Jaguars slip past Browns
The Associated Press
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars kept turning the ball over. The Cleveland Browns kept failing to take advantage.
It was a defining sequence in another dramatic game for both teams. An even more important twist came in the closing minutes.
Maurice Jones-Drew followed a 75-yard reception with a 1-yard touchdown dive with 1:16 remaining, and the Jaguars overcame six turnovers to beat the banged-up Browns 24-20 on Sunday.
“Never felt like it was something that was out of our reach,” Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. “I think certainly we defied the odds. … We held our ground and didn’t allow them to take those turnovers and bury us. That’s what typically happens — it’s a landslide.”
Jones-Drew finished with 132 yards rushing and 87 receiving. It’s the first time in his five-year career that he’s put together three consecutive 100-yard games.
Jacksonville won all three, and thanks to Indianapolis’ loss to New England on Sunday, the Jaguars are tied for first in the AFC South. It’s the first time since 1999 they’ve been atop their division this late in the season.
Jones-Drew has a lot to do with it. His best plays Sunday were his last two.
Jones-Drew broke four tackles on a screen pass from David Garrard and weaved his way toward the end zone. Rookie Joe Haden made a touchdown-saving tackle, but all it did was end up taking precious seconds off the clock. Jones-Drew scored two plays later.
“I don’t feel like we stole the game,” Jones-Drew said. “We earned it.”
The Jaguars (6-4) are starting to make frantic finishes look routine. It helps that the ball is bouncing their way — literally.
Jacksonville beat Houston last week on Garrard’s desperation pass to Mike Thomas on the final play. Thomas’ 50-yard catch was tipped by a defender. Jacksonville enjoyed similar fortune against the Browns (3-7), who played without linebacker Scott Fujita and then lost cornerback Eric Wright early in the game.
Cleveland, coming off a last-second loss to the New York Jets in overtime, had a final chance to win this one. But Jacksonville’s Sean Considine tipped Colt McCoy’s pass away from Ben Watson at the goal line. The ball bounced off Watson’s chest and landed in Considine’s arms.
That saved Jacksonville from being minus-six in turnover margin.
The last time an NFL team was minus-five in turnovers and won was Oct. 8, 2007, when Dallas edged Buffalo 25-24.
“You’re going to have those moments,” said Garrard, who threw for 254 yards and two touchdowns to somewhat offset three interceptions and a fumble. “The best thing about it was we kept persevering.”
The Browns surely will kick themselves after this loss.
Phil Dawson missed two 51-yard field goal attempts wide right, and Cleveland scored just 10 points off the six turnovers.
“Turning the ball over six times is a hard thing to do,” Browns coach Eric Mangini said. “When you have those chances, you have to close them out.”
The Jaguars ended five consecutive drives with turnovers in the second half. Jones-Drew, whose first career pass was intercepted in the second quarter, started the sloppiness with a fumble following an 8-yard run.
Abram Elam stripped the ball from Jones-Drew’s hands and returned it 18 yards for a score and a 14-10 lead. Players on both sides watched the play unfold, many of them believing Jones-Drew was down or that his forward progress had been stopped.
Things snowballed from there for Jacksonville.
Garrard threw behind Thomas on the ensuing drive, and T.J. Ward intercepted the tipped pass. But Cleveland punted.
Under heavy pressure on the following possession, Garrard threw into double coverage. Haden picked it off and returned it to the Jacksonville 31. The Browns settled for a field goal.
Garrard fumbled on the next drive, but Cleveland punted again. Garrard then had another pass bounce off Marcedes Lewis’ shoulder pads and into Ward’s hands. The Browns responded with a missed field goal try.
“You get six turnovers and you don’t put points on the board, that’s going to hurt your team,” Browns running back Peyton Hillis said.
Jacksonville’s defense got credit for keeping Cleveland in check.
The unit held Hillis to 48 yards on 21 carries and sacked McCoy a season-high six times. McCoy played most of the second half with a sprained left ankle and was wearing a walking boot after the game.
“I wasn’t going to come out of the game,” said McCoy, who completed 17 of 28 passes for 241 yards, with a touchdown and the interception. “We evaluated it and it hurt, but it wasn’t something that I was going to pull myself out of the game over. I felt like I could still do the things I needed to do. It was bothering me but I needed to be out there.”
Once the Jaguars stopped turning the ball over, they moved the chains with ease and won another one in dramatic fashion.
“We knew we had to come back and win this game,” Lewis said. “I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself losing this game, knowing all the opportunities we had and we kept giving the ball away. I would have just been sick.”
NOTES: X-rays on McCoy’s ankle were negative. … Watson sprained his right ankle in the first quarter, but later returned. … Wright injured his left knee on his first series and did not return. Mangini said Wright could have been used in an emergency. … Jones-Drew became the third player in franchise history with at least 9,000 all-purpose yards. … The Jaguars have won three in a row and five of seven. … Jeremy Mincey had two of Jacksonville’s six sacks.