A Look Around The AFC South

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A Look Around The AFC South: 10.16.18

Houston Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph (24) scores pass Buffalo Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman (2) after intercepting Peterman's pass during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Houston Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph (24) scores pass Buffalo Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman (2) after intercepting Peterman's pass during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Houston Texans

The Houston Texans have turned things around after opening the season 0-3, winning three straight games to move out of the AFC South basement.

There's still plenty of work to do though as their offense has struggled to move the ball and protect quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Houston beat the Buffalo Bills 20-13 on Sunday, but needed an interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to do it as they managed just one touchdown on offense for the second straight week.

The Texans had a chance to put the game away on offense before the big defensive play but couldn't get it done. They trailed by three with about two minutes remaining on Sunday when they reached the 1-yard line on a 41-yard penalty for pass interference in the end zone. But they lost 7 yards on three plays, capped by an incomplete pass intended for Ryan Griffin that Matt Milano knocked down and had to settle for a tying field goal.

It was a particularly tough day for Watson, who entered the game dealing with a chest injury and was hit 19 times and committed a season-high three turnovers in the win.

He knows that he must get better with a meeting with the Jaguars coming up on Sunday, but also pointed out that there are going to be some growing pains since he's still very early in his career.

"There's always room to improve," he said. "And this is only the 12th game of my career so I'm always experiencing and learning, and I'm going to continue learning for however long I play this game. Every game is a new experience, and for me to go out there (Sunday), I learned something new. I'm going to learn from it and move on."

The Texans made some moves to improve their offensive line in the offseason, but the group has continued to struggle. Watson has been sacked 25 times, which is the second-most in the NFL, and he's taken 66 other hits.

Despite this the second-year player wouldn't criticize his line and said the problem is because of many different factors.

"As a whole we've just got to do better," he said. "Me getting the ball out, those guys doing their job, making sure the play-calling is right, just all on the same page. You can't point fingers and pin it all on one group of guys. It's a team sport. We're all in it together, and we've got to come back, watch the film, correct it and move on."

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Jacksonville Jaguars

All that preseason hype surrounding Jacksonville's defense has come to a hasty halt.

The Jaguars (3-3) allowed 802 yards and 70 points in consecutive losses to Kansas City and Dallas, hardly the kind of performances Jacksonville's brash defenders expected when they opened training camp talking about going 16-0 and beginning a Super Bowl-or-bust season .

"It's definitely uncharacteristic of us to get beat like that," safety Tashaun Gipson said Monday. "But at the end of the day, that's the only answer I can give you because that's what I believe in. Truthfully, deep down inside, I believe that we have the guys in here to turn it around.

"Nobody's panicking right now. We're frustrated. We're (ticked) off. Absolutely, but nobody's panicking right now and that's the thing. I don't know of any type of answer that people are looking for, know there's not a panic button. At least there's not a panic button in my mindset, and I don't see the guys in here" panicking.

Jacksonville hosts Houston (3-3) on Sunday, with the winner getting at least a share of the AFC South lead as the season nears the halfway point.

After the last two weeks, no one knows what to expect from Jacksonville.

Injuries have ravaged the offense, with inconsistent quarterback Blake Bortles playing behind a third-string left tackle and without his top receiver, No. 1 tight end and bruising running back Leonard Fournette. Not coincidentally, the Jags have struggled to get anything going on that side of the ball.

The bigger surprise has been the play of the defense, which is mostly healthy outside of nickel cornerback D.J. Hayden (toe) missing the last four games.

Jacksonville is getting little steady pressure on opposing quarterbacks, creating few turnovers and giving up way too many rushing yards. Not only is the unit failing to carry the beleaguered offense, it's not even holding its own.

"We're looking at a lot of different things because obviously it's not good enough," Marrone said. "A lot of times people will want to (say), 'Is it this person?' If it was just as simple as this or this or this, you know, it would be easy. We would make those decisions and move on. But when you're playing poorly as a team or coaching poorly, you have to take a good look at yourself."

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Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans made a coaching change after winning their first playoff game in 14 years to rev up Marcus Mariota and the offense.

So far, the Titans have taken a major step backward on offense with their first-time head coach and his offensive coordinator who had never called plays in a regular-season game until last month.

"We're not going to have a mid-season report," coach Mike Vrabel said Monday. "We're not going to have a State of the Union Address. We're going to try to get better. We're going to try to improve it. We're going to try to take what we have and give them the best opportunity to go make some plays. We have to get the quarterback going and improve this week."

The Titans (3-3) have little time to address the offensive problems before leaving for the franchise's first game in London against the Los Angeles Chargers (4-2).

They now have lost two straight games in which they didn't score a single touchdown. The skid follows a three-game winning streak where they won a third game without scoring a TD with coordinator Matt LaFleur and the Titans showing plenty of creativity to work around a variety of injuries on offense.

The offensive woes include:

— Only 87 points scored, ahead of only Arizona (82) and Buffalo (76) — a team that beat Tennessee 13-12 on Oct. 7.

— A 21-0 loss to Baltimore was the franchise's first shutout at home since leaving Texas for Tennessee in 1997.

— A season-low 106 yards total offense.

— Derrick Henry ran a season-low seven times against Baltimore in a run game Vrabel said, "We weren't able to commit to."

— A passing attack that ranks 30th in the NFL, ahead of only Buffalo and Arizona, a pair of teams starting rookie quarterbacks.

— Giving up 11 sacks in a single game after allowing only nine through the first five games. Marcus Mariota was sacked more times than he completed passes (10). According to NFL research, since 1960 only the Packers gave up a higher percentage of sacks on pass attempts (44 percent) in a loss to Detroit in 1965 than the Titans (42.3 percent)

"We've got to get back to the drawing board, continue to work on our process and see what we can do better," Mariota said.

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