as they sat starters David Garrard, Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew, and many of their defensive stars.

The Houston Texans played at full strength, and they dominated only in the area of special teams. Wide receiver/kickoff returner Andre Davis became the seventh player in NFL history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns, as he did it in a 32 second span and took over what was a tied game at 14 with 29 seconds left in the half. Davis gave the Texans a 21-14 advantage as he took back his first long return 97 yards. Davis struck again right after the intermission as he received the Jaguars second-half opening kickoff four yards deep in the end zone, and took it out and then to the house 104 yards against the Jags formerly top-ranked kickoff coverage team. Davis' second touchdown return gave the Texans a 28-14 advantage, and the Texans never looked back on their way to their eighth victory of the season, setting a new franchise record.

Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio addressed the poor special teams play.

"Obviously, today our special teams were weakened a little bit by our approach. We elected today to accept eight regulars and seriously reduce the exposure of another eight to ten guys. Anytime you take 16 to 18 guys out of the mix, you put a heavy burden on the guys who are normally covering kicks, and are playing offense, playing defense and covering kicks. Bottom line is our approach today was to be smart. We earned that right. We earned the ability to be able to do that. We hope to be as fresh as possible going forward next week," explained Del Rio.

As the Jaguars rested many of their starters, it allowed some of their reserves to get more playing time and show some of their abilities that were hidden for much of the year. Quarterback Quinn Gray had a very efficient day passing for the Jaguars, as he completed 25 of 39 passes for 302 yards, a career high four touchdowns, and a quarterback rating of 122.0. On the ground, the Jaguars ran for 96 yards, 71 of which coming from fullback/halfback Greg Jones whose 14 carries amounted to half of the attempts than he had in 2007 entering the game.

Jaguars quarterback Quinn Gray described his play on Sunday.

"It's not really satisfying. It's good to put up stats, but you always want to end your season with a 'W'. Stats are good for the books and the records, but when it comes to this team we always want to win," Gray said.

Jaguars wide receivers Matt Jones, Reggie Williams, and Ernest Wilford each had solid days against the Texans hard-hitting secondary. Jones had a season high eight receptions for 138 yards and a touchdown. Williams added to his franchise record when he caught his 10th touchdown pass of the season on the Jaguars first possession of the game, and Wilford had his best day of the year, catching six balls for 58 yards, including two touchdowns.

Jack Del Rio was pleased with the play of his offense.

"Quinn (Gray) did a good job of stepping in and making plays. (WR) Matt Jones made some good plays. (FB/RB) Greg Jones ran hard. We got some great exposure with guys like (OT) Richard Collier and (G) Uche Nwaneri. It's great to see them perform well and the bottom line is well wrap up all this regular season stuff and we're excited to be in the tournament," commented Del Rio.

Defensively, the Jaguars played a number of young players and reserves, and the result was some offensive dominance by the Houston Texans. Houston scored touchdowns on six of their final seven drives before taking the eventual knee to finish the game. The 42 points allowed by the Jaguars were the most that they've allowed all season long. Rookie linebacker Justin Durant once again led the team in tackles with four, and reserve cornerback Scott Starks notched his first interception of the season on a fourth quarter throw from Texans quarterback Sage Rosenfels, that was intended for wide receiver Andre Johnson.

Overall, it was a very poor effort by the Jaguars special teams and defense, as they fumbled the ball away, allowed two big kickoff returns, and allowed Houston 170 yards on the ground. As poorly as those units played, the residual effects should be nil. The Jaguars suffered no key injuries, and that was the most important thing to come out of their westward journey to the "Lonestar State." Jacksonville finished the regular season 11-5, and will face travel to Pittsburgh for their wildcard match-up on Saturday night.


Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Sportsillustrated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.



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