John McClain: Pierce puts on a physical show for Texans in 13-6 win

Mandatory Credit: Photo by John Raoux/AP/Shutterstock (13452308ap) Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Tyson Campbell (32) tackles Houston Texans running back Dameon Pierce (31) during the second half of an NFL football game in Jacksonville, Fla Texans Jaguars Football, Jacksonville, United States – 09 Oct 2022

John McClain: Pierce puts on a physical show for Texans in 13-6 win

Rookie running back Dameon Pierce has played for the Texans long enough to know there are three things he can count on in Houston – traffic jams, humidity and beating the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Pierce ran for 99 yards and the game’s only touchdown Sunday afternoon when the Texans defeated the Jaguars 13-6 at TIAA Bank Field, where they extended their winning streak to nine games in this AFC South series.

Pierce helped the Texans whip the Jaguars for the 15th time in 17 games with a run that reminded longtime Houston football fans of Earl Campbell. 

On what proved to be the decisive drive of Lovie Smith’s first victory as the Texans’ head coach, they faced second-and-5 at the Jaguars’ 22. Mills took a handoff from Davis Mills and took off up the middle. He appeared to be stopped, but he emerged from the crowd, cut to his right and broke six tackles before being pulled down at the 2. Two plays later, he scored on a 1-yard run with 3:11 left in the game.

That’s the kind of physical, punishing, spirt-breaking run Campbell used to make when he played for the Oilers.

“When I got into the secondary, I was trying to get those YAC yards,” Pierce said. “I was trying to fight to get in the end zone. I think that play got our spirits up because it led to a touchdown.

“I’ve got a good group of guys around me. It takes a village to put me in this role to help the team.”

After Pierce’s touchdown gave the Texans the seven-point lead, it was up to Smith’s defense to stop the Jaguars two more times. Second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw incomplete on fourth down and was intercepted by Desmond King III on his Hail Mary pass to end a game that left the Jaguars 2-3 in their first season under coach Doug Pederson.

“When you don’t turn it over, and you make plays when you need to, you’ve got a chance to win,” Smith said. “We hadn’t been able to finish, but the guys got it done today.”

The Texans improved their record to 1-3-1 because they were able to win in the fourth quarter for the first time this season.

“I think we found our identity today being a downhill, run-first team,” Mills said. “Dameon ran extremely hard behind the offensive line that played really well.

“He’s the real deal. He’s trying to win games and help us out a lot. We moved the ball down the field behind him and finished (three) drives with points. The energy he brings rubs off on everybody. We want to rally behind him and fight for him. I know the offensive line does especially.”

Pep Hamilton’s offense generated only 248 yards. Mills was 16-of-24 for 140 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown pass, but he also didn’t commit a turnover. And he was sacked once. His rating was 81.9 – better than Lawrence’s 54.0.

Pierce, a 218-pound bowling ball, carried the burden. He got 99 yards the hard way – 26 carries and a 3.8 average. He took a beating against the NFL’s eighth-best defense against the run that went into the game allowing 93.8 yards, including 3.6 a carry.

“It wasn’t a pretty game, but we had the will to win,” Pierce said. “Hey, a shoutout to those big boys up front.”

It was a physical game. Pierce absorbed a lot of punishment, but he gave as much as he got.

“He’s made a consistent impact on our team,” Smith said. “He shows toughness and makes people miss in the open field. It’s fitting when we needed a big play late in the game that he made it.”

Hamilton had a conservative game plan built around Pierce and a lot of short passes. On the game-winning drive, the Texans were able to overcome the kind of mistakes that proved to be so costly during their three-game losing streak.

Ka’imi Fairbairn kicked field goals of 50 and 51 yards to keep the score 6-6. Rookie cornerback Derek Stingely Jr. protected the lead with his first interception that was picked it off in the end zone.

After playing its worst game in the 34-24 loss to the Chargers last week, the defense played its best game with one big play after another.

Smith’s defense was desperate for Hamilton’s offense to come up big in the fourth quarter to keep the Texans from blowing another opportunity to win. They got it with 9:59 left when they started at their 26.

On the touchdown drive, Pierce carried six times for 27 yards. Mills completed 4-of-6 for 47 yards, including third-down connections with Nico Collins for 23 yards and Jordan Akins for 11 that produced first downs.

But a play that was instrumental in the victory came on third-and-20 at the Texans’ 47. Outside linebacker Travon Walker, the first overall pick in the draft, was called for a neutral zone violation.

After the whistle blew, Walker pursued Mills like a dog going after a bone. Then he threw Mills to the ground. The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty gave the Texans 15 yards and a first down at the Jacksonville 38 with 7:26 remaining.

“He jumped offsides, and then he threw me down after the play,” Mills said. “Probably a little frustrated. I guess his temper broke. It was a division game, and they can get a little chippy. That was a big play for us.”

After Walker’s penalty, the offense got big plays from Akins and Pierce, and the defense got crucial breakups by Stingley and King and a deflection at the line of scrimmage by Rasheem Green.

The players can celebrate their first victory during the bye week before they return to play at Las Vegas.

“We’ve been close every game,” Mills said. “We fought through this one, finished and got the win.”

(John McClain can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Monday and Thursday on Texans Radio. He does three weekly Houtopia podcasts for 610. He also can be read three times a week on

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