|National Football League|
Jaguars thump Texans 45-7 for 1st playoff berth since 2007
By MARK LONG
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan waited until the final few minutes to start celebrating.
Had he uncorked the champagne when the game was essentially over, Khan would have been drinking by halftime.
Blake Bortles threw three touchdowns passes , including two to seldom-used backup Jaydon Mickens, and the Jaguars clinched a playoff spot with a 45-7 drubbing of AFC South rival Houston on Sunday. Jacksonville's seventh victory in its last eight games locked up the franchise's first postseason berth since 2007.
"It's a story of perseverance," Khan said .
Once the NFL's poster child for futility and a punchline for potential relocation, the Jaguars (10-4) are now one of the league's top turnarounds.
The injury-riddled Texans (4-10) have dropped four in a row and seven of eight.
"They can smell the playoffs," Houston receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. "You can tell that by the way they played. That's what you play for: playoff football. You play this game to win the ultimate goal. When you don't get there, what you did is not good."
With Robinson (knee) on injured reserve, Hurns (ankle) inactive and Lee (ankle) in the locker room, Mickens and rookie Keelan Cole stepped up. Mickens caught four passes for 61 yards and two scores . Cole had seven receptions for a career-high 186 yards and a TD.
Mickens disclosed earlier this week that he slept in his car outside the facility at night to save money, not knowing how long he would remain in town.
Now, he and teammates will be getting playoff checks.
"It's kind of cool that we solidified our spot," Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. "Now we can get over the giddiness of it. ... It's cool to be where we are, but we're not done yet."
That's a huge change for Jacksonville, which was an NFL-worst 22-74 over the previous six years and widely considered more of a laughingstock than a postseason contender.
Khan fired coach Gus Bradley one year ago Sunday, following a close loss at Houston. Khan hired Tom Coughlin to oversee football decisions and made interim Doug Marrone the head coach. Coughlin and Marrone added several key players and changed the culture with a grueling offseason and training camp.
The Jags got off to an up-and-down start, but have hit their stride down the stretch.
Bortles has been better than expected of late, with seven touchdown passes and no turnovers the last three games.
"Blake's killing it," Jackson said. "I'm just glad he's been able to turn it around. I'm glad he's doing what we knew he could do, and I'm glad he's proving to himself that he can do it. He chose one hell of a year to pick it up."
With Bortles picking apart Houston's secondary, the Jaguars didn't even need running back Leonard Fournette. The rookie was inactive because of a sore right quadriceps muscle.
Jacksonville's defense, which has been the glue all season, was dominant again. The unit held Houston to 186 yards.
The Jags led 31-0 at the break, their largest halftime lead in team history.
"It was very satisfying," defensive tackle Calais Campbell said.
The Texans looked lost in every aspect. They did little on offense outside Hopkins' 25-yard TD catch against Jalen Ramsey and did even less to slow down Jacksonville.
"It's embarrassing, and you never want to get beat like that," said linebacker/defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who also called Bortles "trash" in the locker room. "It's embarrassing for the whole organization."
The Texans could have run out the clock trailing 24-0 late in the first half, but with 53 seconds remaining and three timeouts, coach Bill O'Brien decided to try to get something going. Yates threw an interception, and the Jaguars scored three plays later.
"I just felt we had to try and make a move," O'Brien said. "The issue is you can't run it. You have to throw it. We did, and it didn't work out."
Texans: Center Nick Martin (ankle) and right guard Jeff Allen (concussion) left in the second half. Linebacker Benardrick McKinney injured a shoulder making a touchdown-saving tackle on a punt return.
Jaguars: Lee injured his right ankle in the first quarter and was later ruled out. Ramsey (groin), defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (hamstring) and safety Peyton Thompson (foot) left the game but later returned.
Texans: Host Pittsburgh next Monday in the team's home finale.
Jaguars: Play at San Francisco on Sunday.
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Updated December 17, 2017