HOUSTON — The Houston Texans know that if they want to reach the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, they've got to win divisional games.
So far they've been perfect in that area.
Arian Foster rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown, and Houston shut down rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert and the NFL's worst offense in a 24-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Matt Schaub threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score for Houston (5-3), off to its best eight-game start. The Texans also took another step toward the franchise's first division title and playoff berth by improving to 3-0 in the AFC South.
"We can control our fate, and that's the way we want it," Texans owner Bob McNair. "I think the guys understand where they are and I think they really stepped up today."
It's the first time in team history that they've opened the season 3-0 in the division.
"It's huge, that's big-time," receiver Kevin Walter said. "That's what we wanted to do and that was our goal after last week."
Houston rushed 39 times for 156 yards and has won 28 of its last 31 games when rushing at least 30 times. The Texans have outscored three division opponents by a total score of 99-28.
The Jaguars (2-6) couldn't maintain momentum from their surprising 12-7 win over Baltimore on Monday night. Maurice Jones-Drew scored with 5:15 left, but the Texans used nearly the rest of regulation to set up Neil Rackers' 39-yard field goal.
Gabbert, making his sixth career start, completed 10 of 30 passes for 97 yards with two interceptions. He left briefly in the first quarter with bruised ribs, but said after the game that he was OK.
"We've struggled on offense this year in our passing game," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. "Everybody is aware of that. We're going to keep hearing about it until we do something about it to make it better. Right now it's not very threatening."
The Texans got off to another fast start, scoring on their opening series for the fifth time. Schaub went 4 for 5 and then sprinted for a 2-yard touchdown with 8:21 left in the first quarter.
Jacksonville's sixth-ranked defense held Baltimore to 34 yards rushing Monday night, but Houston matched that total on its first three possessions. The Texans have outscored opponents 57-13 in the opening quarter this season.
Gabbert was hurt on Jacksonville's first series. Forced to scramble, he slid awkwardly at the end of an 11-yard run and was hit by safety Glover Quin and linebacker Brian Cushing.
Trainers helped Gabbert off the field, and Luke McCown replaced him. McCown was benched after throwing four interceptions in a 32-3 loss to the New York Jets in Week 2.
Gabbert returned on Jacksonville's next possession, then threw five straight incompletions. But the Texans' offense bogged down, too, failing to convert three consecutive third downs.
A slick play by Jacksonville's defense midway through the second quarter created the Jaguars' best scoring chance of the game.
Clint Session sacked Schaub and forced a fumble, triggering an impromptu double-lateral. Defensive end Matt Roth scooped it up, then flipped the ball backward to defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. Knighton chugged 7 yards, then pitched to Session who reached the Texans 10 before Foster tackled him.
Two snaps later, Gabbert threw a short TD pass to Jason Hill, Jacksonville's first touchdown since the third quarter of a 17-13 loss to Pittsburgh two weeks ago.
The Jaguars were lucky to be tied at halftime after producing only 113 yards.
Jacoby Jones returned a punt to the Jaguars 44 early in the third quarter, and Schaub threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Joel Dreessen.
The Texans' defense dominated the third quarter, holding Jacksonville to one first down and one completion on three possessions.
"We had a defense that stood up and said, 'We're gonna win the game,'" Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. "They were excellent all day, exceptional."
Jason Allen intercepted Gabbert's pass to Mike Sims-Walker on the first play of the fourth quarter, and the Texans stretched the lead on Foster's 4-yard touchdown run.Comment on this story
Houston seemed to have the game in hand until Ben Tate fumbled, and safety Dwight Lowery recovered and returned to the Texans 41. Jacksonville moved inside the 5, and Jones-Drew scored to cut the deficit to 21-14.
Schaub completed a 30-yard pass to Owen Daniels and Foster ran 14 yards before the two-minute warning. Rackers' field goal ended the scoring.
Notes: Foster has 12 100-yard rushing games, a franchise record. ... Texans LB Darryl Sharpton is out for the season after tearing a tendon in his right leg. ... Jaguars PK Josh Scobee had his streak of 15 games with a field goal snapped. ... Jacksonville is 5-9 in the week after playing a Monday night game.