JACKSONVILLE – This time, the Jaguars didn't come close.
This time, they did a lot better.
And because of that – with a stifling defense and an offense that took advantage of second-half opportunities – the Jaguars won their first game of the 2014 regular-season Sunday, taking the lead late in the first half and pulling away in the second half for a 24-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns in front of 61,341 at EverBank Field.
Denard Robinson, making his first start as the feature back for the Jaguars, rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, and his 8-yard run one play after linebacker LaRoy Reynolds recovered a muffed punt gave the Jaguars a 17-6 lead with 5:58 remaining.
Blake Bortles, the Jaguars' rookie quarterback, struggled at times, throwing three interceptions, but also led the go-ahead drive late in the first half. The Jaguars also ran effectively, with second-year back Robinson helping the team to its best running performance of the season.
The Jaguars (1-6) as a team rushed for a season-high 187 yards on 35 carries with Bortles completing 17 of 31 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown with a season-high three interceptions. The Jaguars entered the game last in the NFL in rushing.
But the story of the game for the Jaguars was a defense that stifled the Browns throughout.
The Browns (3-3), who entered the game third in the NFL in rushing with 146.4 yards per game, managed just 69 yards rushing. Quarterback Brian Hoyer completed 16 of 41 passes for 215 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.
Linebacker Telvin Smith had a sack that forced a fumble early in the second half for the Jaguars, and his interception return to the Browns 7 late in the fourth quarter set up a three-yard touchdown run by Storm Johnson. That made it 24-6, Jaguars, with 4:35 remaining.
The Jaguars led after a strange first half, with Bortles shaking off a slow start to give Jacksonville a hard-to-figure halftime lead.
Bortles, making his fourth career start, struggled early. He completed one of his first five passes for five yards with an interception, and threw another interception early in the second quarter.
But after the Jaguars' defense forced an incomplete pass on 4th-and-1 from the Browns 24, Bortles quickly drove the Jaguars to a go-ahead score, with Bortles completing three of three passes for 71 yards and a touchdown.
First, Bortles threw 16 yards to wide receiver Allen Robinson, and after a pass to Clay Harbor gained 24 yards, Bortles threw again to Robinson. The rookie second-round selection broke a tackle and turned the play into a 31-yard catch-and-run touchdown, the first of his career.
That gave the Jaguars a 7-6 lead with :27 remaining in the half. The Jaguars averted trouble early when the defense held the Browns to a field goal on a drive that started inside the Jaguars red zone. Browns cornerback Tashaun Gipson intercepted quarterback Blake Bortles and returned it 31 yards to the Jaguars 17. Bortles was hit by linebacker Jabaal Sheard just as he threw the interception, his eighth in five games this season.The Jaguars did not allow the Browns a yard on the ensuing drive. Billy Cundiff's 40-yard field goal made it 3-0, Browns.
The Jaguars' held twice more in the first half after that, limiting the Browns to a 22-yard field goal after a 14-play, 76-yard second half drive. That was one series before the Jaguars held the Browns on 4th-and-1 three plays after Bortles was intercepted for a second time by Gipson.
The Jaguars pushed the lead to 10-6 when kicker Josh Scobee kicked a 30-yard field goal with 10:00 remaining in the third quarter. That play came shortly after linebacker Paul Posluszny recovered a fumble after a sack by Smith.
This came at the end of the first half. Bortles had struggled early, but the defense had kept the Jaguars close and they trailed just 6-0. Bortles led a lightning-quick drive, completing three passes for 71 yards with the last going to Robinson for a 31-yard momentum-turning touchdown.
1.The Jaguars' defense started strong early, holding the Browns without a yard on one nine-play stretch. Included in that stretch was a big stop in the red zone after Gipson had returned an interception 31 yards to the Jaguars 17.
2.Bortles had a tough game throughout, but had a highlight throw early in the second quarter with a 20-yard gain to rookie wide receiver Marqise Lee. Bortles had completed three of seven passes for seven yards at the time, but threw a perfect over-the-shoulder pass that Lee caught just before going out of bounds at the Browns 43.
3.Robinson gave the Jaguars' running offense a significant lift early. While the passing offense struggled for a quarter and a half, Robinson rushed for 67 yards on 10 first-half carries. The Jaguars as a team rushed for 81 yards on 10 first-half carries.
4.Smith blitzed Hoyer on the Browns' first series of the second half and forced a sack/fumble early in the second half that Posluszny recovered. The play gave the Jaguars a first down at the Browns 25. It was the fifth takeaway of the season for the Jaguars and second since Week 1.
Jaguars defensive end Andre Branch sustained a groin injury in the fourth quarter and did not return. He was helped from the field putting little pressure on the leg.
Jaguars linebacker Paul Poslusnzy left the game in the fourth quarter with a pectoral strain and did not return.
Jaguars center Luke Bowanko left briefly in the third quarter with an ankle injury, but returned on the ensuing series. Allen Robinson took a blow to the chest early in the game and had the wind knocked out of him, but he returned.
Running back Toby Gerhart missed a second consecutive game with a foot injury that also kept him out of last week's loss to Tennessee.
As expected, cornerback Alan Ball and defensive end Andre Branch were active and playing their normal roles Sunday. Tight end Clay Harbor (knee) also was active for Sunday after being added to the injury report Friday.
The Jaguars' other inactives Sunday were guard Tyler Shatley, offensive tackle Sam Young, wide receiver Mike Brown, wide receiver Tavarres King, linebacker Jeremiah George and cornerback Jeremy Harris.