It matters for one. It’s moot for the other.
The Texans likely lost Matt Leinart for the season because of a broken collarbone in Sunday’s 20-13 victory against the Jaguars. The injury comes two weeks after starter Matt Schaub suffered a season-ending foot injury.
The Jaguars benched rookie Blaine Gabbert in the fourth quarter, turning things back over to journeyman Luke McCown.
For Houston (8-3), losing Leinart would mean the franchise’s playoff hopes are in the hands of a third-string quarterback. For Jacksonville (3-8), benching Gabbert means little in a season in which the only remaining question is if coach Jack Del Rio gets fired.
Leinart injured his throwing shoulder in the second quarter Sunday. He said all indications point to a broken collarbone, but coach Gary Kubiak said X-rays were inconclusive.
“There’s a pretty strong possibility I probably won’t be coming back this season,” Leinart said. “It’s pretty disappointing. It’s tough to swallow, but we’ll just move forward. Everything that’s happened to me, this was a great opportunity. … It’s unfortunate, but I’m not going to give up. It’s not my nature. I’ll just keep moving forward and figure this thing out one step at a time.”
Assuming Leinart is done for the season, it would be a serious setback for a team that is closing in on its first AFC South title. Sure, the Texans have one of the league’s best running games. But as Jacksonville showed, Arian Foster and Ben Tate will have a tough time carrying the load against eight- and nine-man fronts.
Foster ran for 65 yards and a score, with 43 of them coming on one carry, and Tate added 26 yards on the ground. Along with Leinart’s perfect touchdown pass to Joel Dreessen and a defensive effort that included seven sacks — Connor Barwin had four of them — it was enough for Houston to win its fifth consecutive game.
“I’m very proud of this team,” Kubiak said. “It’s hard to win in this league, and when you face some of the adversity we’ve faced and will be facing again, and to continue to find a way to win, that’s a sign of a very solid football team.”
But with Schaub (foot) and Leinart out, the Texans are down to T.J. Yates and newly signed Kellen Clemens.
Yates completed 8 of 15 passes for 70 yards in relief of Leinart, doing just enough to help the Texans win. Houston led 20-10 at halftime, but managed just 47 yards and two first downs in the second half.
Del Rio benched Gabbert after six sacks and an interception. McCown led the team to a late field goal, but his fourth-down pass with about a minute remaining fell incomplete.
Del Rio said Gabbert remains the team’s starter.
“Blaine is our starting quarterback until I tell you otherwise,” Del Rio said.
Of course, Del Rio said the same thing about David Garrard in the preseason before cutting him five days before the opener. And said the same thing about McCown until benching him after two games.
“Offensively, we just are struggling to generate enough productivity to have any fun,” Del Rio said. “It’s tough to win in this league when you’re not scoring. … We are working hard at it, but we are just not making enough plays.”
Leinart, making his first start in two years, was hit hard by defensive end Jeremy Mincey late in the second quarter. He went to the sideline, headed to the locker room for tests and did not return.
Leinart completed 10 of 13 passes for 57 yards and a touchdown, a 20-yard pass to Dreessen under heavy pressure. He got hurt on the next possession.
Yates replaced him and drove the Texans into position for a field goal that put them ahead 20-10 at the break.
Jacksonville outgained Houston 255-215. But Josh Scobee missed a 55-yard field goal and Marcedes Lewis dropped a pass in the end zone with no one around him. It was the latest in a growing list of drops for the former Pro Bowl tight end. His latest one prompted Jacksonville to settle for a short field goal.
Jacksonville’s only touchdown came on Ashton Youboty’s 38-yard fumble return on the opening series. Foster fumbled for the first time in 172 carries this season.
“There are no excuses,” said running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who finished with 166 yards from scrimmage. “We aren’t playing well. That’s it. Teams are beating us. They aren’t beating us because they are outscoring us. They are beating us because we can’t score points on offense.
“To score six points today is ridiculous, complete nonsense.”
Notes: Texans WR Andre Johnson, back in the starting lineup after missing six games because of a hamstring injury, caught two passes for 22 yards. … Neil Rackers’ 53-yard FG tied the franchise record. … Jaguars C Brad Meester played in his 172nd career game, breaking the previous franchise record held by Jimmy Smith. … Jones-Drew has 1,040 yards rushing, his third consecutive 1,000-yard season.