If running back Chris Brown had held onto the ball against Jacksonville, the Houston Texans might have in the thick of the AFC wild-card race.
Instead, Brown had another costly turnover against the Jaguars, and the Texans look as if they'll miss the postseason for the eighth time in as many years.
Brown's latest miscue _ an interception on a halfback pass midway through the fourth quarter Sunday _ helped the Jaguars (7-5) beat the Texans 23-18, sweep the season series for the second time and remain in line for a wild-card berth. It was Houston's fourth consecutive loss, a crushing blow to a team with postseason hopes.
"This is a terrible feeling because you have expectations before the season," receiver Andre Johnson said. "Everyone is saying this is the year. You never would think it would take this long to get to that point. You just have to keep fighting."
The Texans (5-7) got behind early, thanks partly to Matt Schaub dislocating his left shoulder on his first play. A week after blowing a 17-0 lead to Indianapolis, they trailed 17-0 in the second quarter.
Houston got back in the game on Brown's TD run that was sparked by Schaub's return, a safety and a muffed punt that led to a field goal.
Down 23-12, Schaub started picking apart Jacksonville's secondary. The Texans had first-and-goal at the 5 when offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan called for the halfback pass.
Brown took a handoff, started right and got pressured by cornerback Tyron Brackenridge. As he was getting hit, Brown floated a pass that safety Gerald Alexander intercepted near the goal line.
"That was very interesting," Alexander said. "Chris Brown isn't exactly Matt Schaub throwing the ball. ... Brack got that pressure on him. It was like, 'Don't blow the layup.' We got the turnover, and that was big."
It was just as big as Brown's fumble in the first meeting. He coughed up the ball near the goal line with 2 minutes to play, and Jacksonville held on for a 31-24 victory.
The Texans defended the trick play, which coach Gary Kubiak signed off on, but it left both teams scratching their heads.
"We had what we wanted, but obviously it didn't work out," Kubiak said. "It's a tough spot to put Chris in, so it just ends up being a bad call by me, a poor call."
Brown said the play worked just about every time in practice. He was trying to hit tight end Joel Dreesen in the back of the end zone, but the pressure didn't allow him to get much on the throw.
"When you look back at it, maybe I shouldn't have thrown it at all," Brown said. "That was big. We had points. We could have at least walked away with a field goal and unfortunately turning the ball over like that really hurt us."
The Texans got the ball back and scored on Schaub's 1-yard pass to Johnson with 4:01 remaining. The 2-point conversion failed, though.
Jacksonville picked up three first downs on the ensuing kickoff _ Maurice Jones-Drew carried seven straight times for 38 yards _ and ran out the clock.
The Jaguars rebounded from last week's 20-3 loss at San Francisco and stayed ahead of Miami (6-6), Pittsburgh (6-6) and Baltimore (6-5) in the wild-card race.
"It feels good," Jaguars receiver Mike Sims-Walker said. "We're happy to be in a position to play in January. There's not many teams that have hope to be thinking about the playoffs right now. We control everything. We're in full control of whatever we want to do. It feels good, but we're not content."
NOTES: Jacksonville also swept the season series in 2005. ... Texans LB Xavier Adibi (hamstring) and DT Shaun Cody (ankle) were injured. ... Jaguars DT John Henderson tweaked a nagging shoulder injury, but X-rays were negative. ... Jaguars TEs caught six passes for 132 yards and a TD.
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