It didn’t take long in their game against the Browns to see the Jaguars game plan: Stop the run, and run the football. Cleveland is ranked 3rd in the league running the football but the Jaguars stuffed them early on the ground, making the Browns rely on Bran Hoyer to throw the football down field. On their first two possessions, the Browns were forced to punt.
Meanwhile on offense, Denard Robinson gained 14 yards on first down on just a straight, off tackle handoff. They got to third and 2 and for some reason offensive coordinator Jeff Fisch spread the receivers out and decided to throw the football. Bad call and bad result as Allen Robinson got the wind knocked out of him on a high throw by Blake Bortles. Luckily, Robinson did return. But Bortles held the ball a little too long on the Jaguars next possession and was crushed in the pocket as he went to throw it resulting in an easy interception by the Browns. Solid defense, with a little help from a loud crowd held Cleveland to a FG, 3-0 Browns.
On defense the Jaguars can stop the run and they were doing just that against the vaunted Browns’ running game. Hoyer missed a couple of wide-open guys and the Jaguars offense wasn’t getting anything done. Two interceptions thrown by Blake Bortles and the Jaguars trailed 6-0 with nine minutes left in the second quarter.
Offensive Coordinator Jedd Fisch was running through the playbook, apparently also through the scripted plays early in the game and Bortles wasn’t sharp. The combination of those two things bogged things down and the Jaguars offense was going nowhere. That’s when a questionable call by Browns coach Mike Pettine benefited the home team. On 4th and 1 Cleveland went for it at the Jaguars 24 and couldn’t convert. That gave Bortles, Fisch and the Jaguars offense just under two minutes to try and get something done. And in the 2-minute drill, Bortles looks more comfortable, freer. He hit Clay Harbor for a nice gain and then Allen Robinson broke away from two defenders in the middle of the field for a TD and a 7-6 lead. Finally. Sometimes I think coaches are too stubborn and so married to their game plan that they can’t see what might work until an unusual situation drops it in their lap. With that TD, the Jaguars took a lead to the halftime locker room. Pretty loud ovation as they left the field.
Getting the ball to start the second half, the play calling was still lacking and the Jaguars weren’t doing much on offense. But the defense forced a turnover, hitting Hoyer as he threw causing a fumble that Paul Posluszny recovered. Josh Scobee kicked a FG to give the Jaguars a 10-6 lead.
While Hoyer and the Browns got a lot of run from the national media this week after their win over Pittsburgh, a different team showed up for Cleveland this week. Dropped passes and not much running game kept the Jaguars in the game well into the third quarter.
Mixing the run and the pass, the Jaguars drove the ball into Browns territory, Robinson and Jordan Todman along with a Bortles scramble moving the ball rather smartly. A really nice call on third and long letting Bortles run the naked bootleg put the ball inside the 20.
But another rookie mistake by Bortles cost the Jaguars points. He had a chance to gain the first down scrambling inside the 10 but instead tried to throw it to Cecil Shorts in the middle of the field. Easy pick for the Browns and switched the momentum right there.
But after moving the ball to midfield, the Browns were stopped and had the weirdest sequence on 4th down. They sent the punt team on the field on 4th and 4, then changed their mind and sent their offense back out there. So the Jaguars defense had to hustle back on the field, and the stopped the Browns with 10 men on the field. Cleveland tried some weird option play that didn’t work.
Then things started to fall the Jaguars way. An ill-advised attempt to field a punt at the 2-yard line was fumbled off the player’s facemask and recovered by the Jaguars. One play later Denard Robinson scored to make it 17-6, and the place was rockin’. Robinson had over 100 yards rushing against the Browns, the first time he’s done that in his career.
Looking for a quick jolt, the Browns went to a short passing game but the ball was tipped over the middle and intercepted by Telvin Smith. One play later Storm Johnson scored and the Jaguars lead 24-6. And the place was really rockin’!
Fisch told me earlier this week he was hoping to grind the football on the ground in the 4th quarter if the Jaguars had a lead. He got his wish against Cleveland, just pounding it as time expired in the Jaguars first victory of the year.
While it wasn’t the most well played game in NFL history, the Jaguars took advantage of the breaks they got, scored TD’s instead of field goals and won. And that’s the key. Take wins when you can. Beat teams when you have them down, no matter their reputation or yours.
There are a lot of shoulda, coulda, woulda’s this year including the games against the Steelers and the Titans. But they’re over and it’s time to move forward.
One win. And Miami at home next week.