KRISTIE RIEKEN, AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON (AP) — Tom Savage hadn’t played in a meaningful game in more than two years before coming in for the Houston Texans after Brock Osweiler was benched Sunday.
The long layoff didn’t appear to slow him as he threw for 260 yards in less than three quarters to help Houston rally for a 21-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“It was nuts,” Savage said. “But I think the guys did a good job of rallying around me and making some plays for me. I’m just happy to be a part of this team.”
It was the first regular-season appearance since Dec. 14, 2014 for Savage, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury.
“He completed passes, he took care of the ball,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “I thought he was decent at getting us in and out of the huddle. I think that needs to speed up, but I thought overall he managed the game pretty well.”
The win was Houston’s 10th straight in the division and left the Texans (8-6) tied with Tennessee for the AFC South lead. But Houston controls its playoff future with a 5-0 mark in the division.
Osweiler threw interceptions on consecutive drives in the second quarter to help Jacksonville build a 13-0 lead. O’Brien had insisted all season he hadn’t thought about benching Osweiler, but he’d seen enough after that and brought in Savage . The move was met with a huge ovation from the home crowd that had been booing Osweiler for most of the day.
O’Brien wouldn’t say who would start next week despite Savage’s success on Sunday. Osweiler has struggled in his first season in Houston after signing a $72 million contract to join the Texans from Denver. He has 16 interceptions and 14 touchdown passes. Osweiler was 6 for 11 for 48 yards before he was pulled.
He handled his benching gracefully, noting he was pulled for Peyton Manning midgame in Denver’s regular-season finale last season.
“Unfortunately I’ve been down this road before,” he said. “I understand what it’s like to get benched in the middle of a football game. And ultimately having a big picture view on the deal, it’s all about the next man up and being a good teammate.”
Houston trailed by nine entering the fourth quarter and Nick Novak made his fourth field goal before Lamar Miller bulled in for the go-ahead touchdown. The Jaguars were flagged for pass interference twice on that drive to set up the score.
Some things to know about Houston’s win over the Jaguars:
BRADLEY FIRED: The Jaguars (2-12) fired coach Gus Bradley not long after he addressed the media following Sunday’s loss, which extended their skid to nine games. Bradley went 14-48 in four seasons in Jacksonville.
“It is unfortunately evident that we must make a change,” Jaguars owner Shad Khan said in a statement . “I thought it would be best to do it immediately after today’s result so Gus can step away, relax and regroup with his family during the Christmas and holiday season.”
DEANDRE’S DAY: Houston receiver DeAndre Hopkins had 87 yards receiving for his best game since he had a season-high 113 yards in Week 2. Hopkins was third in the NFL with 1,521 yards receiving last season, but his numbers have suffered this year as Osweiler has struggled and he has just 788. Savage said his familiarity with Hopkins helped him on Sunday.
“It’s just being around him, obviously not getting the physical reps with him, but being around him for three years, you kind of know what he’s about and you know that he’s one of the best receivers in this league,” Savage said. “And it was good to show that today.”
IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME: The Jaguars took a 20-8 lead in the third quarter when Marqise Lee returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. It was their first kick return touchdown since 2007 when Maurice Jones-Drew did it, a span of 149 games. Lee dodged a couple of defenders before simply outrunning the rest of the Texans.
“It’s just patience,” Lee said. “You wait on the hole that’s going to open up, for if you see one, you take it.”
CLOWNEY NOT SATISFIED: Houston’s defense was led by Jadeveon Clowney, who had a sack, three tackles for losses and two quarterback hits. The top overall pick in the 2014 draft has a career-high five sacks this season, but feels like he should have more. It was his second straight big game after he had a strip-sack of Andrew Luck in a win over Indianapolis last week.
“I’m just trying to fit in where I fit on the defense,” Clowney said. “Coaches are dialing it up. Just trying to go out there and make as many plays as possible. I don’t know if it was one of my best, best games, but it was probably up there.”