HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Texans needed a remarkable turnaround to shake off a 2-5 start and win the AFC South title.
Now they’re looking to do even more as they head to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
“It’s a good thing,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “But this is the second season and we’d like to try to keep it going.”
Houston will meet Kansas City on Saturday in the wild-card round.
J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus combined for 6 1/2 sacks and Jonathan Grimes scored twice to help the Texans to a 30-6 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday to secure the third playoff berth in franchise history.
Grimes had a 12-yard touchdown reception and added a 3-yard rushing score in the second quarter to help Houston take a 20-3 lead by halftime. Kareem Jackson added a score on an interception return in the fourth quarter to pad the lead.
Watt, playing without a cast for the first time since breaking his left hand Dec. 9, had three sacks, forced a fumble and recovered another one to help the Texans (9-7) to the victory.
Mercilus tied a career high with 3 1/2 sacks and forced a fumble and recovered one.
Houston’s improbable playoff berth came in a season where the team started four different quarterbacks. Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden all started — and won — at least one game for the Texans this year.
Owner Bob McNair was proud that the team didn’t get down after its tough start.
“So many people had given up on them and I felt all along that we had some real talent on this team and I think that is what we have seen now,” he said.
Some things to know about the Jaguars-Texans game:
SACK PARTY: Watt and Mercilus led the way on a day the Texans set a franchise record with eight sacks. The big performance gave Houston 45 for the season, which is also tops in franchise history.
Mercilus has a career-high 12 sacks this season and Watt finished the regular season with an NFL-leading 17 1/2 to give Houston two players with 10 or more sacks for the first time in franchise history.
Watt joined Reggie White as the only players in NFL history to have three 15-sack years in their first five years in the NFL.
PLENTY TO WORK ON: Blake Bortles threw for 239 yards with two interceptions for the Jaguars (5-11) to give him the team record for most yards passing in a season with 4,428 yards. He was much improved in his second NFL season, throwing 35 touchdown passes after tossing just 11 in 14 games last season. But Sunday’s game showed the Jaguars that they have plenty to work on to contend in the division.
“It’s tough to end the year on a note like that,” Bortles said. “I guess the good thing is that we have a lot of time to look at it and figure out how to fix it.”
MAKING THE JUMP: In the first season without Andre Johnson, Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins made the jump from being a good receiver to an elite one. The third-year player finished third in the NFL with a career-high 1,521 yards receiving. His 111 catches were a career-best and his 11 touchdown receptions set a franchise-mark and helped him earn his first Pro Bowl nod.
Hopkins thrived this season no matter who was at quarterback and became the first player in NFL history to have a 100-yard receiving game with four different quarterbacks in a single season.
WATT’S DANCE MOVES: Watt had a little fun after a sack in the third quarter when he did basically every dance that’s been hot in the past year. He did the “whip”, “nae nae”, “dab” and finished by running off on the “da plug” twice.
“I’m just a big white guy trying to have some fun out there,” Watt said. “I realize they’re very terrible … but I’m having some fun out there and if people don’t like it then they can do whatever sack dance they want when they get a sack in the NFL.”
TOUGH DAY: Jacksonville left tackle Luke Joeckel, who was the second overall pick in the 2013 draft, had a tough day on Sunday in dealing with Watt, Mercilus and the rest of Houston’s pass rush.
“It’s definitely disappointing. I have a sick feeling in my stomach,” Joeckel said. “I have to be better. That’s all I am focusing on right now.”
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