CHRIS DUNCAN,AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON (AP) — Jacksonville backup quarterback Chad Henne picked apart the Houston Texans’ highly regarded defense for about three quarters on Sunday.
The Texans clamped down at the end, finally, and that’s what defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will take away from Houston’s dramatic 43-37 victory.
Houston (9-1) gave up 458 yards and four touchdown passes, a stunning reversal for a defense that had allowed only one touchdown in the previous three games. The defense returned to form just in time to allow Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson to rally the Texans to their first overtime win at Reliant Stadium.
“The most important stat is winning,” Phillips said. “The next most important thing with a football team is how you play under pressure.”
Houston’s coaches didn’t spend much time dwelling on the defensive mistakes in Sunday’s game. The Texans have a quick turnaround before they face Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and the NFL’s second-ranked offense in Detroit (4-6) in the early game on Thanksgiving.
Calvin Johnson leads the league in yards receiving (1,117) and in receptions covering at least 20 yards (24), an ominous sign after the Jaguars completed passes of 63, 67, 39 and 81 yards on Sunday. And Houston’s secondary could be short-handed in Detroit, with top cornerback Johnathan Joseph nursing a sore hamstring. Joseph sat out practice on Monday and Tuesday and will decide on Thursday if he’s ready to play.
“Am I helping or hurting the team?” he said. “For me, it’s just making sure I can go out there and hold up to the task and do my job completely at a top level, where there wouldn’t be any dropoff in the level of play.”
Houston’s defense started the Jaguars game looking just fine. The Texans led 7-0 three minutes into it, and safety Danieal Manning sacked Blaine Gabbert and forced a fumble. Gabbert left the game with a bruised right elbow and didn’t return.
But Henne found Blackmon for a 63-yard reception later in the first quarter, then threw to tight end Marcedes Lewis for the tying touchdown. He completed 13 of 17 passes for 250 yards through three quarters and started the fourth with an 81-yard touchdown pass to Blackmon.
“We were trying hard the whole game,” defensive end J.J. Watt said. “We just weren’t having much success. You keep trying things and trying things and eventually, something starts to work.”
The Texans’ defense finally threw Henne off and he completed only two passes the rest of the final quarter and overtime. Houston held Jacksonville to 14 yards and no first downs on its last two series in regulation, giving the offense a chance for the comeback.
“I couldn’t be much prouder of a group under pressure,” Phillips said. “We don’t usually give up big plays, but we did in that ballgame. Our team, obviously on both sides of the ball, but I thought our defense really came through at the end. With the pressure on you, the game’s on the line, you find out a lot about people, and I thought we found out a lot of good things.”
The Texans have talked about finishing the season as the league’s No. 1 defense. They’ve slipped to No. 4 overall and have one of their most demanding tests of the season coming up — the Lions are averaging 401.7 yards per game and 301.8 yards passing.
The Jaguars’ offense ranked as one of the league’s worst coming into Sunday’s game, and Phillips took some blame for the early breakdowns. He didn’t change much late in the game; he just saw his defense finally start making some plays.
“Things happen in a ballgame that you don’t expect sometimes,” Phillips said. “I did think we adjusted. He (Henne) hit two out of his last 13 passes, so I thought we did a good job of just playing what we play, and playing it better.”
Notes: Kubiak said RB Ben Tate (hamstring) and LB Tim Dobbins (shoulder) will be game-time decisions. Tate, who’s missed the last three games, worked out with trainers on Tuesday, separate from his teammates. “It was very positive,” Kubiak said. “What we’re looking at is how he comes out of the hard work.” … Phillips said LB Darryl Sharpton will start in Detroit. Sharpton made four solo tackles in Sunday’s win, his first game since coming back from tearing his right quadriceps in October 2011.
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