Browns vs. Jags: 5 Things We Learned from Cleveland's Win over Jacksonville
While the Browns caught a bad break on a non-reviewable field goal that looked like it might have been good, they caught a good one when Jack Del Rio botched the play calling on his team's final attempt at a touchdown.
Most of the credit still goes to the Browns though for finally putting a pair of touchdowns on the board and closing out the game with one of the best goal line stands in recent memory.
Perhaps the most notable lesson we learned this week?
It never pays to channel LeBron James.
That's what Maurice Jones-Drew did after his first quarter touchdown when he mimed a fake chalk toss to mock Cleveland fans. And in true Quitness karmic retribution, the Jags laid down and died in the fourth quarter. Perhaps in some small and indirect way, Cleveland finally took one back from The Quitter.
But there were more serious lessons learned in this game for the Browns, who move to 4-6 on the season and drop the Jaguars to 3-7.
Following are five things the Cleveland can take away from their heartening victory this afternoon in the Factory of Gladness.
1. Chris Ogbonnaya Comes Up Big
The Browns had their first 100-yard rusher since Week 14 of the 2010 season thanks to the efforts of RB Chris Ogbonnaya, who pounded out 115 yards on 21 carries and scored his first touchdown.
After an absolutely horrific showing on the ground for the first 10 weeks of the season, the Browns finally got their run game working today and Ogbonnaya proved that he just might be a viable RB for the future.
We have to be careful not to put too much stock in this, given Jacksonville's struggles against the run, but the fact that Ogbonnaya has posted two very solid games in a row allows us to indulge the slightest bit of hope that there will be life for the Cleveland run game after Peyton Hillis.
2. Browns Run Defense Finally Gets the Job Done
One thing is for sure—the Jags sure got theirs for RB Maurice Jones-Drew's obnoxious chalk toss after his second quarter touchdown. But whether you see the fourth quarter collapse of the Jags as karmic payback for Jones-Drew's antics or just plain solid defense by the Browns, the most important thing in terms of the bigger picture for what today meant for Cleveland beyond this game alone is that the Browns finally did a decent job of containing a tough opposing rusher.
Given that Jones-Drew still had a touchdown and 87 yards on 21 carries, you can't exactly say the Browns completely shut down the Jags' running game, but they did a much better job than they have in recent weeks of lessening the impact of an opponent's ground attack and most importantly, the held the run in check when it counted.
Further kudos has to go to the Browns' pass defense, which was ranked first in the league coming into this game and held their own once again.
It was a terrible game for Jags' QB Blaine Gabbert, who was 22/41 and failed to throw a touchdown pass, leaving him with an ugly 68.1 passer rating.
Gabbert's bad aim contributed to the Jags' ineffective passing game, as did a number of drops (most notably the one in the end zone on the Jags' final stand), but the Browns pass defense deserves most of the credit.
Their efforts weren't without flaws of course. There were a number of unnecessary defensive penalties, and it was mostly a rough outing for CB Joe Haden, who only managed to redeem himself for what could have been a very costly interference call by breaking up a pass in the end zone on Jacksonville's final series of the game.
There are still problems to be worked out, but overall, a very impressive showing by the Browns defense today.
3. Signs of Life from the Browns' Passing Game
In an effort that netted Cleveland just 14 points and still left the Browns looking like a mess in the first quarter, it didn't appear that the Browns have completely turned things around on offense.
However, for the first time in weeks, the passing game, just like the running game, showed some promise. Statistically speaking, it wasn't a banner day for Colt McCoy, who had 199 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception that came at what could have been a devastating time in the game had the Jags' capitalized on the turnover.
Still, his completion percentage was good, he threw a perfect strike to Josh Cribbs for what would wind up being the game-winning touchdown, and most importantly, he got the job done over and over again when it counted.
The receivers also were far from perfect, but looked far better than they have in recent weeks. We saw very few dropped passes, better routes and a beautiful catch by Cribbs in the end zone. McCoy's throw there was good, but it's still a tough task to make that catch and keep both feet inside the pylon, and Cribbs did it flawlessly.
Greg Little continues to improve, Jordan Norwood had a huge catch for 51 yards and it was nice to see Mohamed Massaquoi back on the field for two catches in two targets, after his struggles with a head injury that was slow to heal.
And while I wasn't thrilled with Shurmur's choice to take points off the board after the penalty on the field goal, which totally backfired on them when McCoy was picked off trying to go for the touchdown afterward, he did show some nice adjustments to his play calling this week, most notably in his decision to allow McCoy to throw out of the shotgun more often, which definitely paid off for the Browns' offense today.
4. Penalty Issues Crop Up Again
To a degree, we have to walk away from this one shrugging off any Browns miscues, and enjoying the rare win the team eked out today.
However, it's tough to ignore the spate of ill-timed penalties that the Browns racked up today. The Browns were penalized nine times for 70 yards, and in many instances, were very lucky the penalties didn't cost them severely.
Penalties did them out of opportunities on offense several times, and penalties on Jacksonville's final drive nearly cost them the game. The pass interference penalty on Haden was particularly galling—he had a hand on the ball and didn't even need to risk the interference call, yet he did it anyway.
Luckily, the penalty didn't net any points for Jacksonville and Haden got his redemption when he broke up the possible game winning pass in the end zone and saved the day for the Browns.
Still, the Browns won't get that lucky every week. The fact that Jacksonville couldn't capitalize on the Browns' penalties probably has more to do with the Jags' ineffective offense than the penalties being as inconsequential as they'll appear on paper now that the game is over and the Browns squeaked out the win.
A better team than Jacksonville would have made the Browns pay dearly for their infractions on both offense and defense. They dodged a bullet on it this week, but with far tougher opponents coming up on the schedule, they'll have to kick the penalty bug or it will cost them.
5. A Little Bit of Luck for Team That Has Never Had One Shred of It Before
Two words you don't typically see associated with one another: Browns and lucky.
Cleveland has had more bad breaks in sports than just about any other town. We're so used to it now, we pretty much expect the worst to happen all the time.
But this week, amazingly enough, the chips actually fell the Browns' way a number of times.
Their typical bad luck visited them on Phil Dawson's field goal, which was probably good but was deemed unreviewable because the kick went over the top of the pipe.
Other than that though, the Browns got a couple of nice lucky breaks, and that combined with excellent goal line defense and big improvements on offense resulted in their fourth win of the season.
The Browns were, first of all, lucky to get the Jags' at home, given Jacksonville's horrible road record. They also lucked out in that, as previously mentioned, the plethora of penalties they racked up didn't hurt them too badly because the Jaguars failed to capitalize on them. That goes for McCoy's interception as well, which Jacksonville also couldn't turn into a touchdown.
The Browns were also lucky the Jaguars managed to get themselves penalized for even more yardage than they were. Matching the Browns with nine flags drawn but getting hit for more yards on them (81 yards to the Browns' 70).
And perhaps most of all, they were lucky that Jack Del Rio's play calling was borderline incompetent on the Jags final red zone possession. Del Rio opted to pass on each of the team's final opportunities, and with the ball on the two yard line and only enough time for one more play, he had the typically inaccurate Gabbert throw it again instead of handing off to his team's best offensive performer and the only guy who had found the end zone for them all day, RB Maurice Jones-Drew.
To be fair, we have to give a lot of credit to the Browns for their efforts today. This one wasn't all about luck. They definitely earned their win. Regardless though, as a team which normally can't buy a break to save its life, it was nice to see the Browns finally wind up with a little bit of luck on their side today.